2022 Uncle Sam and the Brickyard

Uncle Sam and the Brickyard, 2022
fired Sam Wilson brickyard clay, steel, plexiglas
63″ x 35″ x 4″

Artist's notes

This is the commissioned artwork for Troy, NY residents Steve and Andrea Hartman. This piece uses clay from Uncle Sam’s homestead and brickyard, formed into a map of Troy and presented as reassembled shards.

Uncle Sam, or Sam Wilson, was a real person, and he lived in Troy.

I worked with RPI engineers who own the site, soil scientists Olga Vargas and Steve Carlisle, and Troy historian Tom Carroll.

Tom Carroll shared:

“In February following [1789], the two brothers, Samuel and Ebenezer Willson, of Mason, New Hampshire, trudged across the hilly country to the little settlement. Samuel was then twenty-two years old and his brother twenty-seven. In the following summer they began making brick on the west side of Mount Ida, near the intersection of Sixth Avenue and Ferry Street. They made those with which the first brick building erected in the village was constructed,—the two-story dwelling, built in 1792, by James Spencer, on the northwest corner of Second and Albany streets. They also furnished the brick for the first courthouse and jail.”

—Arthur James Weise, M. A., Troy’s One Hundred Years, 1789-1889 (Troy, N.Y.: William H.Young, 1891), 31.

Steve Carlisle shared:

“As Tom Sanford [Rensselaer County Soil and Water Conservation District] indicated in our virtual meeting the clays are lacustrine deposits from Lake Albany.  When high energy streams and meltwaters disgorged into the streams rapidly dissipating energy could no longer carry larger particles and they dropped out of suspension.  Hence the gravel and sand deposits around Sand Lake, Averill Park and Wynantskill.  Further out in Lake Albany where there was little energy to keep particles suspended the colloidal particles (clays) gradually wafted down to the lake bed.  Surges in stream energy, summer versus winter, explain the layers or varves seen in the image where I scraped off some of the slough on the one photo.  Lake Albany was dammed by the Harbor Hill Moraine which stretched from Staten Island to Brooklyn and Queens.  When that moraine was breached Lake Albany drained, possibly in a cataclysmic fashion, and in its wake left the Hudson River and the narrows separating Staten Island from Queens.”

Soil Profiles: Troy Edition