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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Monday, November 28, 2011

Model Steamboat ST. JOHN c.1864 / Grand nightboat of the Hudson River

                                   The great ST. JOHN idle on the Hudson River c.1864

The ST. JOHN and DREW, along with the DEAN RICHMOND, were the People's Line response to the river's ever-increasing traffic of the 1860s. The Troy-based steamboat Line
commissioned  John Englis Shipyard in Brooklyn, New York to build a vessel that surpassed any contemporary steamboat of its time. The word "floating palace" became a new meaning for the massive sidewheeler ST. JOHN.

She was launched in 1863 to serve as a nightboat between New York and Albany. She was 393 feet in length, 51 feet in beam with a 10.2 feet depth of hold. Made of wood, her gross tonnage was 2645. Her engine was inherited from the large nightboat NEW WORLD, which sunk when her gallows frame collapsed and sent her walking beam crashing into her interior in 1859.

                          Currier and Ives print of nightboat ST. JOHN c. 19th century

Saratoga, Lake George, Lake Champlain and the Adirondacks were visited by thousands buring the decade of the 1860s. To accommodate these visitors and get them to these northern points, ST. JOHN set the course in both design and fashion for nightboats in 1863. The United States was at war with itself, but inspite of this civil unrest, citizens and foreigners continued to travel the picturesque Hudson River to enjoy those regions north of the Capital City.

The reputation of ST.JOHN was so great that newspapers heralded her beauty and size, prompting international visitors to board and admire her. The sidewheeler featured a high dome deck with staterooms on galleries. The grand staircase was carved of St. Domingo mahogany, inlaid with white holly, and double inlaid stars featured the newel posts.

           Scale nightboat model of ST. JOHN exhibiting port profile. Scratchbuilt in three
           wood types, it is scaled at 1/8" = 1' with an overall length of 48" inches.

ST. JOHN's first river tragedy occurred during her first year of service. On the evening of October 29, 1863 when only a few miles below Albany, New York, one of the boilers exploded with the loss of fifteen people. Her second and final disaster came when she was laid up at her winter quarters in New York City. At the foot of Canal Street, on January 24, 1885,  she caught fire and was destroyed.

ST. JOHN ran on the Hudson River for 21 years, attracting a large following during her years of service. Like most notable vessels of her time, she was captured in photos, drawings, prints and paintings by some of the most prolific maritime artists of the period. In contemporary times, no true model ever existed on this famous steamboat which prompted me to research, build, and bring this image into public view as a scale model.

                      ST. JOHN's portside overview appearance of 1864 - Author's build

                 The author's plan profile of ST. JOHN's paddlebox design as it appeared
                in 1863.

Although the paddlebox was a flat surface, the designers of the period produced an astonishing effect by introducing 'lines of perspective'. This particular technique gave the appearance of looking into a long colonaded room extending through the inside of the boat. The effect of perspective was heightened by painting in a tile floor of contrasting shades. Deep inside the composition a gate built up of lattice work gave out onto a painted landscape which was the envy of many interior designers of that day. Two years later the DEAN RICHMOND appeared on the river with similiar paddlebox treatment which gave a startling impression to passengers on passing boats.

This was the era of size and beauty, the 1860s. ST. JOHN was a vision for bold visionaries who took the idea from the drafting table to the shipyard -making this sidewheeler a prominent reality and one of the great legends of her day.

                  Starboard Profile of Hudson River nightboat ST. JOHN - 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 Social Share Toolbar

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Hudson River Line ALBANY c.1880 -The Model / Rex Stewart

                Hudson River Line ALBANY c.1880, Wood Steamboat Model - Rex Stewart

Of the models to leave my studio during the 1980s, ALBANY was one of the most prolific to research and build. A few Albany executives commissioned two versions of ALBANY and these remain in those families today. They are, by professional standards, the most accurate pieces in the Hudson Valley and the only models of its kind anywhere.

          Steamboat ALBANY docked at its Albany, New York pier before her morning run
         to New York City c.1880.

Albany was built at the Harlan and Hollingsworth yard in Wilmington, DE. and lauched there on January 30, 1880. Her hull was iron frame with steel plating. Her engine was built by W and A Fletcher of Hoboken, New Jersey. ALBANY's hull was 295 feet with a beam of 40 feet and a mean draft of hold 11 feet 6 inches.

