by Katie Nowak
Saratoga man writes about ‘era that’s gone and is never coming back’
July 25, 2010
A Saratoga man known for his self-published hyper-local history books has written another, this time focusing on the Capital District, and published by a national imprint.
Timothy Starr released Great Inventors of the Capital District on June 28 through History Press, a Georgia-based publisher known for producing scores of history books about towns and villages throughout the country. Starr was inspired to submit his proposal for the book after seeing their titles in stores and noticing they had yet to publish one about his specific idea.
Great Inventors chronicles approximately 60 inventors from the early 19th to early 20th centuries who have some connection to Troy, Albany, Schenectady and Cohoes — among other areas throughout the Capital District — and whose inventions benefited the region.
Starr came across a lot of inventors’ stories while researching his other books, which focus on the history of parts of Ballston Spa and Saratoga County, but found a distinct lack of detailed information about each of them.
Relying on the help of local historical societies, Starr fleshed out the narratives for each of his featured inventors, gathering some personal information, like the dates of their birth and death, as well as discovering how exactly their invention helped the Capital District.
“I’m doing an angle of history that hasn’t been done before in depth,” he said.
Some inventors in the book, like George Westinghouse Jr., who invented the railroad air brake, have only a tangential relationship to the region, Starr said. Westinghouse eventually moved to a different state, where he further developed the brake’s technology. But he also filed his patent for the brake in Schenectady, Starr said, making him the perfect candidate for inclusion in the book.
Others have deeper connections to the region, especially those from Troy. The Collar City gets its own chapter, with insight about the inventors who gave the city its name, and another chapter, titled “Men of Steel,” profiles Henry Burden, who invented a horseshoe machine that made one horseshoe per second.
Starr, who works as an accountant by day, said that writing the books is a hobby for him.
“This is just something I do in the evening after the baby goes to bed,” he said.
He’d always had an interest in history — it was one of his majors in college — but that interest tended to focus more on ancient civilizations. It wasn’t until he moved to Saratoga County in 1997 and began exploring his own back yard that the pull to investigate local history took over.
Now, his hobby has turned into something history buffs throughout the Capital District can appreciate. Starr’s work resurrects a time gone by, and reminds residents about the way things used to be, he said.
“It’s like a forgotten history,” he said. “There are not a lot of inventors here anymore, not really any businessmen inventors anymore.”
“It’s an era that’s gone and never coming back,” he added.
Katie Nowak can be reached at 270-1287.