Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Albany Steamers

Imagine seeing this view across the river? This 1905 postcard shows the steamboats Ursula of the Catskill Line and C. W. Morse of the Hudson Navigation Company's Night Line. (Click to enlarge.)

The C. W. Morse was a paddle wheel steam ship built in 1903 as a luxury overnight cruise ship, between Albany and New York. She was the longest side wheel steamer afloat at the time - 427 feet. She had a steel hull with 8 watertight compartments. But she had a draft of only nine feet when loaded, to navigate the shallow waters near Albany.

There's a great description in "Old Steamboat Days on the Hudson River". Here's a sample of her luxury appointments (but there's a technical description too, of the engines and propulsion).
The main staircase leads from the lobby to the grand saloon, which is twenty-eight feet high with a domed ceiling in white and gold and surrounded with two galleries having highly ornamented guard rails of mahogany and bronze. Staterooms with brass bedsteads and parlors deluxe with bath rooms and toilets can be entered from the saloon direct or communicating corridors, richly carpeted. There is also a passenger elevator on the boat. In all there are four hundred and fifty of these sleeping apartments furnished in varying degrees of elegance. She is licensed to carry two thousand passengers.
She was named for Charles W. Morse, "the Ice King", who purchased the steamer line with the ill-gotten profits of an attempted monopoly on ice in New York City and stock manipulation of his ice holding company. He later tried to corner the stock of United Copper, triggering the "Panic of 1907" and causing nation-wide financial turmoil. He was eventually jailed for violating federal banking laws, imprisoned, and successfully faked illness to get a pardon.

When his steamship company went bankrupt, the receivers changed the name from the C. W. Morse to the Fort Orange.

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