The Hudson River was the great natural highway into the interior of New York State for centuries. Transportation for people and goods was by boat for over two hundred years after the arrival of European, mostly Dutch, settlers in the early 17th century.
Steamboats came on the scene gradually after 1807 carrying mostly passengers for many decades. Eventually steam towboats pulling multiple barges and canal boats took over the freight traffic on the Hudson. The Cornell Steamboat Company of Rondout became the largest towing company on the Hudson by the 1880s because of the enormous amount of freight to be transported to New York City from the Hudson Valley, especially from Rondout. Towboats and tugs pulling long strings of barges could be seen day and night on the Hudson from the 1850s through the 1930s. The Cornell Steamboat Company had a virtual monopoly on towing on the river from the 1880s through the 1930s. The company had a fleet of up to sixty tugboats of all sizes at one time.
Scope of Collection
For more information and images, view our accompanying online exhibition on the Hudson River Valley Heritage website.