September 19, 1609 – Discovery Day!

14369987_1086141744767420_397901500446019129_nToday in 1609 it all began. Henry Hudson landed in Albany.

A little background

This was Hudson’s third voyage of exploration. He set sail in April 1609 in the “Half Moon” (Haelve Maen), commissioned by the Dutch East Indies Company in Holland to find a good route to the East Indies to the Spice Islands. Those Islands, north of Australia and southwest of Indonesia, were the source of lucrative spices like mace, nutmeg and cloves- highly prized and expensive commodities in 17th century Europe. But Hudson went rogue. He was convinced he could find a Northwest Passage, so he sailed west, rather than south and east.

14358997_1086141001434161_2858732146870186033_nHe arrived in New Foundland in July and then swung south,sailing around area of the Virginia Colony in August, but found no promising passage, so he went north. In mid -September he landed in what is now New York City and New Jersey. There he found the mouth of what appeared to be a fine wide river that held promise.




14372057_1086141238100804_9197135007825254383_oBy all accounts, he landed in Albany on Saturday, September 19, near Castle Island (a/k/a Westerlo Island and Cabbage Island) that no longer exists (filled in for the Port of Albany in the early 1930s). Probably about where Broadway and Church St. intersect today. Or it could be farther north – near State St. or even beyond that.. as far as Peebles Island. But most historians agree, sort of where The Plaza 23 Truck Stop is located today.

Hudson and his crew hung around for 4 days. Members of the crew traveled north up the River, as far as 25 miles or so, but discovered it was not really navigable north of Albany. They traded with the Native Americans for furs, and Hudson and a mate got some of the Native Americans drunk on wine and hard liquor (aqua vitae). Sounds like a fun weekend?


By David Lithgow, circa 1933


14352195_1086141924767402_8619863255196879935_o.jpgOn the 22nd, the Half Moon headed back down the River. On October 4th, it started the long voyage back to Europe. Hudson and most of his crew members were delayed in England. (He was, after all, an Englishman, exploring on behalf of the Dutch – there was a price to pay.)

The aftermath
Hudson: In April 1610, he made one last voyage, on the “Discovery”, this time exploring for English interests. He went west again, this time via Greenland. Hudson and his crew ended up in what is now Hudson Bay in Canada. It was an arduous voyage; they spent the winter in the frozen north. There was illness; nerves frayed, and tempers flared. Apparently Hudson was not the easiest of captains. Finally in June 1611, there was a mutiny. Hudson, his son who was on the trip, and a handful of other crew members were set adrift in a small boat in the Bay. They were never heard from again.


Albany: About 1614 Hendrik Christiansen arrived near Albany in the “Fortuyn “to follow up on potential trade opportunities with the Iroquois and Algonquin tribes that Hudson and his crew had identified in 1609. On what was Castle Island, he established Fort Nassau (a/k/a Fort van Nassouwen, named after the Dutch royal house of Orange-Nassau. It was no so much a fort, but merely a small fortified trading post surrounded by earthen works. The Fort flooded every spring and was ultimately abandoned in 1618.
In the early 1624, the now incorporated Dutch West Indies Company was finally chartered and sufficiently capitalized to take advantage of trade opportunities in the West Indies (New York, Delaware and New Jersey were sort of an afterthought – not the prime target). Fort Orange was established on somewhat higher ground than the previous Fort Nassau – at the foot of State St. about where the D & H (SUNY) building is located today.

Our Takeaway: While other parts of the United States were settled for different reasons – religious freedom and social reform come to mind – our area of the country was not. Hudson’s voyage was financed for purely economic and trade reasons, not for the glory of finding new lands or for converting heathen populations to Christianity. Albany and New York City and the other early Dutch settlements were established for the same reason: to make money. The New Netherlands Colony was a private commercial enterprise. And it became a mecca for anyone who wanted to a chance to thrive in the New World. Pretty much if you could pull your own weight you were welcome.

Copyright 2021 Julie O’Connor

The First Half Moon Replica and the Albany Hudson-Fulton Celebration of 1909

In fall 1909 there was a huge celebration in New York State, from New York City up the Hudson Valley to Troy and Cohoes to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s discovery of the Hudson River and the 100th anniversary of Robert Fulton’s invention of the steamboat.


