Monday, April 6, 2009

2009: The Hudson-Fulton Celebration’s 100th Anniversary

Souvenir button from the Hudson-Fulton Celebration of 1909

To kick off the 2009 Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial celebration, the Historical Society and the Hastings Public Library recently co-sponsored a concert of 17th century lute music and a slide lecture by Roger Panetta. Roger is a professor of history at Fordham University, as well as a former Hastings resident and one-time trustee of the Historical Society. Roger’s topic was the Hudson-Fulton Celebration of 1909, one of the biggest public festivals ever held in New York.

When the U.S. Congress was choosing a city in which to hold the 1893 Columbian Exposition, New York was passed over in favor of Chicago. This insult to New York’s pride, Roger tells us, resulted in the Hudson-Fulton Celebration -- a festival designed by New Yorkers to demonstrate the importance of their state and its place in American history. The celebration combined two anniversaries. The first was the 300th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s exploration of the river that later bore his name. (The 1909 event was sometimes referred to as the “Tercentennial Celebration”) The second was the 100th anniversary of Robert Fulton’s trip up the Hudson River in the “North River Steamboat” (later called the “Clermont”), the first commercially-viable steamship. To the organizers of the Hudson-Fulton Celebration, Hudson’s voyage symbolized the spirit of exploration, as well as New York’s Dutch roots. Fulton’s steam experiments, on the other hand, represented progress and technology, and New York’s place at the center of American commerce.

Official U.S. postage stamp produced for the Hudson-Fulton Celebration

This celebration of the Hudson River was held over a two-week period, from September 25th to October 9 of 1909. It included parades on land and water, fireworks displays, an airplane flight, banquets, music festivals and art exhibitions, and even school essay prizes in history. More than two million people attended the festival, which involved the entire island of Manhattan as well as the communities along the Hudson River. You’ll be reading more about Hastings’ festivities in the next “Historian.”

You can still catch Roger’s lecture, archived by village technology gurus Rafael Zaratzian and Jen Corso, on the WHOH TV web site. We hope it will inspire you to visit our next exhibition here at the cottage, “1909: Hastings in the Year of the Hudson-Fulton Celebration,” which will feature the items in our collection from the Hudson-Fulton Celebration. But more on that in another post!


Hudson-Fulton Celebration resources on the web

  • The Hudson River Maritime Museum has digitized the final report of the Hudson-Fulton Commission that details all the events of the celebration.

  • We have formed a Flickr group for the Hudson-Fulton Celebration and posted a few images from our collection there. Anyone who has photographs or memorabilia from the Hudson-Fulton Celebration is welcome to add their images to this group!

  • Watch the New-York Historical Society web site for information on their exhibition on the Hudson-Fulton Celebration, still in the planning stages but slated to open in September.

  • On Google Books you can find the catalogs from the exhibition of Dutch art and the exhibition of American art held at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 1909, as well as other publications from the time of the celebration.

  • The 2009 Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial has its own web site. Look there for upcoming Quadricentennial events.
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