Sunday, July 26, 2015

Corporate Steamboat Models Today - Rex Stewart

Lobby of Executive Park Towers, Stuyvesant's model of Hudson River steamboat PETER STUYVESANT.

It's not surprising that a resurgence has occurred in office settings that overlook the shorelines on the Eastern seaboard and, across the Atlantic. Whether it be on coastal/ inland rivers, or the ocean, business executives are taking a 'second look' at the maritime -utilizing ship models as part of their interior design.

Steamboats has since been a unique appeal for art and antique collectors since the early '80s when ship models made its debut in maritime galleries throughout the U.S. These beautiful detailed replicas represent a legacy of vessels that is, and was, the core of America's once-booming Industrial Age that came into its own as businesses and communities flourished on coastal shores. Such vessels were the mainstream of contemporary transportation in the 19th century, replacing the sailing ship as designers worked their skill to improve comfort and speed.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     

Author's scratch-built model of MARY POWELL at the lower right corner displayed in the President's Room at Albany International circa 1980.

                                                                                                                                                            Since 1980, I learned firsthand through interacting with these collectors, that many of the 'corporate models' requested came as a result of sentiment. Many remembered the historical attributes these   vessels brought to their port-of-call, region, populace and commerce. In New York, the late Governor Mario Cuomo had such a model grace the Mansion's interior as part of its decor. The special model designated for that honor was the steamboat MARY POWELL.

The featured photo in this blog represent the Hudson River steamboat PETER STUYVESANT. It was selected as part of a multi-million dollar renovation project which began in January 2013 at the Executive Park Towers in Stuyvesant Plaza and finished this past January 2015. Prior to that time other corporations featured similar models I built for their offices and boardrooms -starting with Albany International in 1980.

                  Author presenting model of DANIEL DREW to Bank Of America boardroom
                  (formerly Fleet Bank) circa 1988.

The interest for these models continue to be strong -especially for those of 19th/ early 20th century vintage that the Hudson River Valley between New York City and Albany, New York. It was a vision that began 35 years ago with the support of historians, collectors, business leaders, curators and, most importantly -community spirit. We, in part, have a great maritime, and the 'corporate steamboat model' personifies the richness of its history in scale and beauty.

Author's scratch-built model of Hudson River Day Line steamboat ALEXANDER HAMILTON shown  as she appeared circa 1959. This is one of the current corporate requests since her last trip to Bear Mountain circa 1971.

Models of this unique line of steamboats (19th/early 20th century...and later) can be researched, designed and built. Contact with scale size(s), costs, etc. please email: or Phone:1-774-757-7137. You may also view my Linkedin page at

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Cayuga Lake Steamboat FRONTENAC -The Model, Rex Stewart

        Profile plan drawing of Cayuga Lake steamboat FRONTENAC as she appeared in 1878.
        Research and drawing by author Rex Stewart.

Simplicity and lines...Lines and simplicity. All the makings of research and design which finally conclude the making of a prolific steamboat model. FRONTENAC had become an inspirational project for research and build as I explored the sidewheel types that operated beyond the Hudson Valley.

As I investigated this vessel, it was apparent that she was a steamer of note. And yet, as such, I pondered my thoughts as to why no model existed. New York had its great fleet of steamboats beyond the Hudson River. To the north, in and around the Adirondacks, walking beam and inclined engined vessels operated on Lake George and Lake Champlain. To the west and northwest of the State, such graced the mighty Saint Lawrence River and the scenic Finger Lakes. They were beautiful, simple in design, and carried a legacy that became notable...even in tragedy. Such a vessel  of note was the steamer FRONTENAC.

               Scene depicts steamer FRONTENAC about to make a commuter run on Cayuga Lake
               late 19th century.

The Industrial Age was the beginning of many inventions large and small in the American culture. It was an era that helped grow and expand the Country toward the 20th century with machine innovation. Steamboats were part of the travel innovation, replacing horse and buggy before the advent of the train and automobile. In the summer of 1820, passengers scheduled to ride stagecoach from Ithaca to Geneva, opted to board a steamboat for the lake's first voyage on the paddlewheeler ENTERPRISE. Fifty years later FRONTENAC became the popular boat.

