Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Steamboat Model ALEXANDER HAMILTON c.1959 -The Build

        Hudson River steamboat ALEXANDER HAMILTON approaching Albany, New York
       via the Dunn Memorial Bridge c.1959.

Steamboat models have become one of the most rare and highly sought after commodities in today's collectible market, both nationally and internationally. After investigating and researching the trends over a twenty year period, nothing from this observation is further from the truth.

And if these models are built with blueprint precision they, infact, become more sought after by serious maritime collectors...
which is why my line of models are highly
accredited for their presentation and accuracy.

My start with steamboats began in the summer of 1980 when the President of Albany International Corp. proposed to purchase a model of the steamer MARY POWELL from the Albany Institute of History and Art. The proposal was declined -as the model was part of the Governor's home decor, on loan from the Museum. To this end, several business executives learned about my modelmaking skills (from local media sources), especially when I received a grant from the Mayor to work at the Albany City Arts Office that same year.

And though 'fine art' was produced in that facility, the steamboat models originated on the other side of town in the basement of the Albany Institute of History and Art -the place where I studied adult courses as a youth during the '60s. And so, it was there that the exclusive one-of-a-kind steamboat model was birthed.

         The SIDEWHEELER Newsletter which was published in the Summer of 1976 by
          the Committee To Save The Alexander Hamilton.

ALEXANDER HAMILTON was a beautiful vessel known to many on the Hudson River as the "White Swan". I could never understand why she inherited that name, but after viewing many photos and angles of her appearance, I realized the meaning. She literally 'glided' along the river and her sleek appearance was indeed graceful, swan-like. Those who sailed her were fortunate. I could only get to view her stacks and billowing smoke as she passed beneath our window from the view we had of her from Capital Hill. On Phillip Street we had a visual of both Rennselaer and the river, so it wasn't difficult to miss this vessel or the sound of her whistle as she passed.

In 1974, three years after the steamboat ceased running on the Hudson, a small group was formed and called the Steamer Alexander
Hamilton Society. These individuals, through
lectures, fundraisers and memberships,
worked diligently to save the vessel from

By 1976, through the Society's efforts, the steamer was officially listed by the State of New Jersey as a historic site. In April the following year she gained National Register status only to lose federal funding when a hurricane sanked her at her pier that November of 1977. It was a great loss to the Hudson River Valley and to the maritime community at large.

As a modelbuilder of these great vessels, I have dedicated my time and talent to preserving these timeless steamboats in various scales for future generations. Unquestionably, I have honed my skills to this artform because it has never been fully tapped or explored. And what few models do exist, none can rival the degree of research or workmanship I have placed in these pieces which are, in essence, highend collectibles.

I owe, first and foremost, The Lord for my wisdom to investigate this genre of art. Secondly, I owe much of my learning experiences concerning the steamboat to many of those who are now departed -the authors, curators, collectors and rivermen whom either owned these vessels, worked on them or amassed a brilliant collective body of rare photos that they were willing to share which, inpart, escalated my growth as the leading builder of the Hudson River steamboat.

These photos show my approach building the
ALEXANDER HAMILTON from its early stages to its final completion. The model is made from four sources of wood, re: pine, bass, balsa and birch. Balsa is used for the framework to keep decks flush and alligned.

The time to plan and construct this model took an overall period of two and a half months. This is, inpart, due to the research that was involved and the minute detail requested by the collector. Normally a model of this scale would take less time, but this individual wanted the HAMILTON at a period where he remembered both her design, color and configurations. These particular models have a higher value because they are documented miniatures of a period that's not 'general'.
He places her in a period of the year 1959, so research is eminent.

               Shown here are the scratchbuilt floating rafts -handcarved and the interior
               grating individually cut out with a pen-knife.

            All basswood decks are precisely marked and scaled so that cabin work and
          deck furniture allign properly. All decks are pre-cut so that no mistakes are made
          during the build.

         The hull. This is where it all begins. The hull must be 'perfect' and flush in order to
         get the model looking like the real vessel. At least four to six hours are invested in 
        sanding and finishing the hull. Anytime past this, the wood is bad and must be discard-

                My time-tested method of building...
              Models that I built 30 years ago still has their fresh look today. But those are
              considered antiques, where my current works are now relinquished to be, by
              professional standards, collectibles.

         This bow starboard view show the sleek and beautiful lines of this prolific steamer
        as she appeared in 1959.

              This portside overhead view show all the detail ALEXANDER HAMILTON
             carried that year. The flags are handpainted, folded and treated with acrylic
             so to keep its longevity.

          Stern port view of the "White Swan" as she was called by her fellow travelers.

The final presentation, the ALEXANDER HAMILTON in 3/32" Scale. This wooden steamboat model is the result of many painstaking hours viewing photos, plans of which I had to alter
to achieve the proper configurations.

In closing, let it be said that this steamboat was in a class of her own. memorable to all whom traveled on her during her 48 years of service. She was the last steamboat to operate on the Hudson River, serving well over 5 million passengers between Albany and New York City -ceasing her career in 1971 with her final run to Bear Mountain in the Lower Hudson Valley.

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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  1. Which pier in New Jersey did it sink? Thank you for the article and making models of the Alexander Hamilton.

    1. Unfortunately, I don't know. I just know by speaking with those who was once associated eith the vessel that it broke free from its moorings on the New York side of the river and sank on the Jersey side.

      I appreciate your viewing my blogs, especially this one on the ALEXANDER HAMILTON. This is my way of showing appreciation for the support I've received from SSHSA members and those living in and around the Hudson River Valley who remember their moments with the steamer.

  2. Your work is astonishing! I never knew it was a hurricane that sank her, so thank you for that information, I feel better knowing she was not just left to rot.
    My grandfather was an engineer on the Alexander Hamilton for 10 years. It was the highlight of his life. He gave all his memorabilia to the Hudson River Dayline Museum and they made him a lifetime member.
    My father built a very intricate ship model once from scratch, so I understand all the painstaking care you must have poured into this. I'm sending you an internet standing ovation Rex!