Editor's Note: The following essay is by author and steamboat scholar Richard V. Elliott (1934-2014). His two volume history of Hudson River Steamboats "The Boats of Summer" is coming soon from Schiffer Publishing. More information about hospital ships can be found here.
While "Dean Richmond" was being torn apart at Boston in 1909, the City of Yonkers ventured to consider purchasing the old steamer for possible conversion into a floating hospital. At the time, certain officials wanted a craft for use in providing quarantined care of convalescing children and contagiously diseased patients. Yonkers' Mayor Warren wrote to Alexander M. Wilson of the Boston Association for the Relief and Control of Tuberculosis, asking his advice about purchasing the "Richmond" for hospital duties.
An Equity of $3,000 and a Sad State
Mr. Wilson went to the yards of Thomas Butler in Boston, where the once well respected steamer was being dismantled, took a good look at her and sent his appraisal to May Warren. In a rather ambivalent manner, Wilson reported: "I have just returned from an inspection of the "Dean Richmond", and I must confess that I feel incompetent to render a judgement as to its value to you. It is difficult to determine just what you are to secure for $4,000 …. As the boat stands, it is in a sad state of disorder … would cost another $1,000 to tow her to New York …" Wilson was particularly impressed with the "Richmond's" hull, reporting that the copper plating of the hull was worth $3,000 alone, and exclaimed, "there is an equity of $3,000 in the boat if you take the bare hull." He then went on to say, "The hull, however, is apparently in good condition, it has not needed to be pumped out since July 2 … and if you are limited to a floating hospital, I should think that you could not secure so much room for so little money in any other hulk that you might find." His report came to Yonkers July 26.
Yonkers Declines Offer
The 'high cost' of acquiring the remains of the steamer, even though she hadn't leaked appreciably for 24 days, was the reason expressed by the City Mayor in declining the opportunity to purchase the "Dean Richmond's" hull. After reading Wilson's report, Mayor Warren stated, "…it would now seem that that (this floating hospital) was impracticable, because the cost to the city would be too great, and the same amount of money could be used to better advantage in the establishment of a land camp." Thus, with this last hope for further service dashed, the scrappers continued their job of dismantling. So ended the life of "Dean Richmond."
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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. 52- New World
The “New World” was constructed in 1847 by William H. Brown of New York. When she first appeared she was 371 feet long with a tonnage rating of 1,418. In 1855 she was widened from 37 feet to 43 feet by John Englis of Greenpoint and her rating increased to 1,676 tons. She had a vertical beam engine, constructed by T.F. Secor & Company of New York, with a cylinder diameter of 76 inches and a 15 foot stroke, cutting off at eight feet and averaging 17 revolutions per minute.
The “New World” was one of the most celebrated of the American river steamboats and was literally a wonder of her day because of her great size. She was originally built for service as a dayboat between Albany and New York and on this route she gained a reputation for speed. On several occasions her speed approximated 20 miles per hour. In 1854 the “New World” made the run from Albany to New York in six hours and 21 minutes. In the year 1855 she was rebuilt for service as a night boat, becoming the first of the great inland steamers to have a double tier of staterooms above the main deck.
The “New World” was always considered an unlucky vessel. From the day of her launching- August 4, 1848, when she moved 30 feet down the ways and stuck, requiring the services of several tugboats to get her into the water, the “New World” began a career which was continually marred by accidents.
On June 20, 1853, while off Chambers street, New York, one of the “New World’s” boilers exploded, killing 11 persons. At another time she was almost destroyed by fire off the City of Hudson.
One of the most unfortunate accidents which marred the record of the “New World” occurred on October 26, 1859 of Fort Washington while enroute to Albany. In this accident the “New World” went to the bottom of the river, but the circumstances which caused her distress were rather peculiar.
A schooner was crossing the bow of the “New World” and the pilot rang the bell to stop the engine. The engineer happened to be in one of the firerooms across the gangway when the signal was given and he hurried to comply with the request. In his haste, he stopped the engine too suddenly, with the result that the strain put on the gallows frame holding up the walking beam, caused it to snap off about five feet from the top, allowing the beam to drop. This broke the connecting rod about two feet from the upper end. The connecting rod continued to work with every revolution of the paddle wheel crank as the boat continued to move at a good rate of speed. The flying end of the severed connecting rod generally wrecked the bulkheads and decks forward and finally worked its way into the hold and knocked a hole in the bottom of the vessel. In half an hour the “New World” was at the bottom of the river. Her passengers were rescued by the sloop and the steamboat “Ohio.”
The “New World” was raised and repaired and returned to service on the night line. After a career of 16 years she was laid aside, her engine was placed in the new steamboat “St. John,” and her hull with all of her upper works intact, was taken to Fortress Monroe for use as a hospital during the Civil War.
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.
This blog is written by Hudson River Maritime Museum staff, volunteers and guest contributors.
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