Editor's Note: The following text is a verbatim transcription of an article written by George W. Murdock for the Kingston (NY) Daily Freeman newspaper in the 1930s. Murdock, a veteran marine engineer, wrote a regular column. Articles transcribed by HRMM volunteer Adam Kaplan. For more of Murdock's articles, see the "Steamboat Biographies" category at right.
No. 79- A.B. VALENTINE
The steamboat “A.B. Valentine” is another of the Hudson river vessels that began her career under a different name than the one which she bore when her days of sailing the waters of the river were ended.
The original vessel was built in the early “forties” [1840s] - a wooden hull steamboat used in passenger service and running under the name “Santa Claus.”
The “Santa Claus” ploughed the waters of the Hudson River in 1846 between New York and Albany as a day boat in the service of the People’s Line. In 1847, she ran for a short time between New York and Pierpont, [Piermont] and was later returned to the New York-Albany route.
One notable feature of the “Santa Claus” was a painting which she displayed on her wheelhouses. This painting portrayed Santa Claus himself making his entrance into the chimney of a home - the spirit of the legend of old Saint Nick coming down the chimney with his sackful of toys at Christmas-tide.
During the season of 1848 the “Santa Claus” carried passengers between Wilbur and New York in dayline service. At that early period there were few docks along the Rondout Creek and the section did not represent the beehive of activity which later developed.
About the year 1853 Thomas Cornell of Rondout purchased the steamboat “Santa Claus” and converted her from a passenger-carrying vessel into a towboat. She ran under the Cornell banner as the “Santa Claus” until 1868.
During the winter of 1869 the towboat “Santa Claus” was entirely rebuilt at Red Hook, South Brooklyn, and when she next appeared she carried the name of “A.B. Valentine,” in honor of the New York agent employed by Thomas Cornell.
The dimensions of the “A.B. Valentine” were listed as follows: Length of hull, 205 feet; breadth of beam, 25 feet; depth of hold, 9 feet; gross tonnage, 308; net tonnage, 191; vertical beam engine with a cylinder diameter of 50 inches with a 10 foot stroke.
The overhauling of the former ”Santa Claus” and its re-appearance as the “A.B. Valentine” gave the Cornell line a practically new steamboat. She was placed on the towing route between Rondout and New York, running on this route until the fall of 1887, taking the place of the “George A. Hoyt". The following spring the “A.B. Valentine” was placed in service between Rondout and Albany, towing in line with the towboat “Norwich,” under the command of Captain Jerry Patterson and with Andrew Barnett as chief engineer. She continued in service until the fall of 1901, when she seemed of no further use and was sold to J.H. Gregory of Perth Amboy, New Jersey.
A peculiar coincidence in connection with the history of the steamboat “A.B. Valentine” is found in the fact that on the day she was sold to the wreckers, the man whose name she bore, died. A.B Valentine had served as superintendent of the Cornell Steamboat Company of New York for half a century.
The “A.B. Valentine” left Rondout on her last voyage on December 17, 1901, sailing to Perth Amboy, where she was broken up.
Cornell Steamboat Company towboat "A. B. Valentine", right, ca. 1880s, towing a string of barges in distance at left, with the help of a Cornell tug, center. The small boat at center left is a bumboat, or peddler's boat, which carried food and other supplies that people on the barges and tugs might want. HRMM Collection.
George W. Murdock (b. 1853-d. 1940) was a veteran marine engineer who served on the steamboats "Utica", "Sunnyside", "City of Troy", and "Mary Powell". He also helped dismantle engines in scrapped steamboats in the winter months and later in his career worked as an engineer at the brickyards in Port Ewen. In 1883 he moved to Brooklyn, NY and operated several private yachts. He ended his career working in power houses in the outer boroughs of New York City. His mother Catherine Murdock was the keeper of the Rondout Lighthouse for 50 years.
Tugboats are, and long have been, the workhorses of the Hudson River moving needed cargoes up and down the river in large quantities more cheaply than by other means. Today the tugs move bulk cargo like fuel oil, cement, crushed rock, and scrap metal. In earlier times the cargoes were somewhat different, but tugs have been needed going back well into the 19th century. Since demand for many products is year round, the tugs must work all year including during the winter when ice can freeze the river entirely.
Since about the 1940s, the U.S. Coast Guard has kept a channel open on the Hudson during winters of heavy ice. However, before that time, heavier commercial tugs from companies like Cornell were used as icebreakers in their home areas. As the accompanying photo shows, in severe winters in the early 20th century, even the best icebreaker tugs were not able to keep a channel open in the Hudson.
This blog is written by:
Hudson River Maritime Museum
50 Rondout Landing
Kingston, NY 12401
The Hudson River Maritime Museum is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation and interpretation of the maritime history of the Hudson River, its tributaries, and related industries.
Become a member and receive benefits like unlimited free museum admission, discounts on classes, programs, and in the museum store, plus invitations to members-only events.
The Hudson River Maritime Museum receives no federal, state, or municipal funding except through competitive, project-based grants. Your donation helps support our mission of education and preservation.