New York's Capital Region in 50 Objects

New York's Capital Region in 50 Objects


Each region of the nation has its own distinctive history and identity. The New York’s Capital Region—consisting of Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady, and Saratoga Counties—is no different. But what best identifies the region? What events, objects, people, and ideas have contributed to its character and uniqueness?

To learn the answers, we presented these questions to the numerous museums, historical organizations, libraries, and residents of the Capital Region. The fifty objects that were ultimately selected present an exciting history of the Capital Region, including well-known favorites but also unexpected surprises. Some of the fifty objects characterize very broad topics like the textile industry and the Hudson River School of art, while others embody large populations of people who shaped the character of the region, such as the Dutch and the Iroquois. Many objects represent specific people or events, such as writer William Kennedy and the Battle of Saratoga. In some instances, the objects represent themselves, like the GE Monitor Top refrigerator and Albany’s beloved Nipper statue. A complementary image accompanies each of the fifty objects, providing context and additional information.

Overall, the fifty objects clearly demonstrate that this narrowly circumscribed part of New York State has played an astonishing role in shaping the history of the nation and, in several instances, the world beyond the confines of our national borders.

Shirt Collars

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.

Box of Arrow Shirt Collars, “Duncan” Style

Peabody, Cluett & Co., Inc., Troy, New York | 1921

Maker: Peabody, Cluett & Co., Inc., Troy, New York

Credit: Gift of Cornelia H. Frisbee Houde

“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

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