CENTER OF INNOVATION AND EDUCATION
The city’s rapid growth and abundant opportunities attracted the ambitious from all over, most notably perhaps one Samuel Wilson, meatpacker and entrepreneur, who became the model for our national symbol, Uncle Sam. Troy became famous as the birthplace of the detachable shirt collar, and later of the Arrow shirt. Henry Burden in South Troy was the first to make railroad spikes and horseshoes by machine, producing a million horseshoes a week for the Union Army during the Civil War. Meanwhile, his rival Erastus Corning across the stream from him rolled the deck plates for the U.S.S. Monitor, then used the profits from that work to establish the first Bessemer steel plant in the New World in 1865. He used that steel to make steel rails for the New York Central Railroad, which was the largest corporation in the nation at the time he headed it. Between 1808 and 1951, both in Troy and across the river in what is now Watervliet, four interconnected foundries produced about a hundred thousand bells, including the replacement for the Liberty Bell, which has rung out continuously from the tower of Independence Hall since 1876.
Of course, Troy-Bilt rototillers were indeed built in Troy from their inception in 1938 until their closing a few years ago. And dozens of other industries, from wholesale drug firms to surveying instrument manufacturers to the makers of the levels that went to the Moon with the Apollo astronauts, have all called Troy their home. Supporting those astounding accomplishments have been some important institutions, such as the Troy Female Seminary (now the Emma Willard School), established in 1819 by Emma Willard as the first school in the nation to teach women the same mathematics and science curriculum as men, and the Rensselaer School (now Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute), established in 1824 by Stephen Van Rensselaer as the first degree-granting engineering school in the English-speaking world. Financing all this activity became the responsibility of the twenty-two banks established in Troy in the nineteenth century.
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In this article:
The rise and fall
Center of innovation
A new revival