Troy, New York, is nicknamed the “Collar City,” a label that originated in the long-term presence of the detachable collar industry that began in Troy in the 1820s. According to some documents, the Troy blacksmith Orlando Montague complained to his wife Hannah back in 1820 that he had no clean white shirts to wear in the evenings after work. Hannah felt the problem could be solved by merely cutting off the dirty collars and attaching a clean one. Thus was born the detachable collar. Other histories suggest that the Reverend Ebenezer Brown, a retired Troy preacher and dry-goods merchant, was the first to recognize the need for detachable linen collars, and in 1827 or 1829 began paying local women to make them, which he sold in boxes at his store.

Throughout most of the nineteenth century the collar industry relied on handwork to cut, stitch, and finish collars. Collar makers worked from their homes and the skill required for making collars was frequently passed down from one generation to the next so that a trained and proficient workforce lived in the Troy area, although some collar makers lived as far away as Vermont and western Massachusetts. Shirt cuffs were added in 1845.

In addition to collars and cuffs, an entire shirt industry grew up in Troy. Shirts, however, early in the nineteenth century, became a factory business with nearly all the factories being located in Troy’s urban center. In 1851 or 1852, Nathaniel Wheeler of the Wheeler & Wilson Company brought the first sewing machine to Troy and introduced it into the shirt factories.

Cluett, Peabody & Co., Inc., grew to be the largest shirt and collar business in Troy. The company formed in 1901 and acquired the older business of Maullin & Blanchard. Cluett, Peabody & Co., Inc., made Arrow shirts and operated factories throughout the United States. The company maintained a presence in Troy until about 1990.

 

Magnifying Glass
Box of Arrow Shirt Collars, “Duncan” Style
Peabody, Cluett & Co., Inc., Troy, New York
1921
Starched cotton in paper box
Albany Institute of History & Art, gift of Cornelia H. Frisbee Houde, 2006.15.7
Magnifying Glass
“Arrow Collars & Shirts” Advertisement
Designed by Joseph Christian Leyendecker
From The Saturday Evening Post
October 11, 1913
Photomechanical print on paper
Courtesy of Rensselaer County Historical Society, Troy, New York