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All Ashore

May 2024
1min read


September 6 was a sad day for riverboat buffs; the Alexander Hamilton , the last of the handsome Hudson River sidewheelers, made her final round-trip voyage from Manhattan to Poughkeepsie, with stops at Bear Mountain and West Point. The trip ended an era that began in 1807 when Robert Fulton steered the Clermont all the way to Albany, one hundred and fifty miles upriver, in thirty-two hours. The Alexander Hamilton ordinarily made her voyages—covering the same distance—in a leisurely day-long fashion. Built at a cost of $850,000 in 1923, the Alexander Hamilton could carry as many as four thousand passengers on holi day excursions. The more-than-338-foot-long vessel has a wooden superstructure, of a type now banned as a fire hazard by a federal law we deplore. She is to be replaced by a new twin-screw, all-steel diesel-powered vessel called, in a failure of imagination, the Dayliner , after the Day Line company that operates the pitiful remnant of Hudson River service. The Dayliner will also be capable of carrying four thousand passengers on daily voyages.

As the Alexander Hamilton completed her last trip, it was still uncertain what her future would be. The vessel may end up as a restaurant at the South Street Seaport museum in lower Manhattan (see “South Street Seaport” in the October, 1969, A MERICAN H ERITAGE ) . A similar fate befell her sister riverboat, the Peter Stuyvesant , which is now serving as a restaurant in Boston. Two other onceproud Hudson River steamers humbled by time, the Robert Fulton and the Chauncey Depew , are now being used as a workmen’s dormitory in Nassau and as a launch in Bermuda, respectively.

On her final voyage the Alexander Hamilton carried 2,700 passengers, among them about one hundred members of the Steamboat Historical Society. As her skipper, Captain Edward M. Grady, said: “They know they will never see her like again.” 110

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