Hudson River Steamboats

An accurate history of the growth and development of steam navigation on the Hudson, from the building of the “Clermont” by Robert Fulton to the building of the superb steamers of the Hudson River Day Line would form a very interesting book. The first six years produced six steamers:

Clermont, built in 1807160 tons
Car of Neptune, built in 1809295 tons
Hope, built in 1811280 tons
Perseverance, built in 1811280 tons
Paragon, built in 1811331 tons
Richmond, built in 1813370 tons

It makes one smile to read the newspaper notices of those days. The time was rather long, and the fare rather high—thirty-six hours to Albany, fare seven dollars.

From the Albany Gazette, September, 1807

“The North River Steamboat will leave Paulus Hook Ferry on Friday the 4th of September, at 9 in the morning, and arrive at Albany at 9 in the afternoon on Saturday. Provisions, good berths, and accommodation are provided. The charge to each passenger is as follows:

Newburg$3.0014 hours
Poughkeepsie$4.0017 hours
Esopus$5.0020 hours
Hudson$5.5030 hours
Albany$7.0036 hours

For places apply to Wm. Vandervoort, No. 48 Courtland street, on the corner of Greenwich street, September 2d, 1807.”

Extract from the New York Evening Post, October 2, 1807

Mr. Fulton’s new-invented steamboat, which is fitted up in a neat style for passengers, and is intended to run from New York to Albany as a packet, left here this morning with ninety passengers, against a strong head wind. Notwithstanding which, it is judged that she moved through the waters at the rate of six miles an hour.

Extract from the Albany Gazette, October 5th, 1807

Friday, October 2d, 1807, the steamboat (Clermont) left New York at ten o’clock a.m., against a stormy tide, very rough water, and a violent gale from the north. She made a headway beyond the most sanguine expectations, and without being rocked by the waves.

Arrived at Albany, October 4th, at 10 o’clock p.m., being detained by being obliged to come to anchor, owing to a gale and having one of her paddle wheels torn away by running foul of a sloop.

The following was recently recopied in the Poughkeepsie Eagle, as an old time reminiscence:

To Poughkeepsie from New York in Seventeen Hours

—The first steamboat on the Hudson River passed Poughkeepsie August 17th, 1807, and in June, 1808, the owners of the boat caused the following advertisement to be published in prominent papers along the river:

For The Information Of The Public.
The Steamboat will leave New York for Albany every Saturday afternoon exactly at 6 o’clock, and will pass:

West Point, about 4 o’clock Sunday morning.
Newburgh, 7 o’clock Sunday morning.
Poughkeepsie, 11 o’clock Sunday morning.
Esopus, 2 o’clock in the afternoon.
Red Hook, 4 o’clock in the afternoon.
Catskill, 7 o’clock in the afternoon.
Hudson, 8 o’clock in the evening.

She will leave Albany for New York every Wednesday morning exactly at 8 o’clock, and pass:

Hudson, about 3 in the afternoon.
Esopus, 8 in the evening.
Poughkeepsie, 12 at night.
Newburgh, 4 Thursday morning.
West Point, 7 Thursday morning.

As the time at which the boat may arrive at the different places above mentioned may vary an hour, more or less, according to the advantage or disadvantage of wind and tide, those who wish to come on board will see the necessity of being on the spot an hour before the time. Persons wishing to come on board from any other landing than these here specified can calculate the time the boat will pass and be ready on her arrival. Innkeepers or boatmen who bring passengers on board or take them ashore from any part of the river will be allowed one shilling for each person.

Prices Of Passage—from New York
To West Point $2 30
To Newburgh 3 00
To Poughkeepsie 3 50
To Esopus 4 00
To Red Hook 4 50
To Hudson 5 00
To Albany 7 00

From Albany
To Hudson $2 00
To Red Hook 3 00
To Esopus 3 50
To Poughkeepsie 4 00
To Newburgh and West Point 4 50
To New York 7 00

All other passengers are to pay at the rate of one dollar for every twenty miles, and a half dollar for every meal they may eat.

Children from 1 to 5 years of age to pay one-third price and to sleep with persons under whose care they are.

Young persons from 5 to 15 years of age to pay half price, provided they sleep two in a berth, and the whole price for each one who requests to occupy a whole berth.

Servants who pay two-thirds price are entitled to a berth; they pay half price if they do not have a berth.

Every person paying full price is allowed sixty pounds of baggage; if less than full price forty pounds. They are to pay at the rate of three cents per pound for surplus baggage. Storekeepers who wish to carry light and valuable merchandise can be accommodated on paying three cents a pound.

