Happy New Year! And what a year it has been. To ring in 2022, we thought we'd celebrate with an old tradition involving Hudson River steamboats.
For years, Pratt Institute in New York City celebrated New Year's Eve by taking a collection of steam whistles, including many from historic Hudson River steamboats, hooking them up to the steam plant that heats the campus, and blowing them all at midnight. Check out the cacophony in the video below, from the 2012 celebration.
The whistles were from the collection of steam engineer and steam historian Conrad Milster, who worked for decades as the steam plant engineer for Pratt. Unfortunately, the celebrations came to a halt in 2015, but Milster continues to work in Pratt's steam plant, which is one of the oldest in the world.
Milster worked in the engine rooms of Hudson River Day Line boats as a young man, and has worked continuously at Pratt since 1958, although in recent years there have been efforts (unsuccessful) to force him into retirement. To learn more about Conrad Milster, his work at Pratt, and his extensive collections, check out the short documentary below (2019, Long Island Traditions).
To learn more about Milster's drive to collect recorded sounds, including Hudson River steamboat whistle and engine sounds, check out this audio interview with Sound & Story:
And whether you're ringing in the new year with the Times Square ball drop, attending a party, or going to bed early, play a steam whistle for us and we'll see you in 2022!
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