Taking it’s name after the legendary city made famous by Homer’s Iliad, the Village of Troy was formally founded in 1789. Troy falls into line with a pattern of classically titled cities formed in the post-Revolutionary War years.
During the War of 1812, the militia led by Stephen VanRensselaer, were stationed at the Cantonment in Greenbush. Troy was a leading supplier of goods for the troops. It was there that the legend of Uncle Sam is born. Samuel Wilson was awarded the contract to supply beef and pork for the troops. The meat was packed in white oak barrels stamped with the initials “U.S.E.A.” standing for United States and Elbert Anderson, who was the overall contractor to the US Army. The troops unloading the labeled barrels jokingly referred to his beef as Uncle Sam’s beef, later it became synonymous with all things relating to the United States. Troy, NY is the “official home” of Uncle Sam. During the War of 1812, quartermaster supplies were shipped through Troy to the militia and armed forces led by Stephen Van Rensselaer. According to legend, a local butcher named Samuel Wilson supplied much of the forces with necessities delivered in barrels marked “U.S.”, jokingly taken by the troops to signify “Uncle Sam”, meaning Wilson. Since the war, Troy has become known as the historical home of Uncle Sam.
Troy’s prosperity in the early 19th century was largely due to the opening of the Erie Canal. Troy became a center for shipping goods produced in Rensselaer County and western New England that then went to New York City. By the time of the Civil War Troy emerged as a leading manufacturer for a range of products including railroad spikes, horseshoes, bells and detachable collars, ultimately giving Troy its nickname, “The Collar City”. Legend has it that Hannah Lord Montague cut collars and cuffs off of her husband’s shirts in an effort to be more efficient since only those parts of his shirt were soiled. She then attached strings to hold them in place. The largest of the collar manufacturers was Cluett Peabody & Co. Inc. The company remained active in Troy until 1989. By the 1920’s steel production moved west to be closer to natural resources and Troy began to see a decline in its profits. Despite the decline in heavy manufacturing Republic Steel the successor to the Burden Iron Works remained in business until the mid 1970’s.
Troy’s continued entrepreneurial spirit in emerging technologies was fostered by Stephen Van Rensselaer and Amos Eaton, founders of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI). Founded in 1824 RPI remains one of the oldest and finest technological universities in the country.
The Troy Sentinal was the first publisher of the world-famous Christmas poem “A Visit from St. Nicholas,” widely known today as “The Night Before Christmas.” The poem was published anonymously on December 23, 1823.
Troy was a pioneering city in professional baseball and has been home to two major league teams, the Troy Haymakers(1871-1872) and Troy Trojans(1879-1882).
Troy had three devastating fires: 1820, 1854 and the largest conflagration, May 10th, 1862. Known as the Great Fire, it destroyed over 500 buildings and the wooden covered Green Island Railroad Bridge. Within 9 months most of the city was rebuilt beginning with the W. & L. E. Gurley building. The building is a National Historic Landmark and continues to manufacture precision instruments.
In the late 1800’s Troy was a manufacturing center for shirts, shirtwaists, collars and cuffs. In 1825, resident Hannah Lord Montague was cleaning her blacksmith husband’s shirts and noticed that only the collars were dirty. In an effort to be more efficient, she cut off the collars, bound the edges, and attached strings to hold them in place so she could clean the collars separately. This quickly became a popular style of dress, earning Troy the nickname “The Collar City.” Maullin & Blanchard, a shirt production company adapted Montague’s patented design. Upon Joseph Maullin’s death in 1863, firm partner George B. Cluett took the rains, eventually forming Cluett, Peabody & Co. Mr. Cluett lived with his nephew Albert in the Hart-Cluett House, currently inhabited by RCHS.
The great shirt production labor force also gave way to the first female labor union in the country, “The Collar Laundresses Union,” founded by Troy resident Kate Mullany. After a six day strike by the union, laundry owners raised women’s wages 25%.