Keeping Him Close to One's Heart

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This exhibit of “Selected Works from the RCHS Portrait Collection” closes August 22. One of the smaller portraits in the exhibit is a painted photograph in a silver locket case, an image of Dana Bruce Wotkyns (1898-1987) given to the RCHS by his estate in 1988.  A fond mother or grandmother would wear this color image of a beloved little boy in a lovely silver frame, with a special glass-covered compartment to insert a lock of his hair at the back. The locket is in its original red leather case, with velvet and silk lining. The case has a built-in stand so that the image could be displayed vertically when not being worn. The back of the locket is engraved “Dana Bruce Wotkyns/Born Nov. 3rd, 1898.”

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        Dana Wotkyns also appears in the other current exhibit at the RCHS, “Kids, Kids, Kids! Growing up in Rensselaer County.”  On view until the end of 2018, this show touches on all aspects of children’s lives. Wotkyns appears as a young toddler in a photo with his mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, taken about 1900. Certainly it was rare at the time for four generations to be living at once.

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                Dana Wotkyns was the only child of Tom and Blanche Wotkyns. He was born during the few years his parents lived in Pasadena, California, but grew up and lived his whole life in Troy. The family home was 53 2nd Street. Father Tom owned and ran Tom S. Wotkyns & Co, a coal company at the foot of Fulton Street, and was also President of the National State Bank of Troy. Dana was obviously a much-adored son. His father named one of his tug boats after him in 1903!

                Dana’s college years were interrupted by World War I, when he began Officers’ Training just as the war ended in November 1918. He did serve in World War II. Dana toured England, France, and Italy in 1924.  His passport application for that trip lists his occupation as “the screen (actor)”, but not long after he joined the family business, first as a clerk for his father’s coal company.  Tom Wotkyns died in 1926 and wife Blanche ran the business, as Dana rose to Treasurer. Evidence of Dana’s early interest in the stage is his collection of autographed photos and autographs of opera singers of c. 1920, also in the RCHS collection

                In later years, Dana lived in the Caldwell Apartments.  Many of his family possessions were donated to the RCHS after his death.