Historic Deerskin Coat Returns from Conservator

OHA’s collection is home to thousands of objects from Onondaga County’s past. From photos to maps and furniture to clothing, it’s our mission to preserve our shared past. Unfortunately, objects deteriorate over time, some faster than others. Funding is necessary for the conservation of objects to ensure they’re saved for future generations. Thanks to a grant from Greater Hudson Heritage Network, OHA was able to send a very important piece of our collection to be conserved by Lisa Goldberg, an independent conservator out of Corning, NY. The new exhibit case was made by Exhibits and More. In August 2015, Harvey Baldwin’s Ceremonial Deerskin Coat, given to him by the Oneida Nation almost 200 years ago and donated to OHA in 1949, returned looking better than ever.

Deerskin Coat

Background: In 1816, Mt. Tambora, a stratovolcano in Indonesia, was the source of history’s largest explosive volcanic eruption. The ash, and other small particulate matter, was thrown into the stratosphere, which reduced incoming solar radiation received at the earth’s surface lowering the temperature for the northern hemisphere. 1816 was soon referred to as “the year without a summer.” In turn, this created problems for agriculture, specifically for the people of the Onieda Nation.

The Story: Chiefs from the Oneida Nation were sent to Dr. Jonas C. Baldwin, who founded the village of Baldwinsville, to request provisions for the winter due to a bad yield. Dr. Baldwin provided for one-half, or 250 people, of the nation. These 250 Oneida Nation members camped in woods near the village to be able to draw their daily rations.  Dr. Baldwin gave them grain from his mill as well as other care.

As a result of his generosity, the Oneida Nation “adopted” his son Harvey with impressive ceremony into thePublication1 tribe.  Harvey was given this beautifully beaded ceremonial deerskin coat, and was also given the name of “Cohongoronto.” The name signifies a boat having a sharp prow constructed for the navigation of rapid waters, and was intended as emblematic of the profession of law, which he was in the process of studying. Harvey Baldwin later became the first mayor of Syracuse .

How Did OHA Get It?: On November 11, 1949, the ceremonial deerskin coat was later presented to Crandall Melvin of the Onondaga Historical Association by John A. Morton, Jr., great-grandson of Harvey Baldwin. Along with the coat, Morton also donated Harvey Baldwin’s Bible.