Unfinished, ALBANY made an engineer's test run May 1880 from New York's W. 42nd Street, north to Yonkers and back. The upbound trip was slightly an hour, but the return trip was a remarkable 37 minutes for an average speed of 25 miles per hour. Two months later on July 30, 1880 the steamboat left New York City for her maiden voyage north to her namesake city.

                               Port Overview - Wood Steamboat Model ALBANY c.1880.

From that date through the 1885 season, her running consorts alternated between the CHAUNCEY VIBBARD of 1864 and the DANIEL DREW of 1860. With the latter destroyed by fire in 1886, the Hudson River Line acquired the sleek looking NEW YORK which ran in line with ALBANY until 1906.

          Samuel Ward Stanton's pen and ink drawing of ALBANY, showing her extended
         saloon deck c.1900.

Within the next ten years many changes were made to ALBANY. Her pilothouse was enlarged in 1885 and three years later her saloon deck was extended forward to the bow - eliminating the beautiful awning that highlighted her appearance. Between February and May of 1893, while at the Hollingsworth Yard, she was lengthened and her radial paddles and fan-shaped paddleboxes were replaced with feathering paddlewheels. Other developments occurred with her cabins and funnels, as these changes would serve as the prototype for the famous Hudson River Day Line Fleet of the 20th Century.

                 Grand Stairway, located behind the funnel system of the stmr. ALBANY.

The 20th century's first 25 years would expand from a two vessel operation to a seven boat organization. This expansion led to various changes and the ALBANY was re-routed to serve the New York City-Poughkeepsie run, being replaced by stmr. HENDRICK HUDSON for the Albany run in 1906.

During the mid-20s, ALBANY became the Day Line's last coal-burning steamer, serving primarily as a secondary vessel for overflowing crowds, charters, and the like. On Labor Day, 1930, she ran from Albany to New York City to close out a service record unsurpassed by any steamer in the modern Day Line fleet. She was later sold to a Maryland businessman , Benjamin Wills, who operated her on the Potomac River as POTOMAC.

The model shown, depicts ALBANY in her 1880 configuration. Painted with period colors, the model is accurately scaled and scratchbuilt in three woods, re: pine, bass, and birch. The scale is 1/8" = 1', with an overall length of 37" inches.

What documentation was available, I applied; assuring an accurate model of the highest quality.

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 Social Share Toolbar

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Hudson Day Line Model PETER STUYVESANT c.1944

           Hudson River Day Line steamboat PETER STUYVESANT heading downriver from
          Kingston, New York c.1933.

When the WASHINGTON IRVING sanked at New York Harbor June 1, 1926, no plans were made by the Hudson River Day Line to replace her. This decision came as a result of financial constraints to build a vessel of similiar size to the IRVING. However, upon vote, it was able to proceed with a smaller steamboat to serve routes in that portion of the Lower Hudson between New York and Pougkeepsie. Also, the company's vision was to expand its charter business.

PETER STUYVESANT was launched February 2, 1927, from the yard of Pusey and Jones at Wilmington, Delaware. Katharine Olcott, daughter of Day Line owner, Eben E. Olcott , sponsored and christened the vessel -giving her its name. Destined to be the last steamboat ever built for the Hudson River, she made her first round trip from New York to Newburgh on a Saturday afternoon, May 28, 1927.

                   PETER STUYVESANT berthed at her New York Day Line Pier c.1951

The PETER STUYVESANT was designed by J.W. Millard and Brother. Combining normal maritime requirements, with added ammenities, she was attractive to organizations wanting charters for various outings. On the second deck was a bandstand, positioned behind the smokestack wall and the cabin, from there, extended further aft to establish a dance floor. Also, tables could be placed in this room to provide extra dining space away from the regular dining area so that sizable groups could be served.

On the third deck, the carpeted saloon was slightly raised so that passengers could view the scenic river without the obstruction from those on the outside. Also arranged on either side of the saloon were eight parlors.

         Port profile work-in-progress view of the 1:160 scale model of PETER STUYVESANT.
        The Saloon Deck is being worked on.

Steel-hulled, she was propellor driven with a single screw. Her measurements were 269 ft. with a 60 ft. beam and a draft of 13 ft.5 inches. She was supplied with steam by four Babcock and Wilcox oil-fired, water-tube boilers.

