Editor's note: The following text was originally published in 1831 and 1834 from the newspapers listed below. Thanks to volunteer researcher George A. Thompson for finding, cataloging and transcribing this article. The language, spelling and grammar of the article reflects the time period when it was written.
Racing of Steamboats. – We are sorry to learn that the practice of putting certain steamboats to a competition of speed, on the North River, has been resumed this season. This practice is in itself highly reprehensible, and in the present state of alarm, in consequence of the late fatal explosion on board the General Jackson, it is an act of disrespect to the passengers, and to those of a more timid make, particularly ladies, an act of absolute cruelty. If the proprietors of the boats engaged in this practice were to give fair notice – if they were to advertise that on such a day there would be a trial of speed between certain boats – that people would not then be landed at Colwell's and West Point, and other usual landing places along the river – that the steam would not be let off at the few places where the boats stopped to leave or take in passengers; and that those only who were willing to risk their lives under such circumstances, were desired to become passengers, then all would be fair. Those who liked to witness the sport, and were willing to run the hazard of being blown up, could then go on board; and those who preferred a safe and comfortable passage, could take some other boat. Besides the alarm and terror of the passengers, there are other inconveniences. A gentleman sets out with his family, on a trip of pleasure, to go to West Point. In spite of his remonstrance, he is carried by West Point, and landed at Newburgh, amidst a mob of people, assembled at the wharf to witness the race between the boats. Here he is obliged to stay in a grog shop for several hours, waiting for a boat to come along and take him down again to his place of destination. In the meantime, his only amusement is to witness the tumultuous excitement which the strife between the boats has created among the people who are divided into regular factions on the subject; and who celebrate, as we are informed, the victory of a favorite boat, with discharges of rockets, and other fire-works. New-York Evening Post, June 27, 1831, p. 2, col. 1
Hyde Park, Sunday, Sept. 14. -- We left Albany at half-past six this morning, in the steamboat "Champlain." There is a violent opposition between two lines of boats. The fare to New York is fifty cents. We were contending with the "Nimrod" all the way down, and for five or six miles before we reached Hyde Part landing, the boats were in contact, both pushing furiously at the top of their speed, and we and our trunks were pitched ashore like bundles of hay. The people at the landing being all in favour of the opposition, except Dr. Hosack himself, nobody would take a line, and we might have drowned without an arm being reached to save .
September 16. -- We left Hyde Park and came on board the "Champion," an opposition boat, at half-past twelve o'clock. The "Albany," passed the landing a few minutes in advance, but did not stop. Our boat had three or four hundred passengers, and such a set of ragtag and bobtail I never saw on board a North-river steamboat -- the effect of the fifty-cent system. If the people do not rise up in their might and put a stop to the racing and opposition, it will be better to return to the primitive mode of travelling in Albany sloops. I would rather consume three or four days in the voyage, than be made to fly in fear and trembling, subject to every sort of discomfort, with my life at the mercy of a set of fellows whose only object is to drive their competitors off the river. Philip Hone, The Diary of Philip Hone, 1828-1851, Bayard Tuckerman, ed., N. Y.: Dodd, Mead, 1889, vol. I, pp. 111-12, entries of September 14 & 16, 1834.
If you enjoyed this post and would like to support more history blog content, please make a donation to the Hudson River Maritime Museum or become a member today!
Your comment will be posted after it is approved.
Leave a Reply.
This blog is written by Hudson River Maritime Museum staff, volunteers and guest contributors.
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.