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Guide to The Alfred Olcott Hudson River Steamboats Collection
Ca. 1871-1951 (bulk 1905-1930)
 PR 98

New-York Historical Society
170 Central Park West
New York, NY 10024
Phone: (212) 873-3400


© 2011 New-York Historical Society

Collection processed by Emily Wolff

This finding aid was produced using the Archivists' Toolkit on December 13, 2011
Description is in English.

Descriptive Summary

 
Title: The Alfred Olcott Collection of Hudson River Steamboats
Dates [inclusive]: 1871-1951 (bulk 1905-1930)
Abstract: This collection contains photographs, ship plans and blueprints, ephemera, and clippings relating to Hudson River steamboats from the late-nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century.
Quantity: 14.2 Linear feet (4 drawers)
Location note: Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections
Call Phrase: PR 98

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Biographical Note

Alfred Van Santvoord Olcott was born in 1886, to a family that had been operating steamboats on the Hudson River for three generations. His great-grandfather started an excursion business on the Hudson in 1835. In 1861 his grandfather, Commodore Alfred Van Santvoord, converted the river excursion business into a steamboat line that would be come know as the Hudson River Day Line. The line regularly transported passengers between New York City and Albany on a fleet of side-wheelers. The Day Line developed a reputation for its style and elegance, promoting steamboat travel as glamorous as well as convenient. In 1895, Van Santvoord named his son-in-law, Eben Erskine Olcott, General Manager. When Van Santvoord died in 1901, Eben Olcott became president of the company. He expanded and modernized many facets of the operation and the company thrived under his direction. The line attracted passengers with its grand ships, such as the Albany and the New York, which were appointed with luxurious furnishings and original artwork. The Day Line also fostered a relationship with the local railroad lines, linking the departure and arrival points of the two modes of transportation to facilitate travel.

Following his graduation from Princeton University in 1909, Alfred Olcott, Eben Olcott's son, became Treasurer of the Hudson River Day Line. He was promoted to General Manager in 1917. After his father's death in 1929, he succeeded him as president of the company. Olcott struggled to keep the Day Line afloat during the 1930s as the nation's economic woes impacted all sectors of activity. A brief resurgence in riverboat travel following the World War II pulled the line out of debt and seemed to point toward a prosperous future. The boom, however, was short-lived. As the era of steamboat travel was winding to a close, the Hudson River Day Line suffered heavy profit losses in 1946 and 1947 and Olcott was forced to discontinue it service at the end of 1948.

Alfred Olcott went on to serve as a director of the Hudson River Conservation Society, as president of the Federated Chambers of Commerce of the Hudson River Valley and as a member of the executive committee of the State Chamber of Commerce. He died in Booth Bay, Maine in 1961.

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Scope and Content Note

The Alfred Olcott Hudson River Steamboat Collection spans the period 1871-1951 and contains photographs, blueprints, prints, and ephemera relating to steamboat travel on the Hudson. The collection is divided into three series: Steamboat Lines; Miscellaneous Views; and Oversize Materials.

Series I. Steamboat Lines contains photographs, prints, clippings, and ephemera dating 1886-1951. The material is arranged alphabetically by subject with the majority relating to the Hudson River Day Line, although the Central Hudson Line and the Hudson River Navigation Company are also represented. Individual steamers highlighted include: the Benjamin B. Odell; the Homer Ramsdell; the Newburgh; the Fort Orange; the Albany; the Alexander Hamilton; the Chauncey M. Depew; the DeWitt Clinton; the Hendrick Hudson; the Mary Powell; the New York; the Peter Stuyvesant; the Robert Fulton; the Washington Irving. The photographic material includes both vintage prints and copy prints of steamer exteriors and interiors, and passengers. Included in the photographic material is an album documenting the construction and 1927 launch of the Peter Stuyvesant, a Hudson River Day Line steamer. The ephemera consists primarily of advertisements, schedules, and brochures published by the steamboat companies. There are also several souvenir postcards.