In September 1932, as a result of the Depression, the Day Line made operational changes to employ PETER STUYVESANT, parttime on the New York-Albany run. Between the seasons of 1948 and '49, the Line was acquired by new owners who maintained regular service up the river as far as Poughkeepsie. In 1955, due to financial constraints, only two steamboats operated on the Hudson: ALEXANDER HAMILTON and PETER STUYVESANT.

Following the season of 1962, ownership changed and the vessels were purchased by New York's Circle Line. In 1963 PETER STUYVESANT was no longer placed in commission and was later acquired by Anthony Athanas, proprieter of a Boston waterfront restaurant, Anthony's Pier 4.

"The Delaware Steamboater" was a piblication that surfaced during the 1980s to bring both awareness and support to the steamboat community relative to vessels that needed preservation.

It was also instrumental in fundraising during a time when many citizens on the East Coast heralded these prolific vessels. Unfortunately, as the decade of the '90s arrived, interest in preserving the steamboat declined and many vessels were lost to the scrap-yards.

In 1968, after necessary conversion, the steamboat was placed in a underwater cradle constructed to provide maximum protection. She served as an annex to accommodate large groups and regular patrons whom were waiting for tables. Her final days ended when a great winter storm clipped the Northeast on February 7, 1978. There, at Boston Harbor, she sanked.

             Author's scale model of PETER STUYVESANT showing her private parlors on
            the promenade deck.

The model that I researched and constructed show the prolific steamboat as she appeared in 1944 during the war years. Travel on the Hudson River was popular and it gave many citizens the opportunity to enjoy their outings and view the scenic river during that troubled period.

                      Stern Port Profile of PETER STUYVESANT, Wood Model -Scratchbuilt

The model is produced in bass and pine woods. Scratchbuilt, it has an overall length of 20 inches.

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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Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Model Steamboat TROY c.1846 - Rex Stewart

Early steamboats that operated on New York's Hudson River were distinctive and had elegant appearances. These vessels, though a part of early Americana, lacked true representation in photos. The camera was not yet in vogue for photographers to capture their appearances, so visual images were accepted by way of notable artists, newspapers, and lithographers of the period.

       An unknown lithograph showing the Hudson River dayboat TROY as she appeared
      in 1840.

Drawings, illustrations and artist sketches and paintings documented close likenesses of these steamers. Lithographs also recorded their structures by way of several printers, one being Currier and Ives out of New York City. From these references, possibilities existed for building an interesting replica. However, much was based on the literature that was written.

Because nightboats greatly differed from the dayboats, to get a better understanding of the TROY, it is written that she was brought out as a dayboat for the Troy-New York Line in 1840...three decades after the War of 1812. Some writings state she was the largest boat in tonnage to appear on the river at that time, and that she had more speed than any vessel afloat.

Viewing three different images, I proceeded in producing a detailed scale drawing of TROY, finding interesting features which I didn't obtain with other vessels built in the Collection. From these features I was able to get a better perspective on the evolution of design and machinery -comparing what was for 1840 to what existed in 1860 which was radical change.
The drawings and lithographs displayed TROY as being a sleek-looking, fast-riding steamboat. With these facts, it was now time to build the model -the only one of its kind in the entire Hudson Valley.

      Port-side profile showing "King Neptune" painted on the paddleboxes of TROY during
      her 1846 season.

The main feature of TROY's appearance were her paddleboxes of 1846. A writing stated she carried a painting of "King Neptune" on them so to make her identifiable from both the river and shore. Also, because there was rivalry between New York City and troy, citizens from both cities were only patronizing vessels from their locales. "King Neptune" was part of the promotional process assisting citizens to identify 'their' boat when she made her runs on the river. She was a river traveler's favorite as a dayboat, but soon was converted and placed on the Hudson as a nightboat in 1848, running in line with the EMPIRE OF TROY.

                  Samuel Ward Stanton's famous drawing of steamboat TROY c.1840 

The maiden trip of this 294 foot steamboat was made July 17, 1840 under Captain A. Gorham. A record run was made the following year from New York City to Troy in 8 hours and 10 minutes which included five landings. During this period rivalry between the two cities was so intense that those cities only supported their vessels. When the EMPIRE was built in 1843, the owners realizing she might be mistaken for an Albany boat, added the words "OF TROY" to the paddelboxes.

TROY was not just a popular boat, but a favorite -even for the Albany citizens who watched her paddle gracefully by. a young John J. Morrisey of Troy, N.Y., served as a deckhand on the boat and later married the Captain's daughter. Morrisey went on to become heavyweight champion of the world and a one time Congressman.