FRONTENAC was built in 1870 bt T.D. Wilcox of Ithaca, New York at a cost of $50,000. She was a walking-beam sidewheeler with dimensions of 135 feet on the keel and had a hull beam of 22 feet. Her commuter capacity was 350 passengers.

Four years after the passing of T.D. Wilcox, his family heirs sold the business interest to the Cayuga Lake Transportation Company. In 1902, the steamboat and company was sold to Captain Melvin T. Brown of Syracuse. He, inturn, rebuilt parts of the superstructure and replaced the engine with new boilers five years later. It was at that time FRONTENAC encountered her fate after successfully servicing the lake in her 30 year span.

              Model detail showing starboard midship view of FRONTENAC. Colorscheme based
              on the 19th century maritime paintings of Antonio Jacobsen and the Bard Brothers.

On the morning of July 27th, 1907 FRONTENAC raced south to meet the northbound MOHAWK to exchange passengers that would have originally went southbound on MOHAWK. After the exchange the sidewheeler returned back north with her 60 passengers, most being women and children. While heading toward Union Springs, rough waters and gale-like winds prevented the steamer to land at both docks in Aurora and Levanna which were located at the widest part of the lake.

Onboard the vessel certain family members noticed smoke coming from the Captain's pilot house and alerted others onboard. On shore many witnessed the steamer catching fire and men from the shore raced out to rescue the passengers and crew. Captain Brown's quick thinking brought the boat near Farley's Point to beach on a sandbar called Dill's Cove.

                                                                                   Profile closeup of FRONTENAC's portside detail

Heavy waves made it difficult for the men to rescue all. In the final event, seven were loss. The incident spread throughout New York and new laws and regulations were passed. As for steamboat travel on Cayuga Lake, the tragedy brought many to move away from it and the business declined with FRONTENAC never being rebuilt. But in the end, many had fond memories of this prolific steamboat and I'm fortunate to have researched and build the first accurate model of this legend.

                   Finger Lakes steamboat FRONTENAC the completed model, built at 1/8 scale.

This was a good build and a very attractive model of note. The time of this build was a month. This and other period steamboat models can be researched and commissioned by contacting or calling 1-774-757-7137. More information can be obtained by visiting and


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Researching HIGHLANDER c.1835 - The Model/ Rex Stewart

           Samuel Ward Stanton's drawing of the famed Newburgh, New York steamboat
           HIGHLANDER as she appeared on the Hudson River in 1835.

Newburgh, New York was a booming river town that developed into a monopolized commerce
center for the citizens of the Lower Hudson Valley. Much freight, especially produce and livestock was going south to New York City and steamboats were needed to get those goods to its destination. Furthermore, travelers who needed to commute to various towns found these vessels accommodating for the purpose. This was the era of the 19th century and river commuting was the beginning of a new form of travel.

             Early brothers Bard watercolor depicting HIGHLANDER's 1835 appearance.
           Both renditions had to be carefully studied for accuracy and proper re-configuration
           in order to build an accurate scale model.

While researching and building steamboat models in New York's Capital region during the '80s and '90s, I was fascinated with the discoveries I encountered concerning steamboat designs of the 1830 period. I had built models from the 1840s to the present, but never considered those vessels built past Robert Fulton's CLERMONT.

Many contemporary builders had no knowledge of these early sidewheel types, so no models were available to work from -let alone, plans. Only one such work existed on an early steamboat of this period and that was produced by noted modelmaker Forrest Van Loon Ryder out of Coxsackie, New York during the 1950s. This model was HIGHLANDER, one of several Hudson River steamboats he built for collectors, museums and those interested in these prolific boats.

             A vintage model of HIGHLANDER built by the late Forrest Van Loon Ryder
             which is now on display at the Captain David Crawford House Museum in
             Newburgh, New York. There, five other Ryder models are exhibited; all at
             1/8" = 1' Scale.