Series II. Miscellaneous Views consists primarily of photographs of steamers and sites along the Hudson dating from 1875-1950, with some printed material and ephemera of similar subject matter and period. Three photographs show the tour through Howe Caverns, a tourist attraction not far from Albany. Another series of photographs shows steamboat launches at the Jamestown Exposition, an event at Sewells Point, VA (now the Norfolk Naval Base) from April to November 1907 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of the first permanent English settlement in America. There are two folders of photographs showing various boats, most of which are steamboats, although not necessarily Hudson River Day Line boats. Several folders of unidentified material include copies of paintings of non-maritime subjects, a menu, views of boats, and people. Three folders in this series contain views of the Hudson River and of sites along the river.

Series III. Oversize Materials contains original art, broadsides, photographs, and ship plans and blueprints from the Hudson River Day Line dating from 1871-1930. The original art for advertisements includes pencil sketches and ink sketches for broadsides describing the line. The printed broadsides advertise the line from the 1880s through the first two decades of the twentieth century, providing information on particular steamers routes and schedules. The earliest item in this series is a page from an 1871 Frank Leslie's Illustrated Magazine concerning the steamer Mary Powell. Two steamers, the Albany and the Hendrick Hudson, are documented in photographs. Another group of photos shows Hudson River piers. The inspection certificates for the Hudson River Line steamers date from 1879-1917. The ship plans and blueprints are of particular interest in the documentation of individual steamers. Those represented include: the Albany; the Alexander Hamilton; the Clermont; the Chauncey Depew; the Dewitt Clinton; the Hendrick Hudson; the Mary Powell; the New York; the Robert Fulton; and the Washington Irving.

Arrangement

The collection is divided into three series.

  1. Series I. Steamboat Lines
  2. Series II. Miscellaneous Views
  3. Series III. Oversize Materials

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Access Points

Document Type

  • Advertisements
  • Albumen prints
  • Blueprints
  • Clippings
  • Ephemera
  • Photograph albums
  • Photographs

Subject Organizations

  • Albany (Steamboat)
  • Alexander Hamilton (Steamboat)
  • Benjamin B. Odell (Steamboat)
  • Chauncey M. Depew (Steamboat)
  • Dewitt Clinton (Steamboat)
  • Fort Orange (Steamboat)
  • Hendrick Hudson (Steamboat)
  • Homer Ramsdell (Steamboat)
  • Hudson River Central Line
  • Hudson River Day Line
  • Hudson River Navigation Company
  • Mary Powell (Steamboat)
  • New York (Steamboat)
  • Newburgh (Steamboat)
  • Peter Stuyvesant (Steamboat)
  • Robert Fulton (Steamboat)
  • Washington Irving (Steamboat)

Subject Topics

  • River Steamers – Hudson River (N.Y. and N.J.)
  • Steamboats – Hudson River (N.Y. and N.J.)

Subject Places

  • Hudson River (N.Y. and N.J.)
  • Hudson River Valley (N.Y. and N.J.)

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Administrative Information

Provenance

Gift of Alfred Olcott, 1949-1951.

Access Restrictions

Open to qualified researchers, by appointment only.

Photocopying undertaken by staff only. Limited to 30 photocopies per day per person. Suitability of the original for photocopying is at the discretion of the staff. Neither blueprints nor tracings can be copied under any circumstances. Duplication of large-format items will be done by the house photographer. See Print Room guidelines for details.

Use Restrictions

Permission to reproduce any Print Room holdings through publication must be obtained from

Rights and Reproductions
The New-York Historical Society
Two West 77th Street
New York, NY 10024

Phone: (212) 873-3400 ext. 282
Fax: (212) 579-8794

The copyright law of the United States governs the making of photocopies and protects unpublished materials as well as published materials. Unpublished materials created before January 1, 1978 cannot be quoted in publication without permission of the copyright holder.

Preferred Citation

This collection should be cited as: The Alfred Olcott Hudson River Steamboats Collection, PR 098, Department of Prints, Photographs, and Architectural Collections, The New-York Historical Society.

