A Brief History of the Mount Ida Neighborhood - The Bust

Americans also moved to redeem their silver certificates for gold, and it soon became evident that the supply of gold did not meet the demand.*  The result was a run that eventually put more than 600 banks out of business.  More than 70 railroads followed suit, including the powerful Philadelphia and Reading, and other major lines declared bankruptcy. All businesses linked to the railroads and allied industries were hit hard, and by 1895 more than 15,000 businesses had failed.  Two years into the panic, unemployment had climbed from one million to three million.** Unfortunately, the Troy Malleable Iron Works, the current incarnation of the Troy Spring Works, and the Marshall Foundry all drew a substantial amount of their business from the railroads and closely associated industries. The result was devastating.

Between 1893 and 1903 the face of Mount Ida changed drastically.  Many businesses were forced to close, and those that downsized due to the depression generally used the opportunity to relocate, in most cases moving out of commuting distance.  The unemployment rate among industrial workers in the northeast soared to between twenty and twenty-five percent.  The manufacturing boom on Mount Ida was over, and no entrepreneur, strike or union would make it otherwise.  What happened on Mount Ida and along the Poesten Kill was certainly not unique to Troy.  Many mid-sized industrial cities of the northeast experienced similar dislocations, complete rearrangements of what they once were and what they always thought they would be. The suddenness and gravity with which it struck, however, made the reality sink in only slowly.  The depression brought about more quickly what might very well have been the inevitable.  By the time the Panic struck, most of the factories and mills—and their models and methods of doing business—were already on the verge of extinction.     

In their book Hudson-Mohawk Gateway, An Illustrated History, Thomas Phelan and P. Thomas Carroll summarized the fate of the “gritty cities” and the special circumstances that often made it difficult for them to adjust.Although they spoke of these cities in general, they precisely identified the core of Mount Ida’s story:

Water was a key to the settlement of these early industrialized areas—falling water for power and waterways for transportation.  Steam engines, and later electricity, made industries more independent of water, though water continues to be important for many industrial processes. 

* http://www.usgennet.org/usa/topic/preservation/epochs/vol10/pg73.htm

** http://www.historycentral.com/Industrialage/Panic1893.html.

 

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