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The Hudson–Fulton Celebration of 1909

Do you have good eyesight? How about a magnifying glass? I have a 3X magnifying glass, a heavy ornate beauty in brass, a gift from my son and daughter-in-law for Mother’s Day in 2002. I use it constantly, but if I am going to keep staring at flags on stamps, I’m going to need something stronger.

Hudson-Fulton Celebration of 1909 Two-Cent StampThe stamp in question is the one that honors the Hudson–Fulton Celebration of 1909. That was the 300th anniversary of Cap. Hendrick Hudson’s trip up an amazing river in what would eventually be the state of New York, and 100 years (plus a little) after Robert Fulton’s steamship, The Clermont, first steamed up the same river, now named the Hudson in honor of the explorer.

What sent me off on this adventure was my attempts figure out what flag was flying on the Clermont in the image on the stamp, all because a few months ago I decided it would be interesting to write about the history of our American flag as it appeared on U.S. stamps.

15 stars and 15 stripesIn 1807, the year Fulton launched his North River Steamboat—others called it the Clermont; he did not—the U.S. flag had fifteen stars and fifteen stripes. It was in fact, the flag that Francis Scott Key was so relieved to see by the dawn’s early light on September 14, 1814.

Clermont engravingOf course there were no photographs in 1809, but I did find this etching, which seems to have the stars in the right pattern, but doesn’t have enough stripes. But it is an artistic representation, and I’m sure the artist was more concerned about getting the lines of the ship right, rather than the stripes on the flag, which is waving anyway.

1909 Clermont replica

The 1909 Clermont in New York, September 25, 1909

All of which brings me to this hand-tinted photograph taken in 1909 of the replica Clermont, with a completely different flag flying on it. Other photos show the same flag—with the stars in a circle.

The Hudson–Fulton Celebration of 1909 was a huge event, years in planning. The Netherlands built the replica of the Half Moon and brought it to the United States for the celebration. Research into the original Clermont was extensive, and building the replica cost a small fortune.

stern of replica Clermont

A photo taken shortly before the Clermont replica was launched.

Was the flag wrong? Was the flag flown on the replica a contemporary nautical ensign in 1909? So far, I haven’t been able to find that information. It’s out there somewhere, I know it is … I just have to keep looking.

4 thoughts on “The Hudson–Fulton Celebration of 1909

  1. I have an etching from a page in “THE DOCUMANTARY HISTORY of the STATE OF NEW-YORK;” arranged under direction of the Hon.CHRISTOPHER MORGAN Secretary of State by E.B. CALLAHAN M.D. ALBANY: WEED, PARSONS, & CO 1849.

    The etching, of the NORTH RIVER or CLEREMONT is about 4 inches in length but has enough detail for me to differentiate the different HATS on the 9 deck passengers. I will say that I am 90% certain that the flag has the cirrcular pattern of stars.

    Below, part of the caption gives credit to another publication:
    “from a sketch by Joseph Dyer Pub’d in Wooderoft’s Origin and Progress of Steam Navigation”

    This is the ONLY page I have from the book. The cover is a photocopy.

    It is interesting to also note that despite many other pictures of the “CLEREMONT” that this one shows the aft mast as being 2/3 the height of the fore mast.

    I have 2 other CLEREMONT likenesses.. one, a small cast watch fob, shows a 7-striped flag with no star field. Obviously a detail too small to bother with on a 1/2″ square vessile.

    The other likeness I have is 5 inches long, on the bottom of a Gorham & co commemorative cast bronze releif of Fulton made for the 1909 celebration (rather rare I can only find one other in the American Numismatic Society’s database.. if anyone has info please dzug at eecis.udel.edu) It only shows the long triangular flag.

  2. Dave Z!

    Thank you so much for your information, and I apologize for not responding to you sooner. Based on your additional information, I believe the flag flown must indeed have been a maritime ensign, which would have been logical and appropriate for the original ship and the replica.

    I notice you spelled the boat name as Cleremont, and I also found spellings that way, and also Claremont (in a textbook!). I don’t know how the name was pronounced, but I’m going to guess the first “e” had a short “a” sound, rather like the British clerk=Clark example.

    When I started writing about flags on stamps, I had no idea it would be so much fun, AND educational!

    Thank you again, and Best Wishes,
    Deborah

  3. Clermont is the correct spelling! Fulton’s steamboat was never actually given the name CLERMONT. He simply called it the boat. Not known by most Fulton had two versions of his boats. The 1807 boat which most know about was rebuilt during the winter of 1807-08. He made the boat longer and wider. He coverd the paddlewheels with shorouds for protection and to prevent splashing water on passengers. He also aded more creature cumforts more berths lounges and heads. He called this boat the North River of Clermont, after the Livingston Estate in Germantown, NY. http://www.friendsofclermont.org/history/ Clermont was the North River’s homeport.

    Of note: Next year there will be a Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial Celebration. Check out http://www.exploreny400.com

    PRB

  4. Thanks for commenting Mr. Baker. It will be a great party next year, and I look forward to reading about it.

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