William and Louis Gurley, brothers who both were alumni of RPI, established the W&LE Gurley Company in 1845, manufacturing precision instruments. Their company continues to this day, and was responsible for many innovations in surveying, measuring and other incredibly detailed and precise instrumentation. Troy’s Meneely Bell Company cast some of the finest bells in the world, most of which are still ringing somewhere.
Hannah Montague invented the detachable collar and cuff in 1825, launching an industry in Troy that outlasted the iron and steel manufacturing, and continued well into the 20th century. Textile related industries soon dominated Troy, resulting in the large factories along River Street and elsewhere in the city.
Today, we still make stuff here in Troy – from the products of the Ross Valve Company, to video games, to the innovative fungus packing materials at Ecovative Design, and much more. We are a city of Makers, perhaps best expressed large and architecturally at the newly restored Quackenbush Building downtown, now home to the Tech Valley Center of Gravity. There members can tinker and invent even more ways to create cool stuff, becoming the Gurley or Burden of tomorrow.
Which brings us to Steampunk and Troy.
For a generation raised with plastic electronic devices in hand almost at birth, there is something wonderfully nostalgic and inventive about retreating into a world of steam powered machines, with visible gears and gleaming copper and brass, where you can see how everything works together. Steampunk has inspired popular fiction and movies, home décor, clothing, and all kinds of individual inventions.
Journey to the Center of the Earth is another famous Verne novel, made into a new movie every 20 years or so, and the subject of countless spin-offs and variations.
What about H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds? It’s one of the most famous science fiction stories of all time, the subject of a world-wide radio scare in the 1930s, and at least three or four motion pictures. The basic plot has been used over and over, to varying degrees of success ever since. Wells’ tripods and the defeat of the aliens through our bacteria and viruses are the inspiration for alien invasion stories of all kinds. It was genius.
Like most great science fiction, the novel is really a treatise on the social and human conditions of Wells’ day, as well as a ripping adventure story. The story was made into at least two major motion pictures. The first was in 1960, and the second in 2002. The later one was set in New York, not London, where the book is set, and starred Australian actor Guy Pierce.
An iconic steampunk-style movie with scenes shot in downtown Troy. Troy, a city with a 200 plus year history of making stuff. A fun and inventive genre and lifestyle that celebrates the Maker in us all. Put them together – Troy, Steampunk, Makers – what do you have?
This is the third year of the festival, which gets bigger and more involved each year. They always have local vendors selling all kinds of stuff, and this year, like last year, I’ll be there hawking my wares.
I’m doing the Fair with my friend Debii, a fantastic artist who creates works that fit right into the grand tradition of Steampunk. You have to see (and BUY!) her figures, framed works, jewelry and headpieces. They are unique, and created with found objects, especially watch parts, sculpted and wired together with the skill and beauty of a true Maker. Deb's work can be found here: www.jennysparrowworks.com.
More stories about Troy’s history and architecture are coming in the near future. Please like and follow me on my professional page on Facebook - Suzanne Spellen, freelance writer.