                  Port profile of the Hudson River sidewheeler TROY c.1846, Wood Model

After more than twenty years on the river, TROY ceased running as a converted nightboat.
She was dismantled at Keyport, New Jersey in 1859.

My model show TROY in her 1846 appearance. It is scaled at 1:150 or 3/64"= 1'. As with the other models in the Collection, it is scratchbuilt of pine and basswoods with the spars made of birch. Panel work detail was cut into using a crafters' utility knife.

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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Sunday, November 13, 2011

Tow Sidewheeler SYRACUSE c.1857

                         Towboat sidewheeler SYRACUSE in New York Harbor c.1877

The Hudson River was a waterway dotted with sail and steam during America's young Industrial Age. Some of the world's most interesting vessels were travelling this river, from sailing sloop to massive nightboat. The river had its own life of whistle, voices and churning water that seem to have echoed every ten to twenty miles from Troy-Albany to New York City. This was the heydey of steamboating.

The towboat entered the river in the late 1840s and established itself as the 'workhorse' of rivercraft.These large vessels were cumbersome in appearance, yet their featured large stack and complicated steel-wired tie rods, and hogframe system, made these sidewheelers unique and appealing to river communities.

Day and night, port to port, they ran -from the northern tip of the river (Albany-Troy) to the southern tip (Newburgh-New York City). One such towboat that received maritime accollades for its appearance and river tasks was a sidewheeler named SYRACUSE.

                       Painting of tow steamer SYRACUSE by American artist James Bard

The wooden hull of SYRACUSE was built at Hoboken, New Jersey in 1857 and was powered by an engine constructed by Berman at New York City. She was 218 feet long, breadth of beam 35 feet and five inches, with a gross tonnage of 608 and a net 459 tonnage. Her vertical beam engine had a 72 inch cylinder with a 12 foot stroke.

Built exclusively for towing, SYRACUSE became the sixth largest tow to make her appearance on the Hudson. She was constructed for Jerry Austin of Albany and was the most handsome and most powerful of any of the fleet of towboats on the river. The Austin Towing Line, operating between New York and Albany placed SYRACUSE in service in 1857, running in line with the steamboats OHIO, GENERAL MACDONALD and AUSTIN.
these vessels serviced the Line for many years, and in the summer of 1876 the OHIO, becoming of no further use, was run ashore on the east side of the river (above Castleton) and broken up. The other boats continued running until the fall and were sold thereafter.

                            Scale model of towboat SYRACUSE as she appeared in 1857.

Samuel Schuyler who operated the Schuyler Towing Line, purchased SYRACUSE while the Cornell Steamboat Company of Rondout bought AUSTIN, GENERAL MACDONALD and S.O.PIERCE. Schuyler rebuilt the SYRACUSE and added her to his towing fleet -operating her until 1893 when he discontinued his business and sold the steamer to the Cornell Company.

        Overview of SYRACUSE showing walking beam engine detail and superstructure

The Rondout company serviced the towboat on the Rondout-New York route where she remained until 1898. After 41 years of continuous service, SYRACUSE was sold to J.H. Gregory who took her to Perth Amboy, N.J. and scrapped her.

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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Monday, November 7, 2011

The Civil War's M. MARTIN c.1863 , research and the wood model/ Rex Stewart

                  M. MARTIN backing around in Rondout Creek for her run north on the
                Hudson River to Albany, New York c.1880.

Built at Jersey City, New Jersey in 1863, M. MARTIN was constructed at the outbreak of the Civil War. She was initially built for the Romer and Tremper Frim of Rondout to run as a freight and passenger steamer to Catskill and Albany.

She was pressed into service under General Ulysess S. Grant, and during the latter part of the war she operated as the General's personal dispatch boat on the Chesapeake Bay -carrying messages and troops across the bay and river.

The M. MARTIN was known as the Union Army's "greyhound" that served  the federal government during the war. After the fall of Richmond, President Abraham Lincoln and General Grant made a visit to the Confederate Capital aboard the M. MARTIN.

The above painting shows President Lincoln aboard steamboat RIVER QUEEN confering with his Commanders. During the war M. MARTIN was lashed to RIVER QUEEN to protect the President on February 3, 1865 at the Hampton Roads Conference which was an unsuccessful attempt to end the Civil War.