In 1980 I was commissioned to copy Mr. Ryder's MARY POWELL for a corporation which  the model later became a topic of conversation with business executives at the time. I then decided to venture out and research MARY POWELL to design my own plan set relative to having an accurate model enter the Hudson Valley. These soon became highend collectibles of note. However, Ryder was my inspiration from which I drew the ability to explore, research and study the American steamboat -beginning with those that operated on the Hudson River.

                HIGHLANDER c.1835 - profile plan at 3/32" = 1' scale. Research for this
                work was based on the brothers Bard watercolor and Samuel Ward Stanton's
                drawing which included supportive dimensional data of the vessel at the time
                of her construction.

In the Fall of 2011 a colector from the Newburgh Region proposed a line of steamboat models which included HIGHLANDER. This proposition became the anticipated opportunity to finally research and build a true 1830 replica of a Hudson River sidewheeler. With the experience and credentials established over a thirty year period, it wasn't difficult to configure this vessel's appearance.

The client was very specific about his collection. He wanted all three sidewheelers to be constructed at 3/32" = 1' scale which made little room for error regarding hull dimensions, beam width and deck layout.

HIGHLANDER was a walking beam type steamer that carried her stacks and boilers on the guards away from the hull. Knowing this fact made plan drawings easier to develop...and within two weeks I was able to produce some prolific plans (for the first time) concerning an early steamboat. I now had the formula for designing these vintage gems.

               Work-in-progress showing the underside features of HIGHLANDER. Notice
               the early design pattern of the Northeast sidewheeler. Most steamboats of
               this period  omitted bottom rims which secured and protected the paddles. It
               is possible that the paddles, including the wheel system, was made of oak -giving
               way to these buckets being bolted to the stems of the wheels so to allow this
               feature to last several years without rotting.

               Port bow view showing HIGHLANDER's auxiliary flagstaff. upon viewing
               several Bard paintings and Stanton drawings, I discovered that this odd
               apparatus was carried and used to attach company house flags and pendants.

                 Early steamboat models I built during the '80s and  '90s featured handpainted
               flags made of soft metal. These were treated with acrylic base to prevent
               chipping. In recent times I now apply treated paper flags using the same
               applications. However, the paper flags are more life-like, especially when these
               are folded to give a breeze effect.

                  Maritime artist and shipmodel specialist Rex Stewart carefully applies the
                walking beam engine to the HIGHLANDER model. Nearly 140 seperate
                wood pieces make up this detail.

                   Starboard overview illustrates the strengthening process of a steamboat
                 of this period. The blue-colored kingposts, spars and hogframes, reinforced
                 with steel tie rods, were placed in strategic points on the vessel to secure
                 areas where the most strain existed -primarily at the stern and amidship
                 around the paddlewheels. So that this odd structure didn't take away from
                 the steamer's design, the kingposts and spars were adorned with gilded
                 balls and, occasionally woodsculpted eagles.

                  Port profile of Newburgh, New York steamboat HIGHLANDER c.1835.
                Scartchbuilt solely in wood at a scale of 3/32" = 1'. 


HIGHLANDER was built for the company of Thomas, Johnson and Wardrop in 1935. Her length on the keel was 160 feet with a beam of 24 feet. Her depth of hold was 8 feet and her overall length was complete at 175 feet.

Made of wood, her hull was built at the shipyard of Lawrence and Sneden in New York. The vertical beam engine was constructed at West Point Foundry in Cold Spring, New York. She carried two boilers on the guards; both of iron. Her paddlewheels were 24 feet in diameter with 10 foot length buckets that dipped 29 inches.

This unique steamboat carried a 'cookie-jar' pilothouse on the skydeck with a fancy bell attachment on the roof behind the gilded eagle ornament which sat center. When she entered service on the Hudson River she was one of the best and fastest boats to run. She operated on the Newburgh-New York Line until the steamer THOMAS POWELL appeared in 1846. HIGHLANDER was then used as an excursion boat and later ran for the Freight and Passage Line between Rondout and New York City until 1852. The following year she was taken south to the Delaware River and used as a towboat before being dismantled in 1866. Her engine was erected in the new towboat replacing her which was named WILLIAM H. ASPINWALL.