Day Line Steamers

As the cradle of successful steam navigation was rocked on the Hudson, it is fitting that the Day Line Steamers should excel all others in beauty, grace and speed. There is no comparison between these river palaces and the steamboats on the Rhine or any river in Europe, as to equipment, comfort and rapidity. To make another reference to the great tourist route of Europe, the distance from Cologne to Coblenz is 60 miles, the same as from New York to Newburgh. It takes the Rhine steamers from seven to eight hours (as will be seen in Baedeker’s Guide to that river) going up the stream, and from four and a half to five hours returning with the current. The Hudson by Daylight steamers en route to Albany make the run from New York to Newburgh in three hours; to Poughkeepsie in four hours, making stops at Yonkers, West Point and Newburgh. Probably no train on the best equipped railroad in our country reaches its stations with greater regularity than these steamers make their various landing. It astonishes a Mississippi or Missouri traveler to see the captain standing like a train-conductor, with watch in hand, to let off the gang-plank and pull the bell, at the very moment of the advertised schedule.

One of the most humorous incidents of the writer’s journeying up and down the Hudson, was the “John-Gilpin-experience” of a western man who got off at West Point a few years ago. It was at that time the first landing of the steamer after leaving New York.

As he was accustomed to the Mississippi style of waiting at the various towns he thought he would go up and take a look at the “hill.” The boat was off and “so was he”; with wife and children shaking their hands and handkerchiefs in an excited manner from the gang-plank. Some one at the stern of the steamer shouted to him to cross the river and take the train to Poughkeepsie.

Every one was on the lookout for him at the Poughkeepsie landing, and, just as the steamer was leaving the dock, he came dashing down Main street from the railroad station, but too late. Then not only wife and children but the entire boat saluted him and the crowded deck blossomed with handkerchiefs. Some one shouted “catch us at Rhinebeck.” After leaving Rhinebeck the train appeared, and on passing the steamer, a lone handkerchief waved from the rear of the platform. At Hudson an excited but slightly disorganized gentleman appeared to the great delight of his family, and every one else, for the passengers had all taken a lively interest in the chase. “Well,” he says, “I declare, the way this boat lands, and gets off again, beats anything I ever see, and I have lived on the Mississippi nigh on to a quarter of a century.”

The Hendrick Hudson

In these centennial days of discovery and invention, a description of the steamers will be of interest, furnished by the Hudson River Day Line. The “Hendrick Hudson” was built at Newburgh by the Marvel Company, under contract with the W. & A. Fletcher Company of New York, who built her engines, and under designs from Frank E. Kirby. Her principal dimensions are: length, 400 feet; breadth over all, 82 feet; depth of hold, 14 feet 5 inches, and a draft of 7 feet 6 inches. Her propelling machinery is what is known as the 3-cylinder compound direct acting engine, and her power (6,500-horse) is applied through side wheels with feathering buckets, and steam is supplied from eight boilers.

Steel has been used in her construction to such an extent that her hull, her bulk-heads (7 in all), her engine and boiler enclosures, her kitchen and ventilators, her stanchions, girders, and deck beams, and in fact the whole essential frame work of the boat is like a great steel building. Where wood is used it is hard wood, and in finish probably has no equal in marine work.

Her scheme of decoration, ventilation and sanitation is as artistic and scientific as modern methods can produce, and at the same time her general lay out for practical and comfortable operation is the evolution of the long number of years in which the Day Line has been conducting the passenger business.

A detailed account of this steamer would be a long story, but some of the salient features are as follows: She carries the largest passenger license ever issued, namely: for 5,000 people; on her trial trip she made the fastest record through the water of any inland passenger ship in this country, namely: 23.1 miles per hour. Her shafts are under the main deck. Her mural paintings represent prominent features of the Hudson, which may not be well seen from the steamer. Her equipment far exceeds the requirements of the Government Inspection Laws.

The New York

The hull of the “New York” was built at Wilmington, Del., by the Harlan & Hollingsworth Co., in 1887, and is, with the exception of the deck-frame, made of iron throughout. During the winter of 1897 she was lengthened 30 feet, and now measures 341 feet in length, breadth over all 74 feet, with a tonnage of 1975 gross tons. The engine was built by the W. & A. Fletcher Co. of New York. It is a standard American beam engine, with a cylinder 75 inches in diameter and 12 feet stroke of piston, and develops 3,850 horse power. Steam steering gear is used. One of the most admirable features of this queen of river steamers is her “feathering” wheels, the use of which not only adds materially to her speed but does away with the jar or tremor common to boats having the ordinary paddle-wheels. The exterior of the “New York” is, as usual, of pine, painted white and relieved with tints and gold. The interior is finished in hard-wood cabinet work, ash being used forward of the shaft on the main deck, and mahogany aft and in the dining-room. Ash is also used in the grand saloons on the promenade deck. One feature of these saloons especially worthy of note, is the number and size of the windows, which are so numerous as to almost form one continuous window. Seated in one of these elegant saloons as in a floating palace of glass, the tourist who prefers to remain inside enjoys equally with those outside the unrivalled scenery through which the steamer is passing. The private parlors on the “New York” are provided with bay windows and are very luxuriantly furnished. In the saloons are paintings by Albert Bierstadt, J. F. Cropsey, Walter Satterlee and David Johnson. The dining-room on the “New York” is located on the main deck, aft; a feature that will commend itself to tourists, since while enjoying their meals they will not be deprived from viewing the noble scenery through which the steamer is passing. While the carrying capacity of the “New York” is 4,500 passengers, license for 2,500 only is applied for, thus guaranteeing ample room for all and the absence from crowding which is so essential to comfort.

