More New Old Stuff

Posted by Amy the Archivist on January 27, 2009 in

We recently received an item that is part of an interesting story with a connection to an important alum.  The item is a zither -- yes, a zither.  It's a complex musical instrument that was quite familiar a hundred years ago.  This was the first time I had seen one outside of a museum.  The zither was donated by an RPI alum who grew up in Troy.  Here is his story:

While growing up, I lived at 165 8th Street, almost across the street from Mr. [Garnet] Baltimore's house.  I remember Mr. Baltimore as a tall, elderly man.  In warm weather he wore a brown suit and a white straw hat.  We often exchanged greetings near Quillinan's store.  After Mr. Baltimore died, the house was occupied by his housekeeper (or wife?).  Nobody seemed to know her exact status.  She was a small, stern looking, white woman and not friendly to us kids.  In the spring of 1953 (or 1954?), the house was no longer occupied.  Two of my friends entered through a door at ground level on the right-hand side of the house.  Dick took the zither and smashed it with a brick.  His brother, Jim, then gave it to me.  I later put bolts through the zither and tried to play it.  There was once a date (1863?) written in pencil under the strings.  The zither has been in my possession for about 55 years.  I kept it in fond memory of Mr. Baltimore.  I hope the zither will now have a place in your Special Collections.

The provenance is a little troublesome, but what a great story.  I hope the statute of limitations on possession of stolen property has passed!  I have not been able to determine whether Garnet Baltimore owned or played a zither.  It seems likely that either he or his "housekeeper" was the musician.  Either way, it is a fun object to have in the collection.  All the strings are intact, but as the donor explained, the box is in need of repair and very dusty.  I hope to have it cleaned it up so that it can be displayed in the future.



Wed, 01/28/2009 - 05:17 Permalink

Interesting article and well-written, but I am writing to ask about something in the article. Could you tell me more about Qullinan and what year this might have been please? The Try Quillinan's are related to me back to Timothy and his wife Ellen.

Wed, 01/28/2009 - 14:13 Permalink

I believe the time period referenced in the donor's story is the mid-1940s. Garnet Baltimore died in 1946. I did a little searching on Quillian's store and found references to it as late as 1964. It was located on the corner of Eighth and Federal Streets. I haven't been able to determine who owned it or when it closed. Troy City Directories would probably have this information, but we do not have them in our collection. There was an attorney named Timothy J. Quillian who was born in 1870 in Troy. He was married to Sarah Kirwin and they had three children Francis, George, and Walter. The Rensselaer County Historical Society is an good resource for further information.

Wed, 01/28/2009 - 14:29 Permalink

Thank you for your help. I do have the whole Quillinan line for Troy, Catherine, the daughter of Gov. Al Smith, married Francis Quillinan in 1928, and Francis was Timothy's son. I had just never heard of Quillinan's store before this. The Quillinan's are from Tipperary. Timothy's father was Michael and he married Johanna Crowe from Emly, where the families of many Troy families originated. Mother Rosina is also of this line.

Mary Hoar
Sat, 03/13/2010 - 11:25 Permalink

I am a relation of the Quillinans, through the Crowe Emly line. My mom Margaret Delapp attended Francis's wedding, and Mother Rosina was my Grandmother's first cousin.

I would love to connect with Janet somehow for the complete lineage.


John M Quillinan
Wed, 05/19/2010 - 17:29 Permalink

This was originally owned by my Great Grandfather, Michael Aloycious Quillinan and then by my Great Uncle Albert H Quillinan(803 Federal St). Albert was Married to Margaret Fogarty.

Mary Hoar
Wed, 05/19/2010 - 18:50 Permalink

I am a relation of the Quillinans, through the Crowe Emly line. Parents of Timothy, Anna, Ellen (Mother Rosina), Mary A. and Katherine were Michael and Johanna Crowe Quillinan.

My mom Margaret Delapp attended Francis’s wedding, and Mother Rosina was my Grandmother’s first cousin.

We have little information on this line and I would love to make contact with some of my relatives out there.


Thu, 05/20/2010 - 08:24 Permalink

John, can you tell me more about how you know the zither in our collection belonged to your family? Do you know how it ended up in Garnet Baltimore’s house? It would be useful to have this information for our records. Thanks for leaving a comment!

Renee Ball Rodriguez
Thu, 03/03/2011 - 20:13 Permalink

I am a descendent of Samuel Oscar Baltimore, great grandfather of Garnet Baltimore. I would love to find any remaining relatives in the area. Thank you

Kimberly Fowler
Wed, 07/20/2011 - 14:41 Permalink

Margaret Quillinan was my great grandmother. I am the daughter of Albert Quillinan, Margaret's grandson. My mother Cheryl Gardner who married Albert talked about the Quillinan store that they use to go to daily to see Margaret. I am 43 years old. To my knowledge Albert had three children, (myself) Kimberly , Tami and Michael . Contact me a

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