Attending (17): Peter Brown, Murray Forth, Pat Bailey, April Dowd, Debbie Brown, Terry Brewer, Jim Leyhane, Dick Drumm, Debbie Rodriguez, Charlie Foote, Bill Dowd, Doris Calamaras, Dean Calamaras, Carol Orvis, Patrick Ciraulo, Carole Spencer, Stewart Wagner (2 reservations were no-shows).
Guests (4): Maggie Forth, Jeremy Forth, Barbara Foote, P. Thomas Carroll.
• Shirts are on order for the 33rd annual Rotary Run, set for Sunday, May 19. Next week we will discuss final plans.
• Charlie Foote reported that he visited Russ Edberg, who is doing well and has finished his physical therapy. Murray Forth said some members may bring Russ to next week’s meeting.
Program: Troy’s Role in the Industrial Revolution
The silhouette of a railroad spike is shown against the original patent application for a horse-powered waterwheel, both Troy inventions.
Dr. Carroll shared an engaging, illustrated set of stories of the area’s entrepreneurship and manufacturing scene from the 19th Century.
He said that while several locales claim to be the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, Troy and the Hudson-Mohawk region in general make perhaps the strongest case for that title.
He described the creation of the U.S.S. Monitor, the Union’s first iron-clad warship in the Civil War, and its local origins for financing and construction. He began by telling the story of the battle between the Monitor and the C.S.A. Virginia (formerly the U.S.S. Merrimack), the Confederacy’s first ironclad, at Hampton Roads, VA, in 1862.
The year before, two Troy men — iron manufacturers Griswold and Winslow — helped talk the U.S. Navy into developing ironclads. Banks in Troy put up the money — signing the paperwork in a small office in what now is Franklin Plaza in downtown Troy — and two Troy companies and one in Schenectady manufactured the parts for the Monitor. The Virginia attacked the Northern ships at Hampton Roads, sinking several, but the next day found that the Monitor had been towed from a shipyard in Brooklyn to Virginia and the two ironclads fought a four-hour stalemate.
Dr. Carroll noted that natural resources helped make Troy the major player in manufacturing development via its access to water power from Cohoes Falls, two major rivers and several smaller streams. This made the Hudson valley attractive to manufacturers, spurred inventions and brought wealth and incredible growth to the area. Examples of innovation are Townsend’s horse-powered ferry (patent drawing above), Burden’s plow, and machines to make horseshoes and railroad spikes. At one point, 90% of all horseshoes in the U.S. — and every horseshoe used by the U.S. military during the Civil War — were made at the Burden Ironworks in Troy.
Burden also built the largest water wheel –- as high as a five-story building — to improve power for his growing factory complex. It is believed to have been the inspiration for the original Ferris Wheel, made by two former RPI students who had seen the Burden wheel. In addition, the completion of the Erie Canal made the Troy/ Albany area a crossroads of commerce and travel.
Dr. Carroll spoke about a number of other things made in Troy and Albany in the 1860s, including Meneely iron bells, Arrow shirts and detachable collars — the size of that business giving rise to the city’s nickname, the “Collar City.”.
NEXT MEETING: 6:15 p.m. Thursday, May 9. Members of the East Greenbush town government will be our guest speakers.