The Celebration was authorized by the NYS Legislature and almost a million dollars budgeted. It had several purposes. The first was to show off; to market the coming of age of New York State, and New York City in particular – we wanted the world to take notice of what an economic and cultural powerhouse we had become. The second was a bit more nuanced. During the last part of the previous century New York State , especially New York City and the towns and cities along the Hudson, had been flooded with immigrants from southern and eastern Europe. The event was to be a great lesson in the history and development of the Empire State, and would provide instruction for the “foreign-born population who may not be as attuned to our successes as the “native population.” It was showcase for American national identity and pride.

It  was designed to be a glorious excess of history, patriotism and pageantry, so over the top that no one could ignore. The Albany event included several parades, religious services, fireworks, ceremonies, concerts, speeches and historical exhibits. Commemorative medals were struck and a special U.S. postage stamp issued. Albany participated with gusto. it was awash in festivities, public and private. Patriotic bunting in red, white and blue festooned every building in Downtown, and when it looked like there was no more room, more bunting was added. Some buildings were outlined with electric incandescent lights. Over 70,000 visitors thronged the City. Business boomed for hotels, restaurants and merchants.



zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz17814555_1281455108569415_34704850139630384_oThe centerpiece of the celebration was a naval parade, including the Hudson River Navigation Co. and People’s Line Dayliners and Night Boats, private yachts, military torpedo boats, tugs, a U.S. Coast Guard revenue cutter – almost anything that could float its way from the City up the River. There were ships from England, Germany and France.

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz17814475_1281456765235916_3457799But the stars of the flotilla were two replica ships. One, a replica of Robert Fulton’s “Clermont”, the first successful steamboat in the world. The naval parade traveled from New York City to Albany and then to Troy, paying homage to the first Clermont trip from New York City to Albany in 1807.


zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz17795785_1281456868569239_4696420318525311707_nThe other was the first replica of the “Half Moon”, the ship in which Hudson traveled up the River to discover Albany in 1609. (Yes, there was another Half Moon replica before that with which we are familiar today.) While the Clermont was a wonderful model, constructed by the Staten Island Shipbuilding Co., the Half Moon was special.


zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz17799479_1281460441902215_1131125809765460002_nIt was a gift from the Netherlands, built in a shipyard in Amsterdam, from ancient plans for a sister ship of the original 1609 Half Moon.





zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz17458269_1281458525235740_78885661024576745When the naval parade sailed to Albany it landed at Riverside Park. The small park was located just below Madison Ave., overlooking the River near Westerlo St. It was built in 1903 to serve the immigrant (mostly Jewish and Italian) populations crammed in tenement houses overflowing the South End. For the Celebration, a temporary triumphal arch was constructed and the crews of the Half Moon and Clermont were greeted with great pomp and circumstance. From there, the major parade of the event wound its way through the South End, past the Governor’s Mansion, and up and over to Arbor Hill and then down to Clinton Ave., across N. Pearl and up to Washington Ave. by the Capitol. After visiting Albany the naval parade proceeded to Troy, where the festivities continued there and into Cohoes.


The Hudson Fulton celebration was declared a resounding a success. Over 50 years later, my Gram still had vivid memories: a brilliant city wrapped in electric lights; the flotilla sailing up the River; astonishment that such a small boat as the Half Moon could have carried men across the Atlantic; large crowds thronging the streets, magical parade floats and standing on the Capitol steps with thousands of other Albany school children as part of the ceremonies.

But now we come to the sad part. Or what we call “why we can’t have nice things”

The replica of the Clermont was purchased by the Hudson River Navigation Co., owners of the “Day Line”, and initially moored as an attraction in New York harbor. It was then moved by the company to Poughkeepsie to be an upstate floating museum of sorts. Over time the fortunes of the company declined; there was one more move to Kingston Point to the picnic grounds owned by the Day Line and finally the Clermont was sold for scrap in the mid-1930s.

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz17522833_1281463308568595_5806845155715114619_nThe story of Half Moon is similar. After the Celebration, the Half Moon was towed to Palisades Interstate Park near Bear Mountain, and moored in the Popolopen Creek as a tourist attraction. From there she went to Roundout Point near Kingston. At the behest of the Mayor of Cohoes, she traveled farther upriver. A small area called East Side Park was created just south of the Van Schaick Mansion (about near the area where Hudson finally gave up his search for a Northwest Passage).. Attempts to raise funds for her preservation were unsuccessful, there were few visitors, and she was beset by vandals and fires. The Half Moon became a “lonely hulk” and was finally destroyed by fire in 1932







Copyright 2021 Julie O’Connor