The Port of Troy is part of the New York Harbor River System. Located on the east bank of the Hudson River about 8 nautical miles (14 kilometers or almost 9 miles) northeast of the Port of Albany, the Port of Troy is about 215 kilometers (134 miles) west-northwest of the Port of Boston. The Port of Troy is the county seat of Rensselaer County, New York. The Port of Troy is part of the metropolitan area that also contains Albany and Schenectady and has a metro population of almost 851 thousand. The 2010 US Census reported that the Port of Troy was home to over 50 thousand people.
Troy may be the birthplace of the United States' Uncle Sam based on local businessman Samuel Wilson who sold beef to the US Army during the War of 1812. It is also rumored that the Port of Troy clothing industry began when a Troy housewife invented the detachable collar in the early 19th Century. Clothing long dominated the Port of Troy economy, but today's economy contains auto-parts, high-technology, and heavy gardening equipment. The Port of Troy economy has been greatly stressed by industrial decline. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is now the city's largest employer and the base of its high-tech sector that leads video game development.
The Mahican (or Mohican) Nation lived in the Port of Troy and the Hudson River Valley long before Europeans arrived. After the late 1600s, many Mahicans moved to the Stockbridge, Massachusetts area. Since the 1830s, most of their descendants have lived in Shawano County, Wisconsin where they have a 8.9-hectare reservation that they share with the Lenapi (Delaware) Nation. They are federally recognized as the Stockbridge-Munsee Community.
Local legend tells of the kidnapping of a Dutch girl by a Mahican male who wanted to prevent her marriage to someone else. In the 1950s, two skeletons were found in a cave beneath Poestenkill Falls. One of the skeletons was a Caucasian female, and the other was a Native American male.
There were at least two Mahican settlements within the modern city limits of the Port of Troy. In the mid-1600s, Dutch settlers arrived in the future Port of Troy area. In 1707, Dutchman Derick Van der Heyden bought a farm near what is now downtown. In 1787, Van der Heyden's grandson laid the farm into lots, calling the village Vanderheyden. The Port of Troy got its name by a vote in 1789. Two years later, the town was incorporated. The Port of Troy became a village in 1796, and it became a city in 1816.
The Port of Troy is sometimes called the "Collar City" based on its history in the textile production industry. It was for a time the second biggest iron producer in the United States behind Pittsburgh. In 1824, the Rensselaer School was established, later becoming today's Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Today's Russell Sage College was created in 1821 when Emma Willard founded the Troy Female Seminary.
For most of the 19th Century and early 20th Century, the Port of Troy was one of New York's, if not the entire United States', most prosperous cities. Before the industrial revolution arrived in the Port of Troy, it was a busy transshipment point for Vermont meat and vegetables being sent to New York City. Sloops and steamboats sailed the Hudson River near the Port of Troy. When the Erie Canal was completed in 1825, river trade increased greatly.
The steel industry produced much wealth for the Port of Troy when the first American Bessemer converter was built at the south end of the city. The iron and steel produced in the Port of Troy was used by the federal arsenal at Watervliet across the Hudson River. After the American Civil War, steel production followed raw materials to the west. The Port of Troy was a center for development of structural steel architectural supports and iron storefronts, many of which are still in the city.
The early heavy industry in the Port of Troy gave birth to many firms making mechanical and scientific equipment. W. & L.E. Gurley Company made precision instruments that dominated the industry until laser and digital technology appeared. The Port of Troy's Meneely Bell Company produced bells that rang around the world. The Port of Troy was also home to a manufacturer whose racing shells made of impregnated paper foreshadowed fiberglass, carbon fiber composites, and Kevlar.
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), one of the best US engineering schools, was established in 1824 by Stephen Van Rensselaer for the purpose of applying science to the "common purposes of life." RPI is now one of the English-speaking world's oldest technological universities, well known for its successful technology transfers from lab to marketplace.
Early professional baseball was well-established in the Port of Troy's two major league teams, the Haymakers and the Troy Trojans. In 1883, as the New York Gothams, the Trojans moved to New York City, eventually becoming the Giants.
In the early 19th Century, the Port of Troy was a center for the manufacture of shirts, cuffs, collars, and shirtwaists after Hannah Lord Montague, a housewife, created the first detachable collar. Her idea spread and changed American men's fashion for the next 100 years. Maullin & Blanchard manufactured her patented cuffs and collars, soon to be absorbed by Cluett, Peabody & Company which still makes "Arrow shirts."
Employing a huge female labor force, the Port of Troy produced the country's first labor union for women, the Collar Laundry Union, in 1864 when they went on strike. Owners agreed to raise the women's wages by 25%. The Cluett Peabody plant was finally closed in 1980.
During the United States' Prohibition era brought boot-legging to the Port of Troy when it became a stopping point for alcohol smuggling from Canada to New York City. Surrounded by morality laws and strict controls in other cities and the New England states, the Port of Troy was home to many speakeasies and brothels, giving the city a reputation that lasted until World War II. Many of the nicer establishments are now fashionable restaurants.
Like many industrial cities, the Port of Troy has lost much of its manufacturing base, and many of its residents moved to the suburbs and more promising areas of the country. In 1910, more than 75 thousand people lived in the Port of Troy, more than twice today's population. The result has been disinvestment and decay of the city, although local interests have made strong efforts to preserve Troy's cultural and architectural heritage.
The Port of Troy was home to author Kurt Vonnegut, and many of his books mention the city and surrounding areas. His novel Cat's Cradle was written in the Port of Troy, and the main character of many of his books (Kilgore Trout) lived on the other side of the Hudson River from Troy in Cohoes.