CURRIER & IVES, pub.
American Steamboats on the Hudson, passing the Highlands
New York: Currier & Ives, 1874. Lithograph with hand-coloring by Parsons & Atwater. Sheet size: 23 3/4 x 36 3/4 inches.
Two of the "floating palaces" that sailed the Hudson River
This very handsome portrait of two of the great Hudson River steamboats: the Drew and the St. John, was drawn by the artistic team of Charles R. Parsons and Lyman Atwater, who provided Currier & Ives some their best martime scenes and city views.
Here Parsons and Atwater capture two of the luxury steamers that plied the Hudson during what could be called the Golden Age of steamboat travel. Once it was discovered that trains could make the trip from Albany to New York in half the time the stemboats could, owners needed to find alternative attractions. One attraction was to race the steamboats, and several great Curriers chronicle that phenomenon, but racing caused overheated boilers and explosions, and a much more lasting and appealing alternative was found in luxury cruises. Launched in the 1860's, during the war, the Drew and St. John (named after Daniel Drew and Alanson J. St. John, founders of the People's Line Steamers) became the favored way to travel to Saratoga Springs and Lake George and back. Elegantly designed and enormous, these boats with grand, inlaid mahogany staircases, huge mirrors and paintings, magnificent restaurants and arcades could serve as symbols of the Gilded Age. All New York society traveled thus.
The title, "American Steamboats on the Hudson..." with its seemingly unnecessary "American", is actually a competitive reference to British steamboats, such as the Great Eastern, that were transforming world travel and trade, and maintaining Britain's dominance at sea. The patriotic message is that these beautiful, perfectly tailored and luxurious steamships exceeded the British boats in every way that truly mattered.
Gale, 0210; Arthur G. Adams, "The Hudson Through the Years" p. 185.