The Hudson-Fulton Celebration, 100 years later

The landscape painters who memorialized the Hudson River valley during the mid- and late nineteenth century are also being highlighted in several exhibitions at smaller museums and historic sites in the region. River Views of the Hudson River School will be on view at the Thomas Cole House in Catskill, New York, until October 31, 2009, and will include a selection of works by Cole, Sanford Robinson Gifford, and Jasper Francis Cropsey on loan from private collections.

Across the river at Olana, Frederic Edwin Church's estate, Glories of the Hudson: Frederic Edwin Church's Views from Olana, which will be on view in a new gallery on the second floor of the house through October 12, highlights Church's sketches of the Hudson River, made over years of watching its changes from his studio (see Fig. 4). River Views was organized by Nancy Siegel of Towson University in Maryland; the curators of Glories of the Hudson are Evelyn Trebilcock and Valerie Balint, Olana's curator and associate curator respectively.
Home on the Hudson: Women and Men Painting Landscapes, 1825-1875, opening June 7 and on view through September 7 at the Boscobel Restoration in Garrison, New York, moves away from the three Cs (Cole, Church, and Cropsey) to feature works by a selection of lesser known but interesting artists—including Seth Eastman, John William Hill, Thomas P. Rossiter, and Jervis McEntee—who lived and worked along the Hudson (see Fig. 6). A special focus of the exhibition are the women who worked alongside the men, painters such as Eliza Pratt Greatorex, Julia McEntee Dillon, and Julie Hart Beers (later Kempson), sister of William and James Hart (see Fig. 7). Some of these women, like Greatorex and Beers, painted major landscape canvases, while others excelled in the popular nineteenth-century art of china painting. Examples of both may be seen in the exhibition, which also examines the ways these landscape views functioned in domestic interiors (see Fig. 3). The exhibition was organized by Katherine Manthorne and a group of her students in the Ph.D. program in art history at the City University of New York Graduate Center, who all collaborated on the accompanying catalogue.

The centenary has also occasioned the publication of the first full-length study of the event, The Hudson-Fulton Celebration: New York's River Festival of 1909 and the Making of a Metropolis, written by Kathleen Eagen Johnson and published by Fordham University Press and Historic Hudson Valley. A particularly interesting chapter, "Symbols, Souvenirs, and Sales," focuses on the conflict between the commercial and commemorative in the minds of the celebration organizers, who, according to Johnson, "were anxious to rectify New York's money-grubbing reputation." It was their desire to mount an educational celebration rather than what Johnson terms "a glorified trade show" that led them to reject the typical world's fair conception of exhibition halls filled with contemporary arts and industry in favor of the celebration's more varied format.14 These progressive civic leaders believed that exposure to history and art could transform society. One of their earliest acts was to commission a series of commemorative medals and badges in the American renaissance style that expressed their noble aims and seriousness of purpose. Their moralistic attitude, however, did not keep other enterprising merchandisers from selling less lofty souvenirs-items such as photograph albums, postcards, and trading cards that were more fun and less tied to ideology (see Figs. 1, 8). An online exhibition of such materials, designed to accompany the book, is available at

The projects described here represent only a fraction of the yearlong series of happenings across New York planned to celebrate what is being officially recognized as the state's four hundredth anniversary. A look at the exhibitions, festivals, sporting competitions, boat rides, and other commemorative events scheduled, which may be found at, almost makes one think we are back in 1909 again.

Dutch New York between East and West: The World of Margrieta van Varick · Bard Graduate Center, New York · September 17, 2009 to January 3, 2010 ·

Mapping New York's Shoreline, 1609-2009 · New York Public Library · September 25, 2009 to June 26, 2010 ·

1609 · New York State Museum, Albany · July 3, 2009 to March 2010 ·

Amsterdam / New Amsterdam: The Worlds of Henry Hudson · Museum of the City of New York · through September 27, 2009 ·

New Amsterdam: The Island at the Center of the World · South Street Seaport Museum, New York · September 12, 2009 to January 3, 2010 ·

River Views of the Hudson River School · Thomas Cole House, Catskill, New York · to October 31, 2009 ·

Glories of the Hudson: Frederic Edwin Church's Views from Olana · Olana Historic Site, Hudson, New York · to October 12, 2009 ·

Home on the Hudson: Women and Men Painting Landscapes, 1825-1875 · Boscobel Restoration, Garrison, New York · June 7, 2009 to September 7, 2009 ·

1 The Fulton Centennial Celebration Committee had originally planned to commemorate the event in 1907, but in January 1906 the Fulton committee joined the Hudson Ter-centenary Joint Committee in proposing a dual celebration capitalizing on the close relationship between Hudson and Fulton's contributions to New York history. See The Hudson-Fulton Celebration, 1909, the Fourth Annual Report of the Hudson-Fulton Celebration Commission to the Legislature of the State of New York, 2 vols. (J. B. Lyon Company for the State of New York, Albany, 1910), available online at
2 For an overview of the events, see "How New-York Will Honor the Deeds of Henry Hudson and Robert Fulton," New York Times, September 19, 1909. 
3 "Wright to Attempt Long Flights Here," ibid., August 24, 1909. 
4 See "To Build the New Clermont," ibid., March 22, 1909; "Adopt Hudson-Fulton Stamp," ibid., August 18, 1909; and "250,000 Hudson-Fulton Stamps," ibid., September 26, 1909. 
5 Kenneth T. Jackson, "Foreword" to Kathleen Eagen Johnson, The Hudson-Fulton Celebration: New York's River Festival of 1909 and the Making of a Metropolis (Fordham University Press, New York, for Historic Hudson Valley, Tarrytown, N. Y., 2009), pp. 15-16. 
6 Ibid., p. 16. 
7 Mark F. Rockefeller, "Special Message," ibid., p. 7. 
8 "Hudson-Fulton Programme," New York Times, September 27, 1909. 
9 "200,000 in Children's Fete," ibid., July 17, 1909. 
10 "Hudson-Fulton Programme." 
11 "Thick Haze Bedims Fulton Beacons," New York Times, October 10, 1909. 
12 Ibid. 
13 See Frances Gruber Safford, "The Hudson-Fulton exhibition and H. Eugene Bolles," The Magazine ANTIQUES, vol. 157, no. 1 (January 2000), pp. 170-175; and Amelia Peck, "Robert de Forest and the founding of the American Wing," ibid., pp. 176-181.
14 Kathleen Eagen Johnson to Elizabeth Pochoda, February 2, 2009.

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by Émile Jacques Ruhlmann (1879-1933), 1926. Macassar ebony, amaranth, and ivory. Metropolitan Museum of Art. By Cynthia Drayton

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