For more information about commissioning a fine quality steamboat model email: or call 1-774-757-7137. You may also visit

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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Building the towboat AMERICA c.1853 / A Maritime Collectible

                   Towboat AMERICA, New York c.1852 - James Bard. Collection of the
                 Albany Institute of History and Art c.1982

The Hudson River has been the subject of great admiration for many decades, both for its reminenscent beauty and prolific history. From Native-Americans to European Industrialists, the river has accumulated a notable wealth not matched. Historical accounts, especially from foreign dignitaries have attested of the river's beauty and pictureques towns along the shoreline.

With this stretch of water from New York City to Troy, New York, there came an invention of the steamboat monopoly. It was first tested in the southern tier of the United States , but its first successful run was on the Hudson River with the famed CLERMONT -built by Robert Fulton in 1807. From that day onward the river soon became a busy waterway for all types of
commercial craft, large and small.

One type of vessel entering this water highway was the sidewheel towboat. These magnificent machines would prove worthy in the annals of American maritime. The AMERICA was a steamboat that was built strictly for towing. Most steamboats of her time were passenger steamers converted into tow steamers , but AMERICA was one of several built exclusively for this type of service. She was a massive sidewheeler and ranked as the third largest tow to appear on the Hudson River in 1852.

       Profile plan of Hudson River towboat AMERICA c.1852, as researched and drawn by
      maritime artist, historian and craftsman Rex Stewart c.1987

I admired James Bard painting of AMERICA that hung in the East Wing of the Albany Institute of History and Art during my tenure as an art student. It was this painting which inspired my research, twenty years later, to develop a rare set of one-of-a-kind plans on the famous towboat.

What made AMERICA so special to research and build was that she was commissioned, built and owned by an American man of color in an age when the country was moving toward Civil War and racial division. It was unheard of in those times for any man of this background to own a commercial steamboat monopoly such as the one owned and operated by Samuel B. Schuyler out of Albany, New York. Even today, some 120 years later, it's unheard of in America's maritime that a contemporary man of color is designing and building unique one-of-a-kind steamboats of America's past. Yet, it's these events that has motivated my ability to grasp and comprehend the American steamboat in minute detail as never before.

Mr. Schuyler who captained steamboats, before opening his business which he called the Schuyler Line, remained pliant to the needs of the communities which he served. He was well respected among his peers and celebrated by steamboatmen up and down the Hudson Valley, especially when his successful towing business ran in unison with the two other companies in the area which was the Austin Line and the Betts Line.

             Samuel B. Schuyler's steamboat stock share c.1873 - Schuyler Towing Line

AMERICA was built in 1852 at Brooklyn, New York. At 212' feet she was one of the largest tows to service the Albany-New York City route. Not only was she a large vessel, but she was heralded for her Herculean power and beautiful lines.

Building this rare scale replica was a test of both skill and ingenuity. No such plans were existant in the Hudson Valley -or in the entire State of New York. Sixty years prior, a prolific modelbuilder named Forrest Van Loon Ryder made the same claim when his models appeared during the late '50s - early '60s. And though his steamboats were limited in detail, he became the respected forerunner of his day. Since then, with painstaking research and countless hours, bringing together details that have been overlooked for decades, I have been fortunate to develop a body of works that has not been rivalled. I felt it was important to
research and build (from my own plans) the steamboat as it actually appeared for the period; the towboat AMERICA being one of them.

        Maritime artist and craftsman/historian Rex Stewart working on one of his signature
       steamboat models, the Hudson River sidewheel towboat AMERICA c.1853. Here, he
       carefully rigs the American flag to the rail.

AMERICA's fanciful paddleboxes and prolific hogframe system made her the steamboat to model. Furthermore, in my arsenal of steamboats, she made for a handsome nautical accent for those owning or had desired to own river-related memorabilia.

