History of Troy, New York Part 2

About the history of small town Troy, New York, home to Uncle Sam and more.


The first successful stage adaptation of Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel Uncle Tom's Cabin was produced in Troy, on Sept. 27, 1852, and ran for 100 performances. Troy had a population of 28,785, and the 100 performances were said to be equal to a seven-year run in New York City.

The popular children's classic "A Visit from St. Nicholas" ("'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house. . .") was originally published in the Troy Sentinel on Dec. 23, 1823, having been sent to the editor by Miss Harriet Butler, daughter of a Troy clergyman, who had visited the family of Rev. Clement C. Moore in New York City and had heard him read it to his family. As with many successful works, there are some who doubt the veracity of Reverend Moore's authorship, but there is no substantial proof to the contrary.

Troy is indebted to Mrs. Hannah Lord Montague, who, about 1827, designed the first detachable collar as a laborsaving device. Through the years, the industry grew, until, at its peak in 1924, 15,000 workers, 85% of them women, were employed. Early in 1893, a threat of foreign-made collars prompted 70,000 persons to sign a petition which was presented to Congress. The petition, measuring 36 x 30 x 24 in., weighed 580 lb. and was successful in establishing an embargo.

The light rowing craft known as racing shells were invented by the Troy firm of E. Waters & Sons about 1870. A wooden mold was used, upon which successive layers of paper were laminated together. The result was a light waterproof shell, rowed by one, two, or three persons, for recreation or in competition. The concern also manufactured a paper dome for the Proudfit Observatory at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

Few military men can claim the distinction of having served in the war of 1812, the Mexican War of 1846, and the Civil War, but Gen. John E. Wool did just that. His final position was commander of the east, from which post he retired in 1863, at the age of 79. He died in 1869, and in 1879 a 75-ft. granite monolith, then the largest of its kind, was erected in Oakwood Cemetery in his memory.

Here, also, is the grave of "Uncle Sam." Samuel Wilson, known as Uncle Sam, owned a slaughterhouse that supplied beef to the U.S. Army in 1812. He stamped "U.S." (for United States) on the meat barrels. A soldier once asked what U.S. stood for, and someone replied, "Uncle Sam"-and that's how Uncle Sam became the symbol of the U.S.

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