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.

Troy-Bilt Rototillers

Farmers and home gardeners can thank C. W. Kelsey for bringing rototillers to the United States. In 1930, Kelsey established the Rototiller Company in New York City to import and distribute a Swiss designed, German made “earth grinder” that could efficiently and easily cultivate soil. Two years later, Kelsey registered the trademark Rototiller®.

Kelsey teamed up with industrialist George B. Cluett and began manufacturing operations in Troy, New York, in 1937. During the next decade, the company transferred production of large tillers to another firm and focused on designing a better, less expensive machine. When Kelsey retired in 1957, he turned over the company to the employees who worked for him. The company briefly left Troy, but then returned under the name Watco Machine Products, Inc., and manufactured “The Trojan Horse.”

A trademark challenge in 1968 necessitated changing the name to Troy-Bilt® and the company was renamed Garden Way Manufacturing Company. Long-time Troy-Bilt® sales manager, Dean Leath, Jr., noted the trend in home gardening in the 1970s and began a marketing campaign that included publishing gardening booklets and exhibiting rototillers at county fairs.

The “Pony” model rototiller includes a sticker with Leath’s contact information telling the buyer what is included with the purchase. Marketed as easier to use for smaller backyard gardens, the “Pony” incorporates an engine made by Briggs and Stratton of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. In 2001, the company declared bankruptcy and was purchased by MTD of Ohio.

Troy-Bilt® Rototiller (Pony Model)

Garden Way Manufacturing Company, Troy, New York


Steel, metal, paint

Courtesy of the Hudson-Mohawk Industrial Gateway

Caroline Cluett in her Garden


Gelatin silver photographic print

Courtesy of the Hudson-Mohawk Industrial Gateway

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