Madden Collection

Cover Image:
Madden Collection
Lock No. 17, Erie Canal, Little Falls, N.Y. - Image Source

Collection Facts

Dates of Original:
c. 1880 - 1960

Historical Context

Emily (1906-1998) and J. Hayward (1905-1987) Madden of Livonia, NY amassed perhaps the largest private collection of canal manuscripts, photographs and other artifacts. Both had professional careers in social work that brought them to Livingston County, near the route of the 19th-century Genesee Valley Canal. By the late 1950s they had become well-recognized scholars of New York State canal lore. Emily Madden was among the first directors of the Canal Society of New York State. They were also instrumental in the founding of the Canadian Canal Society.

Their physical collection amounts to approximately 600 cubic feet. It includes hundreds of books and serials related to 19th- and 20th-century canal life. The Maddens' special interest in the Genesee Valley Canal is especially noted in their holdings. They collected historic photographic prints and negatives on New York State canals. For more than thirty years they traveled the still-operating Barge Canal system and the historic now-abandoned canal alignments in New York State, documenting structures and other landmarks. Their notebooks, 35mm color transparencies and other photographs have proven to be among the most valued portions of their collection. They often did this work in conjunction with other Canal Society members. When the work of those colleagues was in jeopardy, the Maddens acquired that material. The Madden collection incorporates such noteworthy elements as the photographic collections of Canal Society members Dr. David Ennis of Lyons, NY and Robert Rose of Fulton, NY.

Scope of Collection

This digital collection is but a small sample of the entire Madden Collection. Included are historic glass negatives, prints, and postcards dating from the 1880s to the 1960s. Images cover the Erie Canal, other canals in New York State, and Canadian canals.