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 legend...as 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: Caseships@yahoo.com or call 1-774-757-7137. You may also visit https://www.linkedin.com/in/rexstewart

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: Caseships@yahoo.com or call 1-774-757-7137. You may also visit 

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