Many hours went into designing her rare and distinctive plans, based on the James Bard painting of 1852 and a later photo which showed her 1875 appearance from an old glass negative of my late friend, Herman Boyle. Those references proved invaluable and priceless to my research -as well as her dimensional data from the publication Marine Engineering.

         Towboat AMERICA's walking beam marine engine. Made entirely of wood, approxi-
         mately 154 pieces make up this detailed miniature. These models are museum
         collector pieces and are well respected in the maritime steamboat community.

It took approximately a week to research, scale and finish the plans; and one month to complete the 1/8" = 1' build. This type model is the first ever to come on the circuit as a Hudson River steamboat collectible and has been a favorite among this genre of enthusiasts.
The supporting photos shows the beauty and size of this once famous 'work horse'. Her accurate appearance of 1853.  Her career ended in 1902 when she was broken up at Perth Amboy, New Jersey.

                        Port View -River Towsteamer AMERICA  c.1853, Rex Stewart

                                 Port Overview Detail -AMERICA c.1853 , Wood Model

                              Starboard View of Hudson River Towboat AMERICA c.1853

For more information about commissioning a fine quality steamboat model email: or call 1-774-757-7137. You may also visit 

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Tuesday, January 31, 2012

MARY POWELL c.1861 - a rare model / Part 2/ Rex Stewart

                     Sidewheeler MARY POWELL docked at Rondour Creek, N.Y. c.1887

Collectible and rare, the MARY POWELL is one of the most prolific steamboat models to date. No other model has been sought after on a collector scale of northeastern vessels than that of the MARY POWELL. My history and experience with this subject has been time-tested to bring awareness to collectors and the shipmodel community that this particular steamboat is the gem of the Northeast and New York's Hudson River.

              One of the most informative picture books published by Howell-North Books in
             California during the 1970s, it detailed the history of this famous steamer.

Models of MARY POWELL had made their appearance in 1959 when Forrest Van Loon Ryder started building them. These models are in several notable collections today. There were other riverboat models that Van Loon built, but nothing so articulate as the MARY POWELL. It was thought that his version would be the only in existance, but it became apparent that a more thoroughly researched model would surface twenty years later.

My first encounter with the model began while studying at the Albany Institute of History and Art as a youth. As I developed my draftsman skills and advanced as a pencillist, I began studying blueprints from model kits I bought from money made as a paper carrier for the Albany Times Union. Those experiences, along with studying the clipper ship model at the local Boy's Club, guided me into the genre of the American steamboat...with my first model of MARY POWELL being built that September of 1980.

The 1980 model was commissioned by Albany International when the Albany Institute of History and Art declined selling the Van Loon Ryder version to the corporation. In fact, the model was chosen by New York's First Lady as part of the Governor's Mansion decor during their tenure. Soon thereafter, several models were built at my Knox Street studio. Then finally, 32 years later, a collector who was familiar with my steamboat line ( from media sources), negotiated a rare model of "the Queen". He wanted her researched and constructed as she first appeared in 1861. 

                Maritime artist and modelshipbuilder Rex Stewart at his New England studio
              drafting the first-ever 1861 profile version of steamboat MARY POWELL.

To begin the process I needed a point of reference. Her varied dimensions were off by several feet; but overall, I was able to achieve accurate measurements by keeping them neutral. The point of reference that I applied for scaling the profile was the Andrew Fletcher blueprint of MARY POWELL's vertical beam engine. The profile was designed around the drawing which enabled me to acquire the correct scale. This, in part, coupled with the Endicott lithos and James Bard painting, helped to get an accurate rendition of the vessel's original appearance.

               Bard painting of 1861 shows MARY POWELL as she originally appeared
               on the river.

           Profile plan at 3/32" = 1' scale of MARY POWELL c.1861 by author Rex Stewart 

          Shown in this photo is the hull and joiner work of the knees and strakes beneath
          the guards. In this process the deck portion of the hull must be properly planed
          for the superstructure to align properly.

