The Hudson River Day Line was the premier steamboat line on the Hudson River from the 1860s through the 1940s, carrying millions of passengers between New York City and Albany with stops at the major towns in between. The elegant and speedy steamers of the Day Line were widely known and popular with the traveling public.
Many travelers took the Day Line boats to the Catskill Mountains region for summer vacations accompanied by family and large trunks of clothes. Others took the boats to riverside parks like Bear Mountain State Park and Kingston Point Park where they could spend the day picnicking and relaxing, and then catch another steamer home again in the evening. Many groups from schools, clubs, and other organizations took yearly outings on the Hudson River Day Line.
Whatever the reason for travel, the Hudson River Day Line provided its passengers with comfort, elegance, and some of the most beautiful scenery in the world at reasonable prices. The Hudson Highlands and West Point were known to travelers from Europe from illustrations in travel books, and a visit to New York was not complete without a trip on the Hudson to see these famous sights. A band or orchestra was always provided on board for pleasant travel, as was a fine restaurant and a cafeteria for less formal meals. Other amenities provided included writing rooms, news-stands, barber shops, and on one steamer, a darkroom for passengers to develop their own photographs en route.
The term "floating palaces" aptly described the Hudson River Day Line steamers. Millions of people had happy memories of pleasant summer days on the Hudson River Day Line boats including the Chauncey Vibbard, the Daniel Drew, the Albany, the Hendrick Hudson, the Robert Fulton, the Washington Irving, the Alexander Hamilton, and the Peter Stuyvesant.
The 1920s were perhaps the most successful years for the Day Line with nearly two million passengers carried in the peak year of 1925 when seven steamers were running. The Depression years of the 1930s, though, were down years for the Day Line, as they were for many other companies. After an upsurge of business during World War II in the 1940s because of gas rationing for cars, the company's fortunes declined. With a postwar return to prosperity, and a huge increase in the production of passenger cars, travel by steamboat seemed old-fashioned to many.
The Hudson River Day Line of the Van Santvoords and the Olcotts, the original owners, finished with the sale of the company in 1948. In the early 1950s three steamers remained on the successor Day Line-the Robert Fulton, the Alexander Hamilton, and the Peter Stuyvesant. In the early 1960s there were two steamers left, and in September 1971 the last survivor of the Day Line, the Alexander Hamilton, finished the glorious run of the steamboat on the Hudson River.
This blog is written by Hudson River Maritime Museum staff, volunteers and guest contributors.
Hudson River Maritime Museum
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