I'll Take Troy for $500, Alex!

By Don Rittner

The following article by Don Rittner appeared in The Record of Troy, NY.
The author has kindly allowed us to reproduce it here.

Everyone loves trivia. I bet more people can recognize Alex Trebek from Jeopardy than can recognize Al Gore! The popularity of television game shows like Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy, or board games like Trivial Pursuit, all show that we love to know little obscure bits of information. Having a reservoir of trivia in your back pocket can also help in the game of I gotcha. So, the next time you hear someone bad-mouthing Troy, or ranting about this or that, here are a few choice bits of trivia you can throw at them! Then, sit back and grin as they say, "Gee, I didn't know that."

The classic poem "Account of a Visit from St. Nicholas, or Santa Claus," better known as "'Twas the Night Before Christmas" by Clement Clarke Moore, was first published in Troy by the Troy Sentinel newspaper on December 23, 1823.

Uncle Tom's Cabin was first performed in the U.S. in 1852 in Peale's Museum on River and Fulton Streets.

President Lincoln's assassin, John Wilkes Booth, was himself shot dead in 1865 near Bowling Green, Virginia, by Sergeant "Boston" Corbett, who came from Troy.

The first street signs in Troy were erected in 1805, and were boards with the names of certain streets hand-painted on them.

Emma Willard, besides starting the first female school for higher education, wrote one of the first complete histories of the United States in 1829.

"Uncle Sam" Wilson, who packed meat for the troops during the War of 1812, lived and worked in Troy, but you already knew that. (Welcome to Troy if you didn't!)

Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), one of the oldest engineering schools in the country, was founded in Troy in 1824 in the old Farmers' Bank on Middleburgh and River Streets. It celebrating 175 years of teaching in 1999.

The iron plates for the iron-clad Civil War ship the Monitor were made in Troy by the Albany and Rensselaer Iron Works. This ship's defeat of the Confederate ship Merrimack, also iron-clad, off Hampton Roads, Virginia in 1862 was a turning point in the war.

Titus Eddy and family made the secret ink that was used to print all American paper currency during the 19th century and continued making it up to World War I. Their home is now a public housing office.

Herman Melville (1819-1891) wrote his first two novels in Lansingburgh, now part of Troy.

President Chester Alan Arthur (1829-1886), though born in Vermont, grew up in Lansingburgh and taught school in Schaghticoke and Cohoes.

The first depositor in the Troy Savings Bank was a black American, MarthaJefferson, depositing her life savings of $20.

Troy's "Veiled Murderess," Henrietta Robinson, spent 52 years in Sing Sing prison for killing a Troy grocer and clerk in 1855. To this day, no one knows anything about her life.

Mrs. Hanna Lord Montague is given credit for inventing the first detachable collar at her home on Third Street in Troy, hence starting the city's famous collar industry around 1827. By 1925, nine out of ten people in the country were wearing collars made in Troy.

In 1825 there were 23 more women living in Troy then men.

Paper boats (rowing boats and canoes) were invented by Eliza Waters in the 1860s in Troy. They were made from manila paper and were laminated - and they were fast!

The Troy Council of the Boys Club of America was formed in 1911 and created Troop I. It was the first uniformed Boy Scout troop in the United States. A photograph of the troop was published in the first national Scout manual.

Charles M. Connoly of Troy designed the Boy Scout uniform and the Scout badge.

Troy's Kate Mullaney organized the Collarworkers' Union in 1865, the first all-female union, and was celebrated here in 1999 by First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton.

In 1818, the Troy Lyceum of Natural History was founded. It was one of the first of its kind. RPI's Amos Eaton, one of the founders, created a floating museum/school on the Erie Canal where students explored natural history to Lake Erie and back in 1826.

Two Trojans became Governor of New York State, William L. Marcy (elected in 1833 and served three terms) and Frank S. Black (elected in 1896). Marcy went on to become Secretary of War under US President James K. Polk and Secretary of State under US President Franklin Pierce.

Members of the Union "Haymakers," a baseball team from Lansingburgh and later Troy, became the nucleus for the formation of the New York Giants baseball team, and were one of the first teams in the newly formed National League. Today the city of Troy is still an honorary member of the National League.

Four Trojans are in the Baseball Hall of Fame at Cooperstown, New York.

George R Poulton from Lansingburgh composed the song "Aura Lee", which became the melody for Elvis Presley's "Love Me Tender." A colorful character, Poulton was tarred and feathered for having an affair with a young student.

The largest waterwheel in the country was at the Burden Iron Works in Troy. It was 60 feet in diameter and 22 feet wide, and it had 36 buckets.

The Ferris Wheel was invented by George Ferris, an RPI graduate. It too had 36 buckets (seats). It's believed to have been modeled after Burden's waterwheel.

Most of the horseshoes worn by the horses of the northern army during the Civil War were made at the Burden Iron Works. The southern Confederacy tried to plant a spy to figure out how to make them. Burden's patented horseshoe maker could churn out one every four seconds. The annual output of horseshoes was estimated to be 12 million sets in 1924.

On April 17, 1775, 46 of the leading inhabitants of Lansingburgh signed a proclamation opposing England's rule which may be the first Declaration of Independence signed in the country, over a year before the colonies signed theirs on July 4, 1776.

The first Belgium Block pavement stone was laid on First Street in Troy in 1854. Before that, roads were either dirt or cobblestone.

The largest bell in the world in 1924, weighing 7,000 pounds, was in the tower of the College of the City of New York - and it was made in Troy.

The largest valve in the world, 96 inches in diameter, was in use in a U.S. Navy Yard - and it, too, was made in Troy.

Bessemer steel, which profoundly changed the iron industry in the 19th century, was first made in the United States in 1865, in Troy.

The first bridge across the Hudson River was the Waterford-Lansingburgh Bridge built in 1804. When it burned on July 10, 1909, it was the oldest covered bridge in America (see separate article on Rensselaer Co. Bridges). It was 800 feet long and 30 feet wide.

The Troy Music Hall, located in the Troy Savings Bank, is world-renowned as having some of the best acoustics in the world.

Oscar-winning actress Maureen Stapleton is from Troy.

The first pianos made in New York State (and maybe in the whole country) were made in Troy by Joshua Thurston in 1819.

The Marquis de Lafayette visited Troy twice, in 1824 and 1825, both times visiting with Emma Willard.

US Presidents Chester Alan Arthur, Martin Van Buren, William McKinley, William Howard Taft, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhower, John Kennedy, and Richard Nixon all visited Troy.

The Albany Law Journal was founded by Troy's Isaac Grant Thompson in 1870.

Troy Donahue starred with Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh in the 1959 comedy movie The Perfect Furlough. Oops, sorry, wrong Troy!

Do you have any I missed? Send them along to drittner@aol.com.

Lin Van Buren writes, "Don, I've got one for you from across "the pond"! Did you know that in the 1840s, Troy had a cricket team? Troy newspapers' sports pages gave the scores and named the "gentlemen" (amateur) team members. One of them was an unidentified "A. Van Buren"."

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