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

                                                                                                                                   Social Share Toolbar

No comments:

Post a Comment