Visitors who stop into the Albany Rural Cemetery Office for genealogical research often comment on the detailed burial index cards which are not unlike an old-fashioned library card catalog. A cache of old documents tell an interesting tale of the card file’s possible origin.
Cuyler Reynolds, brother of architect Marcus T. Reynolds, is best remembered as the Albany City Historian (which is noted on the black stone slab covering his grave in Section 17).
Cuyler was the first curator of the Albany Institute of History & Art after the older Albany Institute and Albany Historical & Art Society merged. He served as its curator from 1899 to 1909 and it was during his tenure that the museum’s famous pair of mummies was acquired.
In 1908, just after his work on the New York exhibits at the Jamestown Exposition, Cuyler Reynolds wrote a letter to attorney Marcus T. Hun (the Hun and Reynolds families were related – Marcus’ mother was the former Lydia Reynolds). The cover letter has not been located yet, but the typed statement that he enclosed reads:
“In February 1907, I addressed the Trustees of the Albany Rural Cemetery, meeting in upper room of the Mechanics & Farmers’ Bank, Dudley Olcott presiding, advocating the introduction of a card system for the records.
I submitted a tentative form of card which I had printed at my own expense.
The matter was considered to radical to be adopted at that time, and I then was appointed director of the N.Y.S. Historical Exposition at the Jamestown Exposition, where I spent the summer and fall of 1907.”
At the bottom of the typed statement, written boldly above his signature, Cuyler Reynolds wrote, “The idea was mine.”
The implication of this statement is that, after rejecting Reynolds’ proposal for a new way of filing burial records, the 1907 board adopted a strikingly similar card system in his absence. It appears that Reynold was seeking credit for the design and compensation of some sort.
Marcus T. Hun’s reply seems somewhat uninterested in taking up the cause:
“As to the Cemetery Association the matter seems to rest with you and Mr. Burns, and possibly if you wish to get closer to the trustees, with Mr. Dudley Olcott.
I hope you will be be able to make some arrangement that will be satisfactory to you, as it seems to me that it would be to the advantage of the Cemetery to have you clear up these defects in the old records.”
Marcus T. Hun would later serve as president of the Albany Cemetery Association until his death in 1920.
This is where the paper trail ends for now. Did Cuyler ever resolve the issue and receive any credit for his design which is indeed strikingly similar to the file system in use now? The answer might lie in the long missing Trustee minutes which have not been seen since they were misplaced during one of the many mergers and moves of local banks, including the old Mechanics & Farmers.
Cuyler Reynolds, “widely known as a collector and historian, and official historian of the city of Albany” (and likely designer of the Rural Cemetery’s card system) died on May 24, 1934. He was buried in the large Dexter-Reynolds family plot in Lot 1, Section 17. More of his story will be told another time. Marcus T. Hun is also buried in the same lot.