The Albany

The “Albany” was built by the Harlan & Hollingsworth Co., of Wilmington, Del., in 1880. During the winter of 1892, she was lengthened thirty feet and furnished with modern feathering wheels in place of the old style radial ones. Her hull is of iron, 325 feet long, breadth of beam over all 75 feet, and her tonnage is 1,415 gross tons. Her engine was built by the W. & A. Fletcher Co., of New York, and develops 3,200 horse power. The stroke is 12 feet, and the diameter of the cylinder is 73 inches. On her trial trip she ran from New York to Poughkeepsie, a distance of 75 miles, in three hours and seven minutes. Steam steering gear is used on the “Albany,” thus insuring ease and precision in handling her. The wood-work on the main deck and in the upper saloons is all hard wood; mahogany, ash and maple tastefully carved. Wide, easy staircases lead to the main saloon and upper decks. Rich Axminster carpets cover the floors, and mahogany tables and furniture of antique design and elegant finish make up the appointments of a handsomely furnished drawing room.

The Old Reaches

Early navigators divided the Hudson into fourteen “reaches” or distances from point to point as seen by one sailing up or down the river. In the slow days of uncertain sailing vessels these divisions meant more than in our time of “propelling steam,” but they are still of practical and historic interest.

The Great Chip Rock Reach extends from above Weehawken about eighteen miles to the boundary line of New York and New Jersey—(near Piermont). The Palisades were known by the old Dutch settlers as the “Great Chip,” and so styled in the Bergen Deed of Purchase, viz, the great chip above Weehawken. The Tappan Reach (on the east side of which dwelt the Manhattans, and on the west side the Saulrickans and the Tappans), extends about seven miles to Teller’s Point. The third reach to a narrow point called Haverstroo; then comes the Seylmaker’s Reach, then Crescent Reach; next Hoge’s Reach, and then Vorsen Reach, which extends to Klinkersberg, or Storm King, the northern portal of the Highlands. This is succeeded by Fisher’s Reach where, on the east side once dwelt a race of savages called Pachami. “This reach,” in the language of De Laet, “extends to another narrow pass, where, on the west, is a point of land which juts out, covered with sand, opposite a bend in the river, on which another nation of savages—the Waoranecks—have their abode at a place called Esopus. Next, another reach, called Claverack; then Backerack; next Playsier Reach, and Vaste Reach, as far as Hinnenhock; then Hunter’s Reach, as far as Kinderhook; and Fisher’s Hook, near Shad Island, over which, on the east side, dwell the Mahicans.” If these reaches seem valueless at present there are

Five Divisions of the Hudson

Five Divisions of the Hudson—which possess interest for all, as they present an analysis easy to be remembered—divisions marked by something more substantial than sentiment or fancy, expressing five distinct characteristics:—

The Palisades, an unbroken wall of rock for fifteen miles—Grandeur.
The Tappan Zee, surrounded by the sloping hills of Nyack, Tarrytown, and Sleepy Hollow—Repose.
The Highlands, where the Hudson for twenty miles plays “hide and seek” with “hills rock-ribbed and ancient as the sun”—Sublimity.
The Hillsides for miles above and below Poughkeepsie—The Picturesque.
The Catskills, on the west, throned in queenly dignity—Beauty.


From the Hurricane Deck of the Hudson River Day Line Steamers can be seen, on leaving or approaching the Metropolis, one of the most interesting panoramas in the world—the river life of Manhattan, the massive structures of Broadway, the great Transatlantic docks, Recreation Piers, and an ever-changing kaleidoscope of interest. The view is especially grand on the down trip between the hours of five and six in the afternoon, as the western sun brings the city in strong relief against the sky. If tourists wish to fully enjoy this beautiful view they should remain on the Hurricane Deck until the boat is well into her Desbrosses Street slip.

The Brooklyn Annex

—The Brooklyn tourist is especially happy in this delightful preface and addenda to the Hudson River trip. The effect of morning and evening light in bringing out or in subduing the sky-line of Manhattan is nowhere seen to greater advantage. In the morning the buildings from the East River side stand out bold and clear, when lo! almost instantaneously, on turning the Battery, they are lessened and subdued. On the return trip in the evening, the effect is reversed—a study worth the while of the traveler as he passes to and fro on the commodious “Annex” between Desbrosses Street Pier and Brooklyn. Surely no other city in the world rises so beautiful from harbor line or water front as “Greater New York,” with lofty outlines of the boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn reminding one of Scott’s tribute to Edinburgh:

“Piled deep and massy, close and high,
Mine own romantic town!”

Bruce, Wallace. The Hudson; Three Centuries of History, Romance and Invention. New York: Bryant Union Company. 1907.

Search Military Records - Fold3

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Scroll to Top