         Rear cabins are the most challenging part of the build. These must curve and bend
        smoothly to align properly with the main deck so that the Saloon Deck (above) can
        be flush for handling the Hurricane Deck. The rail detail would be the final application
        around the cabins on these decks.

              MARY POWELL shown at a further stage of build with stanchions, rails and
            cabins in place. At 3/32" Scale, this is tedious work -and the stanchion posts,
            though fragile, must be shaved to scale and strong enough to handle the next
            deck without damage. To address this, basswood strips are carefully glued
            between the spacing to serve as miniature beams.

              MARY POWELL's bow was graceful and swan-like. Her double red pinstripes
            on the hull beneath the guards were a unique feature that made her appearance
            quite elegant to the river commuters of her day. No other Hudson River steamer
            carried this -double pinstripes.

             Further along in the build, shown are all the decks and the stern superstructure.
           Cabins, stanchion posts, railings and spars all come together to bring about the
           image that made MARY POWELL a well as an object of beauty.

           The completed model showing MARY POWELL's amidship detail. This view
           shows the meticulous superstructure of the Hudson River "Queen" from walking
           beam down to her painted paddlewheels. The small donkey boiler behind the
           paddlebox was a tedious application and a unique feature that placed the steam-
           boat in a class of her own.

                    Steamboat MARY POWELL c.1861, 3/32' scale wood model - Rex Stewart

                Hudson River steamboat MARY POWELL, the final completion. Based upon
              the references of both James Bard painting and the Endicott prints, along with
              writings of various authors and historians, this model is considered to be the
              only work produced to show the original appearance of "the Queen" when she
              entered the river in 1861.

              I am thankful to The Lord for granting me this opportunity to be the first artist to
              design her plans and the first builder to construct her model.

For more information about commissioning a fine quality Hudson River or Northeast steamboat email: or call 1-774-757-7137. You may also visit

Sunday, January 29, 2012

MARY POWELL c.1861 - a rare model / Part 1/ Rex Stewart

            MARY POWELL, in her 1880-81 overhaul appearance, is shown steaming north-
           bound to her Rondout homeport. The New York skyline is behind her.

The WAR of 1812 and the Civil War were American battles that were uniquely connected by the family of Mary Ludlow Powell. And with this connection were two famous vessels, the first (War of 1812) began with Ms. Ludlow's history when her eldest brother, Robert Ludlow, was assigned to the American frigate CONSTITUTION which fought and defeated the British frigate JAVA that December. Her other brother, Augustus Ludlow, was on the CHESAPEAKE serving as First Lieutenant when the ship engaged H.M.S. SHANNON off Boston on June 1, 1813.

             The author's CONSTITUTION GUNDECK showing the gunner's braced to fire
            with the first lieutenant giving the order. Robert Ludlow could be one of those men
            at the cannon.

After the war, Mary married a prominent businessman named Thomas Powell who established a steamboat line in 1835. The business lasted ten years and was transferred to the Anderson and Romer Families due to fierce steamboat competition in the Hudson Valley.

Steamboats were now being acquired by different firms and there was need for fast and swift boats. In 1860 a celebrated New York-Albany dayboat entered the river and gained prominence after she raced and beat ARMENIA. That steamboat was the DANIEL DREW.

Captain Anderson, viweing this powerful steamer as she passed his Kingston dock, knew it was time to upgrade and build a new boat that would eventually be the talk of the entire valley. That vessel would be the inevitable MARY POWELL dubbed "Queen of the Hudson".

She became the heart of American folklore as she plied the Hudson, and was heralded both in the Northeast and across the Atlantic. For 55 years she commuted on the river and touched at every port-of-call. She was beautiful as she was fast, surpassing many records of her contemporaries with no loss of life. She ran her last trip in 1920.