At the close of the war the steamboat was brought north to New York where she serviced the Newburgh and Albany route, running in line with the swift steamer EAGLE. These boats ran together until August 2, 1884 when EAGLE caught fire and was replaced by the new JACOB H. TREMPER.

In 1899 the MARTIN was sold to the Central Hudson Steamboat Company of Newburgh, serving the company for many years. On Thursday morning June 16, 1910, laden with freight and 20 passengers M. MARTIN steamed southbound from Albany to Newburgh and caught fire. She was immediately beached on the east side of the river near Esopus Island where all passengers were taken off in small boats. For ten minutes, on the sky deck, Captain George Hadley fought and distinquished the flames. And with only a scorched pilothouse, the steamboat proceeded on to Newburgh.

After repairs M. MARTIN returned to operate on the Hudson River until the fall of 1918. Two years later in the summer of 1920 she was scrapped -the hull purchased by Patrick Doherty for dock use at Eavesport, a small landing near Malden on the Hudson.

                    M. MARTIN docked at Rondout Creek, Kingston, New York c.1880

The M. MARTIN was considered one of the most handsome boats of her type to appear on the river. A wooden hull vessel, she was 191 feet on the keel with a beam of 28 feet. Her depth of hull was 9 feet with a waterline draft of 6 feet. After viewing several photos from  Herman Boyle's Collection in Kingston,I was now in a position to build the steamboat that was void of any known models made of her.

        Painting of steamboat MILTON MARTIN by American artist James Bard (1815-1897)

My plans for her build began in the fall of 1987 when a surgeon from Albany Medical Center Hospital proposed the model. At that time there was a steamboat frenzy developing with my models and artwork which I pushed throughout the Capital Dustrict through articles and news interviews. It was then that art supporters, businessmen and collectors surfaced to purchase my line of work relative to the steamboat. M. MARTIN would become part of the growing list.

Like prior drawings and blueprints, I studied James Bard' painting and paired it with Mr. Boyle's photos to get the right configuartions. A third party, curator Roderic H. Blackburn from the Albany Institute of History and Art also provided materials which assisted the research. And within the course of two weeks, a set of detailed plans came into vogue on this famous steamboat.

        M. MARTIN in the early stages of construction on the table of maritime artist and
       craftsman Rex Stewart.

                                      Port Stern View of M. MARTIN's work-in-progress

The overall time to complete the project had been a month and two weeks.  Because of the many alterations these vessels encountered during their service, I had to explore a period which best presented this particular steamer. Her early appearance was rather scanty in what photos I researched; but after studying those which shown her on the Hudson in her latter years, I concluded that her 1880 appearance was first-rate for the build. Below she's shown as she was viewed by the general public at that time.

          Hudson River Steamboat M. MARTIN c.1880, Scale 1/8" = 1', Wood, scratchbuilt

                                         A detailed view of M. MARTIN from port stern

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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Friday, November 4, 2011

Steamboat Model/ FRANCIS SKIDDY c.1859 -Rex Stewart

    A pen and ink drawing of the famous four-stacker FRANCIS SKIDDY as she appeared
   nightboat-converted on the Hudson River c.1860. Drawing by TITANIC victim and noted 
   maritime artist, Samuel Ward Stanton.

                  FRANCIS SKIDDY -Painting, James Bard c.1859, shown as a dayboat.

Much has been said and written about the Bard Brothers, John and James, two maritime artists known for their acute draftsman-like style of painting; particularly on those subjects that embraced the Hudson River steamboat. In this genre they were the forerunners.

To this end, I very much enjoyed their folkart approach to the medium -as well as their penchant for adding minute detail those renditions they painted, whether on canvas or paper. I equally enjoyed researching every detail of their vessels- comparing their studies to the vintage photos of that period, when possible. It was this process that brought me to conclude
that their works were accurate and that I could use their studies to assist my blueprints.

However, the scale was somewhat imbalanced and that flaw I couldn't point, because these individuals were artists -not draftsmen.

The river, by and large, introduced to both traveller and riverman a beautiful array of sidewheelers. Each having its own distinctive quality and character -uniquely built and easily recognizable from both river during a port to port passing or from the shoreline. Their design and colorschemes were fascinating to examine, whether in that generation or the generations to follow.

By and large, the sidewheeler, especially those that operated on the Hudson River was a sight to behold...and it opened an entire new door for me, even as a contemporary
artist/craftsman. A model or even a series of models were 'rare' concerning these vessels -and the reality was that no one had a clue relative to their configurations. Not a builder or even a historian which struck me as odd.

