1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Schenectady

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SCHENECTADY, a city and the county-seat of Schenectady county, New York, U.S.A., about 16 m. N.W. of Albany, on the Mohawk river and the Erie Canal. Pop. (1890) 19,902; (1900) 31,682, of whom 7169 were foreign-born; (1910, census) 72,826. Schenectady is served by the New York Central & Hudson River, and the Delaware & Hudson railways, and by interurban electric lines connecting with Albany, Troy, Saratoga, Amsterdam, 'Johnstown and Gloversville. The city has a fine situation about 230 ft. above the sea. It, is a place of much historic interest, and has many examples of quaint Dutch colonial and early American architecture. There is an Indian monument on the site of the “old fort.” Schenectady is the seat of Union College (undenominational), which grew out of the Schenectady Academy (1784), was chartered in 1795, and comprises the academic and engineering departments of Union University, the medical (1838), law (1851) and pharmacy (1881) departments of which are at Albany, where also is the Dudley Observatory (1852), which is under the control of the university. Schenectady is a manufacturing centre of growing importance; here are the main works of the General Electric Company, manufacturers of electrical implements, apparatus, motors and supplies, and of the American Locomotive Company. Together they give employment to about 80% of the wage-earners of the city. Among other manufactures are hosiery and knit goods, overalls and suspenders, hardware, lumber, oils and varnishes, gasoline fire engines, mica insulators, agricultural implements, and wagons and carriages. The capital invested in manufacturing industries in 1905 was $22,050,746, and the value of the factory product was $33,084,431, an increase of 87·9% since 1900.

According to tradition Schenectady stands on the site of the chief village of the Mohawk Indians, and its name, of which there are many different spellings in early records, is probably of Indian origin; on an early map (1665) it appears as Scanacthade. Arendt Van Corlaer, or Curler (d. 1667),[1] while manager of the estates of his cousin, the patroon, Killian Van Rensselaer, visited the site in 1642, and in 1662, being dissatisfied with conditions on the Manor, he led a band of settlers here. Their allegiance was directly to the Dutch West India Company, and they enjoyed a greater degree of freedom, especially commercial freedom, than had been possible on the Manor. The land was purchased from the Mohawks. To each of the fifteen original proprietors, except Van Corlaer, who received a double portion, was assigned a village lot 200 ft. sq., a tract of bottom-land for farming purposes, a strip of woodland, and common pasture rights. Many of the early settlers were well-to-do and brought their slaves with them, and for many years the settlement was reputed the richest in the colony. It received a serious set-back in 1690, when on the 9th of February a force of French and Indians surprised and burned the village, massacred sixty of the inhabitants and carried thirty into captivity. The village was rebuilt in the following year, and a military post was established. About 1700 there was a considerable influx of English settlers. In 1748 the French and Indians again descended on the region and killed many of the inhabitants of the outlying settlement at Beukendaal, 3 m. N.W. of Schenectady. Schenectady became a chartered borough in 1765 and a city in 1798. The first newspaper, the Gazette, was established in 1799. For some years after the completion of the Erie Canal, Schenectady, which had formerly been an important depot of the Mohawk river boat trade to the westward, suffered a decline. The first two railways in the state made Schenectady their terminus, the Mohawk & Hudson opening to Albany in September 1831 and the Saratoga & Schenectady in July 1832; the original station of the Mohawk & Hudson is still standing. It was not, however, until its new manufacturing era began, about 1880, that Schenectady's modern growth and prosperity began.

See Jonathan Pearson, A History of Schenectady Patent in the Dutch and English Times (Albany, 1883); G. S. Roberts, Old Schenectady (Schenectady, 1904); and G. R. Howell and J. H. Munsell, History of the County of Schenectady (Albany, 1887).

  1. Van Corlaer had emigrated to America about 1630; while manager of Rensselaerwyck he had earned the confidence of the Indians, among whom “Corlaer” became a generic term for the English governors, and especially the governors of New York.