            Work-in-progress of MARY POWELL showing her rare original configuration
            of 1861. No current models exist of her in this state. Author, Rex Stewart

The MARY POWELL model is highly sought after in the collectible market today. In my experience as historian/modelmaker, I discovered this subject matter exhibited in many places of renown both in the state of New York and abroad. I first discovered the steamboat model while attending art classes at the Albany Institute of History and Art as a youth. I was awed and fascinated with the overall detail the MARY POWELL carried. At every opportunity I went to the Museum to study its configurations and faithfully sketched the details; only to file them away for future reference.

Some twenty five years later I received a commission from a local corporation to build MARY POWELL for the President's Room at Albany International. That build granted me access to the entire Hudson River Valley via media.

                 Author's model of MARY POWELL in the President's Room of Albany
                 International c.1980.

It wasn't long thereafter that prominent businessmen and women in both the area and region recognized I was the premiere builder of the Northeast steamboat; inpartricular, the Hudson River types. These affluent individuals were now converted collectors.

Bankers, lawyers, curators, corporate ceos. Physicians, publishers, antique dealers and families of the steamboat lineage collected them. There were others -too many to mention. But it was the media that magnified this genre to new and interesting circles, placing it in a class of its own from that time to 'today'.

           Albany artist Rex Stewart appearing on the popular television show "City-Closeup"
          discussing, in part, his prominence as the Hudson valley's premiere modelmaker of

Today, there exist MARY POWELL models which are both antique and contemporary. Few are accurate -but overall, nice presentations of the "Queen". Several are at museums in New York State and one is at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC. At the time of this writing I learned that a model of POWELL's vertical beam engine is at the Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut, a place where I exhibited for two decades.

For years I have studied and built this prolific model for clients, but only as she appeared in 1887. However, in my research, I found no models existing of her as she originally appeared. Finally, a collector in the Lower Hudson Valley contacted me and negotiated her 1861 build.

          Profile plan of the original MARY POWELL c.1861 by maritime artist  Rex Stewart

For more information about commissioning a fine quality Hudson River or Northeast steamboat model email: or call 1-774-757-7137. You may also visit

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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Steamboat Model MARY POWELL c.1887 -The History and Build/ Rex Stewart

Few models exist on the renowned sidewheeler MARY POWELL. Some have been produced with minute detail while others varied in levels of craftsmanship and quality. But no matter how the steamboat has been presented over the years, MARY POWELL remain to be, nationally and internationally, one of the most favorite builder subjects today.

MARY POWELL was built at the onset of the Civil War. She was launched in 1861 at the request of Captain Absalom Anderson who, prior to the "M.P.", commanded the THOMAS POWELL -a swift sidewheeler known to many as the "Swan of the Hudson."

                Steamer MARY POWELL docked at Rondout Creek, New York c.1887

Thomas Powell was a prominent citizen of the village of Newburgh, NY located 60 miles north of New York City on the west bank of the Hudson River. The firm of T. Powell and Company composed of Powell and Captains Samuel Johnson and Robert Wardrop who established a steamboat line in 1835 which lasted ten years. Upon dissolving the line, Powell kept the steamboat HIGHLANDER and went into partnership with his son-in-law, Homer Ramsdell.
In 1846, Powell and Ramsdell brought out the new THOMAS POWELL for day service between Newburgh and New York City. She ran in line with HIGHLANDER and two years later, because of fierce competition, Powell and Ramsdell sold their interests to the Anderson and Romer families. As steamboats were being acquired by different firms along the Hudson, there was a need for fast and reliable boats. A new steamboat came to the river in 1860 named the DANIEL DREW, a celebrated New York-Albany dayboat that gained reputation on the Hudson when she raced and beat the ARMENIA of river fame.

Captain Anderson, viewing the swift DANIEL DREW as she daily passed his Rondout dock, knew that it was time to upgrade and build a new steamboat that would be the talk of the entire Hudson Valley for next six decades. The sidewheeler would be the inevitable "Queen of the Hudson". The name being the MARY POWELL. Anderson's goal was to have a vessel that would outdo every Hudson River steamboat known. He made it clear to the builders that the vessel had to make better time than his THOMAS POWELL -and that a heavy forfeiture of the contract would be in place if that recommendation failed. When the Allison Shipyard in Jersey City, N.J. completed MARY POWELL, she measured 267 feet in length, with a beam of 34.5 feet and depth of hold at 9.2 feet. Her tonnage was 819.
Because of Captain Anderson's steamboat ties in the area, and his highest respect for Thomas Powell, it was only fitting to name his vessel after Powell's wife whom, in her own right, had ties of historical proportions in the maritime.

