Although you may never have heard of him, Buster the brindle bulldog was once one of the most famous dogs on the Hudson River. The pet of Capt. and Mrs. A. Eltinge Anderson, Buster accompanied his master at his work aboard the steamboat Mary Powell. Much beloved by both passengers and crew, Buster was so good at a number of tricks, he ended up in the newspaper
On August 23, 1903, the New York Times, published a biographical account of Buster and his exploits. The Kingston Daily Freeman, eager to pay tribute to the local hero, published the same account a few days later on August 25th:
Of all the mascots which are supposed to bring good luck to the ships and boats which ply in the harbor of New York there is none more accomplished than “Buster,” the mascot of the Mary Powell, the Albany Day Line boat which runs between New York and Kingston on the Hudson. “Buster” is a dog owned by Capt. Anderson and is held in affectionate regard not only by all the members of the crew of the Mary Powell, but by all of the residents of Hudson River towns who are frequent passengers on that steamer.
“Buster” is six years of age, having first seen the light of day on March 4, 1897, the date of President McKinley’s first inauguration. His tutors have been Capt. Anderson and the members of the Mary Powell’s crew, and he has progressed so well under their instruction that Capt. Anderson now declares him to be the best swimmer and sailor connected with the boat.
“Buster” takes to water like a duck. An invitation from his master to disport himself in the Hudson River fills him with delight. With one leap he is over the railing of the boat and he can frolic around in the water for an hour without getting tired. As it is impossible for him to make a landing once he is in the water owing to the docks and the sea wall around the Albany Day Line’s wharf, he is brought back into the boat by a peculiar and ludicrous manner. Capt. Anderson sends one of the members of the crew out onto a float and the sailor lures “Buster” to the float by throwing him a stick. “Buster” goes after the stick and brings it back to the float in his mouth. The sailor then catches hold of the stick and hauls “Buster” up onto the float, the dog retaining a firm grip on the piece of wood. Once “Buster” is on the float, another sailor throws out a line to the man on the float. This is fastened around “Buster’s” body. The dog is then told to take another dive. When is he again in the water, the sailor on the boat pulls him in just as he would a fish.
This Summer, when the Mary Powell was being painted, one of the painters fell from the scaffolding, on which he was standing, into the river. “Buster” was a witness of the accident. Quick as a flash he leaped into the water after the painter and grabbed him by the collar to help him. Fortunately the painter was a good swimmer and did not need the dog’s assistance. As soon as “Buster” realized that his services were unnecessary, he let go his hold on the man and swam after the painter’s hat, which was being carried off by the tide. Securing this, he put back and reached a float some distance from the Mary Powell just as the painter was making a landing.
“Buster” is cleverer at catching a line than any member of the crew. He rarely ever misses. If the line is thrown a little short, he makes a leap for it.
There is no dog performing before the public who can do more clever and interesting feats than “Buster.” For the delectation of the passengers Capt. Anderson sometimes has the sailors of the boat form a line and make a loop of their arms. “Buster” leaps through these loops one by one without a break.
“Buster’s” religious education has not been neglected. He has been taught to pray, and it is a most amusing sight to see him in this act. At a word from his master he leaps into a chair, places his forepaws over the back of the chair and bows his head reverentially. He maintains this attitude until Capt. Anderson says “Amen.” He has many other tricks equally interesting.
On Thursday, March 12, 1908, at the ripe old age of 11, Buster passed away. On that date, the Kingston Daily Freeman reported "BUSTER IS DEAD. Mrs. A. E. Anderson's dog, Buster, the best known dog along the Hudson, died this morning of old age."
The following day, on Friday, March 13, 1908, they reprinted the above biography, but with an addendum on the end:
Since the above was first published "Buster" had added to his accomplishments. He was the owner of a pass on the local trolley line, and often used the privilege when alone, boarding and leaving the cars the same as any other passenger.
Perhaps Buster took a trolley like the one above!
The staff and volunteers of the Hudson River Maritime Museum had a delightful time researching Buster and his history. We hope you enjoyed this story as much as we did.
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This blog is written by Hudson River Maritime Museum staff, volunteers and guest contributors.
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