Schenectady, New York is located in Schenectady County at 42.80° north and 73.93° west. Schenectady is located just a few miles west of the confluence of the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers, and about 15 miles northwest of Albany. The city has a current population of about 65000. Schenectady is known as "the Electric City" because its largest employer, General Electric.
The area that is now Schenectady was originally the land of the Mohawk tribe of the Iroquois Nation. When Dutch settlers arrived in the Hudson Valley in the middle of the 17th century, the Mohawk called the settlement at Fort Oranjie "Schau-naugh-ta-da", meaning "over the pine plains." Eventually, this word entered the lexicon of the Dutch settlers, but the meaning was reversed, and the name referred to the bend in the Mohawk River where the city lies today.
The first permanent European settler was Alexander Lindsay Glen, who received a large land claim on the north side of the Mohawk River from the colonial government. He built a large estate on the north bank. He was quickly followed by Arent Van Coerler, who was allowed by the colonial government to buy a large tract of land on the south bank, and create a settlement. Fourteen others followed Van Coerler, and this group created the village of Schenectady in 1661. Van Coerler and Glen soon became friends, and Glen would often invest money in the settlement at Schenectady.
As settlement of the Mohawk Valley pushed westward, Schenectady became the gateway to the western frontier. Raw materials would travel east through the village, while supplies and manufactured goods would come through from Albany. In 1690, the village was burned to the ground by French and Iroquois forces in one of many battles for control of the frontier. With the assistance of the settlement at Albany and Troy, Schenectady was rebuilt with a larger stockade and more armaments.
Schenectady continued to grow through the 18th century, becoming incorporated as a city shortly after the American Revolution. Union College was founded in the city to meet the area's higher education needs. When the Erie Canal opened in 1825, shipping traffic went through Schenectady instead of unloading there. Also, the area of Schenectady enclosed in the stockade became isolated, and became mostly residential.
The economy of the city began to change from a port to a home for heavy industry. Railroads came early to Schenectady, with the first passenger railway in the United States completed between Albany and Schenectady in 1831. Soon, locomotive works sprung up in Schenectady, beginning with the founding of the Schenectady Locomotive Company in 1851. Soon other manufacturers came to Schenectady, lured by the easy accessibility of natural resources and its easy accessibility to markets.
The largest of these industries to make a home in the city is General Electric. In 1887, Thomas Edison moved his Edison Machine Works to Schenectady to take advantage of the railroad connections. Over time, this company consolidated with several others, and began to manufacture a variety of items. Today, GE is the largest conglomerate corporation in the world, making hundreds of different products, most of which have a connection to the Schenectady works. GE is the largest employer in Schenectady by a very large margin, and thus they have a very close relationship. What happens to one will usually effect the other very quickly. As GE diversified in the late 20th century, parts of the Schenectady works closed, laying off large numbers of people.
Today, Schenectady still maintains its heavy industrial roots. Companies such as Schenectady International have taken the place of some older industries in the economy, but the city remains very blue collar. Schenectady's proximity to Albany, and their differing economic models, mean that commuters often travel between both cities, living in one and working in the other.
Schenectady is home to WGY-AM, one of the first commercial radio stations in the United States. The station was named after its main sponsor, General Electric (the G), and the city of Schenectady (the Y). WGY also generated the first regular television broadcasts in the United States in 1928, with regular broadcast on Tuesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons. The first live television broadcast also came out of WGY in 1928, with the broadcast of the Democratic Convention. This television station is now WRGB.
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