                                                                                      Author and friend, Donald C.Ringwald

It was fitting to explore how these early draftsmen arrived at their paddlebox concepts. The half-circular paddleboxes were highly definitive, distinquishing one steamboat from the other; but not every steamboat carried such intricate workmanship. Some 'boxes' were simple in design; yet, there were other features that made a sidewheeler appealing or familiar to the area where it operated. Such was the case with a large and fast steamer that came to the Hudson River in 1851. The steamer was called the FRANCIS SKIDDY.

She was the largest and finest vessel that had ever been built for the Hudson River. When finished, she was considered the zenith of steamboat architecture. Her model was one of the most beautiful and faultless ever constructed. Sumptuously  fitted up, her cabins were spacious -being finished in mahogany forwhich steamboats of this period was noted. The main cabin was in the hull, extending the entire length and dining tables were made to seat 500 people. The SKIDDY was built for dayline service between New York City and Albany.
Speed was of dire necessity and she made the run 146 miles, with 6 landings, in 7 1/2 hours.                                                                          

    Van Loon Ryder Model of FRANCIS SKIDDY -Smithsonian Museum, Washington, D.C.

Built in 1851 at New York, her wood hull was made by the George Collyer Shipyard. Her length was 322 feet with a hull beam of 38 feet. Her depth of hold was 10 feet 4 inches and she carried a water draft of 5 feet 6 inches. her vertical beam engine was built by James Cunningham and Co. and her four boilers were by John F. Rodman out of New York.

FRANCIS SKIDDY began trips in June, 1852 and for a period left New York every morning, returning back from Albany at night. Several years later she was greatly altered -being rebuilt as a nightboat operating between New York City and Troy with the steamboats COMMODORE, HENDRICK HUDSON, RIP VAN WINKLE and C. VANDERBILT running at different periods with her. On the night of November 5, 1864 while coming southbound she ran ashore at Staatsburgh and sunk. The hull was broken up and the engine placed in the new steamboat DEAN RICHMOND.

With this enlightening history I thought it would make for an interesting model. Only a few models were built of this steamer by the late Van Loon Ryder of whom his cousin, Grant Van Loan, I developed correspondence and a friendship with for a number of years.

I spoke with author and historian Donald C. Ringwald about the possible project and he spoke about the rarity of a 'Stewart Model' being part of a unique collective body of contemporary works that the Hudson Valley needed to have. There was also another individual whom agreed and involved himself, a New York realtor by the name of Everett C. Britz. He respected my work enough to write these words:

        Dear Rex -

        Based on these qualifications, I personally believe
        that you are the foremost interpreter of the "Skiddy"
        of all times and that your translation of your knowledge
        into a model will make it the model of the "Skiddy" fpr
        future generations.

With those words I, with the assistance of both gentlemen, began to research and draft the plans for what was to become the most attractive SKIDDY model in the entire Hudson Valley. It took months of planning, as Mr. Britz was also interested in having it as one of his collective body of steamboats -and referred another gentleman to me who lived in Asia of whom was heir to the Skiddy Family.

His relatives lived in Greenwich, Connecticut.

It was a nice balance to build a steamboat model and have so much history attached to it.
I found myself becoming associated with every link to the Skiddy name, nationally and internationally. It was good to know that the work was appreciated by a group of men and women who respected the era of this industry to trust my workmanship. Cost was not a criteria and I learned that when something is priceless and worthy, cost is blind. And it was because of this association that the best steamboat models in the Northeast started to surface.

          Port bow detail -FRANCIS SKIDDY Model c.1859, wood and scratchbuilt to scale

The history of FRANCIS SKIDDY is another account of a famous steamboat that has been recorded for future generations. Although there exist video footage showing how these vessels operated during those times, one can only imagine riding them.

Every era has its 'today'. What we think is ancient wasn't ancient at all, and what our young generation will deem 'old' won't be old at all. It's just a passing of time and time events that shaped our culture in the period that it was experienced. Steamboating was no exception and I'm delighted to have this ability to preserve the aspect of this lifestyle that was so important to those who lived it. Steamboating is a bygone era, but it's also our culture -whether or not it's embraced.

                    FRANCIS  SKIDDY c.1859 -the model, scratchbuilt of wood and scaled
                  to 1:150  

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

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