Before The Collar City was known for its collars, it was known for producing horseshoes, railroad ties and other iron products -- including a cast for the Centennial Liberty Bell and parts of the USS Monitor.
Carroll has collected that history at Troy's Burden Ironworks Museum -- and he can tell you everything you want to know about they city's industrial history... and then some.
Wait, don't let that scare you off. Some of it is pretty interesting stuff.
The museum itself once served as the offices for the Burden Iron Works Company. It grew out of the Troy Iron and Nail Factory, but Scotsman Henry Burden took it from a little local operation to one of the most important iron mills of its day.
Burden patented a machine that could make horseshoes and the company scored a contract to make the horseshoes for the Union Army. At its peak the iron works was grossing $400 million (in today's money) just in horseshoes.
But even before that Burden patented a process for making railroad ties by machine. That patent led to a 28-year patent infringement court battle with railroad tycoon Erastus Corning. Yep, the great-grandfather of the longtime Mayor of Albany. The case reached the Supreme Court and to this day it's still one of the longest patent battles ever.
The museum's a tiny place that's still being renovated. The plan is to turn it into a full showcase of the area's industrial history. Some of the information might seem a little, well... arcane. But if you're willing to give it a chance and take a tour, you can pick up some cool facts.
For instance, there's a very good chance that the first Ferris Wheel was actually inspired by the mightiest water wheel of its day -- the one that powered the Burden factory. The designs are remarkably similar and inventor George Ferris, an RPI graduate, studied the wheel while there. Try whipping that little factoid out at your next cocktail party.
Meanwhile, the Meneely Bell Foundry cast many of the most famous bells in the country, including the replica of the Liberty Bell that was hung in Philly after the original bell cracked and moved into the visitors' center. Some of the casts used to make that bell are on display at the museum, too, along with several full-size bells. If you want, they'll let you ring one.
All jokes aside, you can definitely learn a lot at the Burden Museum. I had no idea there was quite such a rich history of stove-making or rototiller production, nor did I know that Troy can boast having the first truly all-female labor union. The museum still has a ways to go, but it's definitely not a bad way to spend a little time learning a few things. It's on the National Registry of Historic Places and it's housed in a really cool brick building, too.
Oh, and admission is by donation -- so this definitely qualifies as cheap fun.
The Burden Ironworks Museum
One East Industrial Parkway
Troy, NY 12180
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