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Container List

Series I. Steamboat Lines

Scope and Contents note

Series I. Steamboat Lines contains photographs, prints, clippings, and ephemera dating from 1886-1951. The material is arranged alphabetically by subject with the majority relating to the Hudson River Day Line, although the Central Hudson Line and the Hudson River Navigation Company are also represented. The photographic material includes both vintage prints and copy prints of steamer exteriors and interiors, and passengers. The ephemera consists primarily of advertising, schedules, and brochures published by the steamboat companies. There are also several souvenir postcards.

Central Hudson Line

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 1 Advertising and Schedules
1916
Box: 1 Folder : 2 Benjamin B. Odell Steamer
1929
Box: 1 Folder : 3 Homer Ramsdell Steamer
1906
Box: 1 Folder : 4 Newburgh Steamer
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 5 William F. Romer Steamer
undated

Hudson Navigation Company

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 6 Fort Orange Steamer
1920s

Hudson River Day Line

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 1 Folder : 7 Advertising and Schedules
1913-1942
Box: 1 Folder : 8 Albany Steamer
1900-1922
Box: 1 Folder : 9 Alexander Hamilton Steamer
1920-1948
Box: 1 Folder : 10 Chauncey M. Depew Steamer
undated
Box: 1 Folder : 11 Dewitt Clinton Steamer
1910-1930
Box: 1 Folder : 12 Hendrick Hudson Steamer
1900-1930
Box: 1 Folder : 13 Mary Powell Steamer
1886-1951
Box: 1 Folder : 14 New York Steamer
1890-1920
Box: 1 Folder : 15-16 Peter Stuyvesant Steamer
1900-1951
Box: 1 Folder : 17 Robert Fulton Steamer
1909-1950
Box: 1 Folder : 18 Washington Irving Steamer
1909-1926

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Series II. Miscellaneous Views

Scope and Contents note

Series II. Miscellaneous Views consists primarily of photographs of steamers and sites along the Hudson from 1875-1950, with some printed material and ephemera of similar subject matter and period. Several folders of unidentified material include copies of paintings of non-maritime subjects, a menu, views of boats, and people. Materials are divided by subject and arranged alphabetically.

Hudson River Views

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 2 Folder : 19 Howe Caverns, New York
1920s
Box: 2 Folder : 20-22 Hudson River
1890-1935
Box: 2 Folder : 23 Jamestown Exposition
1907

Miscellaneous and Unidentified

Container 1 Container 2   Title Date
Box: 2 Folder : 24 Boats
1875-1950
Box: 2 Folder : 25 Interiors
undated
Box: 2 Folder : 26 Paintings (Photographic reproductions)
1899
Box: 2 Folder : 27 Menu
undated
Box: 2 Folder : 28 People
1890-1940

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Series III. Oversize Materials

Scope and Contents note

Series III. Oversize Materials contains original art, broadsides, photographs, and blueprints from the Hudson River from 1871-1930. The blueprints of the steamers are of particular interest in the documentation of individual steamers. Materials are divided by type and thereunder arranged alphabetically by subject; they are housed in drawers 2-5 of map case unit # 24.

Advertisements

Container 1     Title Date
Folder: 29-30 Advertisements
1890-1930
Folder: 31-33 Original Art
undated

Broadsides

Container 1     Title Date
Folder: 34 General
1901-1917
Folder: 35 Mary Powell
1871-1901

Inspection Certificates

Container 1     Title Date
Folder: 36 General
1879-1917

Photographs

Container 1     Title Date
Folder: 37 Piers
1901-1920
Folder: 38 Albany Steamer
1900-1920
Folder: 39 Hendrick Hudson Steamer
1906
Folder: 40 Miscellaneous Photographs
1900-1930

Ship Plans and Blueprints

Container 1     Title Date
Folder: 41 Albany
1893-1916
Folder: 42 Alexander Hamilton
1923
Folder: 43 Clermont
1907-1909
Folder: 44-46 Chauncey Depew
1912
Folder: 47-48 Dewitt Clinton
1920
Folder: 49 Hendrick Hudson
1914
Folder: 50 Mary Powell
1908
Folder: 51 Mary Powell-Annex
1903
Folder: 52 New York
1925
Folder: 53 Robert Fulton
1926
Folder: 54-56 Washington Irving
1912
Folder: 57-61 Miscellaneous
1905-1925

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