The Canal Society of New York State was formed in Buffalo in 1956 at the annual meeting of the New York State Historical Association. In that first year, membership was open to anyone interested in the history, folklore, and engineering of former canals and the present condition of the state’s remaining man-made waterways. This is still the primary focus of Canal Society members today.
DeWitt Clinton, a Buffalo lawyer who was a direct descendant of the famous Governor of New York, was the first president of the new society. Other officers included Secretary Treasurer Richard Wright of Syracuse, who was also president of the Onondaga Historical Society. In 1957, the group began offering two field trips per year to canal sites in different parts of New York State.
More than 50 years later, the Canal Society of New York State has an active membership and still organizes two field trips per year, as well as an annual symposium, regular tours of European Canals, and other, smaller events. The Society has compiled a Smithsonian-quality collection of canal artifacts, artwork, books and papers.
Canal Society of New York State contributes through the membership of the Erie Canal Museum.