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. For more information about "Mary Powell" visit the Hudson River Maritime Museum's online exhibit here:
In all of the history of illustrious Hudson River steamboats none it seems has ever surpassed the Mary Powell as the most loved of all. Throughout her long fifty-six years of service, she was the subject of stories, songs and poems. When she made her last voyage in 1918, people all along the shores of the Hudson went down to the waterfront to see her glide by for the last time. Old timers who recall the event say that no steamer has ever gone out in greater glory. Every steamer, tug, ferry and factory along the Hudson gave her a thrilling salute. Many of the women waved a fond farewell with their handkerchiefs and not a few of both the men and women were glassy-eyed holding back their tears. Others less inhibited, wept openly, for after over half a century on the River, she was a childhood pal to many generations of Valley people. The Mary Powell's personality was bound to be especially missed. It was not surprising to her contemporaries that one of her hundreds of thousands of admirers decided to write a special memorial or obituary on the occasion of her passing.
Fletcher Dubois spoke for a great many people in his poem of tribute to the Mary Powell, written in part as follows:
"Among the Hudson's wonderous fleet
No Vessel ever won such fame,
And carried through the passing years
Such widely known and honored name.
For many a year you filled the hearts
Of thousands here, both old and young,
And by thousands more your fame was known
Thru songs the poets' lore has sung …
Good-bye old boat, your work is done,
And now we shed the parting tear
And pay a tribute here in prose
to you, who friends hold dear."
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