Mary Ludlow Powell established a firm maritime history in addition to being the widow of Thomas Powell. Her eldest brother entered the United States Navy as a midshipman in 1795 and rose to the rank of captain. Mary's next eldest, Robert Ludlow, had been assigned to the U.S.F. CONSTITUTION and was aboard when "Old Ironsides" encountered and captured  H.M.S. JAVA in December, 1812. The best-known brother, Augustus C. Ludlow, was James Lawrence's first lieutenant on the CHESAPEAKE in the engagement with H.M.S. SHANNON off Boston on June 1, 1813. It was in this battle that the mortally wounded Lawrence gave the vain command, "Don't give up the ship!"

      War of 1812 CONSTITUTION Battle Station, handcarved in wood by the author. This
      representation show how the men were positioned during the fight with HMS JAVA
      when Mary Ludlow's brother served.

The MARY POWELL, now on the waters of the Hudson, was now becoming the echo of river folklore. In 1867, Captain Anderson retired from the steamboat business after selling his shares of MARY POWELL to Thomas Cornell, the steamboat potentate of Rondout, N.Y. This purchase was made three years prior. For several years, as the steamboat changed ownership, it was being scrutinized for performance. Then in 1874, a young steward came aboard the vessel, the young son of retired Captain Absalom Anderson. His name was Absalom Eltinge Anderson who would, many years later, become the prolific captain of the renowned steamer.

In 1872 the MARY POWELL returned back to Captain Anderson and remained with the family until 1883 when Thomas Cornell, again, acquired her. When the successor, Jansen Anderson, the Captain's eldest son passed away, Eltinge was not looked upon as the possible choice to keep the legacy of the family business. Between the seasons of 1884 and 1885 Eltinge, determined to prove otherwise, devoted much of his time preparing a pamphlet to promote the MARY POWELL. As a result of his efforts, Captain William Cornell retired and sold his share in the vessel to Eltinge.

           Portrait of the young Captain Absalom Eltinge Anderson, stmr. MARY POWELL

The MARY POWELL became the heart of steamboat folklore. For 55 years she travelled the Hudson and entered practically every port on her route. She was both beautiful and fast, having surpassed records of her contemporaries with no loss of life. She transported dignitaries and royals and accommodated renowned men and women of her day. She was a favorite at West Point and all points south of that landing. North, she was respected and won the hearts of the Albany-Troy citizens and was embraced as "The Queen" of riverboats.

In 1920 she finally ceased operations on the Hudson River and became legendary years afterward. A book about her was written by my friend and author, Donald C. Ringwald, and several years later, a descendant of the Mary Powell Family, Pauline Hending Matherson, commissioned me to build her an exacting model of the steamboat -which is in their Vermont home today.

             Bard painting of MARY POWELL as she first appeared on the river c.1861

Several MARY POWELL models were built in Albany during the '80s and early '90s -and a new version is now being built in New England at my Southbridge, MA studio. This version is the famous steamboat as she first appeared on the river in 1861 and is probably the only one of its kind anywhere, to date. This will be shared with the public and maritime community in a few months. To conclude, below are images of MARY POWELL as she appeared in 1887.

      Constructed entirely of wood, this project took approximately two months to build and
      is considered one of the most accurate models in the Hudson River Valley.

    This closeup shows the meticulous superstructure of MARY POWELL, from walking
    beam engine down to her paddlewheels. Her racy hogframes were state-of-the-art; a
    beautiful, graceful design that no other steamboat of her class carried. This was, in
    essence, MARY POWELL the "Queen of the Hudson".     

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