Two Bobs, Three Johns, Three Jims, a Nick, an Aaron, a Tom and a Boat
Of the many Hudson River steamboat lines, the one which became the best known in this country and abroad was the Hudson River Day Line. Its “white flyers” were famous for their elegance and speed, and provided the most enjoyable way to travel the Hudson River. No one could claim to have seen America without seeing the Hudson River, and the only way to properly see the Hudson River was from the deck of a Day Liner. Important foreign guests were taken for steamboat rides soon after their arrival in New York.
The company stressed “passengers only” and so it achieved a cachet of elegance the freight carriers could not boast. It reached its zenith of operations in the 1920s, at which time it had the largest and finest fleet of steamers to be found on any river. The hard times of the 1930s began the decline of the line as a through carrier to Albany, despite a flurry of activity during World War II.
On September 13, 1948, the Day Line steamboat Robert Fulton made its last run from Albany to New York City, bringing to an end the era of gracious steamboat travel on the Hudson River. This event also marked the end of regular steamboat service on the Hudson River between New York and Albany that had begun with Robert Fulton’s maiden voyage of the Clermont in August 1807.
In 1860, the steamboat Daniel Drew, owned by Daniel Drew, entered day boat service, but Drew soon sold his interest. It then was purchased at auction in 1863 by Alfred Van Santvoord and his partners, John McB. Davidson and Chauncey Vibbard, to operate as a day boat. The Daniel Drew was one of the best boats on the river, and Van Santvoord announced he would soon build a new steamboat to run with the Daniel Drew. Facing this threatened competition, Capt. Smith sold the Armenia to Von Santvoord. The steamers Daniel Drew and Armeniabegan to operate as day boats between Albany and New York on the same schedule as a single line. This combined operation was the beginning of the Hudson River Day Line.
In the first full season of the Day Line in 1864 the steamer Chauncey Vibbard was launched and paired with the Daniel Drew to provide regular steamboat service between New York and Albany. Service was offered six days a week, but never on Sunday. As one of the steamboats was traveling upriver, the other was traveling downriver. The Day Line claimed its steamboats operated under the “nine hour system.” That is, it took nine hours for the boats to complete the trip between Albany and New York City, with Poughkeepsie as the half-way point for these trips.