Hudson-Fulton Celebration Commission records
Language of Materials
The Records of the Hudson-Fulton Celebration Commission focus on the commission's role in orchestrating the Hudson-Fulton Celebration of 1909. The collection contains correspondence, contracts, vouchers, cancelled checks, financial and legal documents, meeting minutes, clippings, and ephemera.
The Hudson-Fulton Celebration was held September 25 - October 11, 1909 to commemorate the 300th anniversary of Henry Hudson discovering the Hudson River in 1609 and the 100th anniversary of the first commercial steamboat service, started by Robert Fulton in 1607. Communities along the River observed the celebration, with events occurring from Staten Island to Cohoes, New York.
In 1905, George B. McClellan, Mayor of New York City, and Francis W. Higgins, Governor of New York, appointed a committee of approximately 150 citizens to plan and implement a Hudson tercentennial celebration. The Mayor also formed a committee to plan a celebration honoring Fulton's contributions to the Hudson River region. In 1906, it was decided to merge the two committees and through the enactment of Chapter 325 of the Laws of 1906, the Hudson-Fulton Celebration Commission was formed on April 27, 1906.
The commission was divided into several working committees, the number increasing from 12 in the first year to 51 by the time the celebration commenced. Some of these committees were the Aquatic Sports Committee, Auditing Committee, Historical and Carnival Parades Committee, Invitations Committee, Medal Committee, Naval Parade Committee, Plan and Scope Committee, Reception Committee, and Religious Services Committee.
The New York State government appropriated about 48 percent of the funds required for the celebration, while the New York City government contributed about 24 percent of the funds. Since the federal government did not provide financial aid for the celebration, nor did any other state governments, the remaining 28 percent of required funds came from private donations made to a subscription fund set up by the commission.
The celebration was intended to not only commemorate two significant historical achievements, but also encourage "civic pride," start a "historical awakening," "assimilate" the immigrant population, and promote "international friendship" and world peace. Dignitaries from throughout the world were invited to participate, and visitors filled New York hotels beyond capacity. The celebration included banquets and receptions, various parades throughout the city, aquatic competitions, and naval parades among other festivities. Wilbur Wright was hired to perform several aerial demonstrations during the celebration, flying along the Hudson River from Governor's Island to Grant's Tomb. Upon its conclusion, the Hudson-Fulton Celebration was described as a "jubilee of happiness," whereby New York enjoyed two weeks of peace, patriotism, and prosperity.
The records are divided into 12 series:
- Series I: Correspondence
- Series II: Financial Documents
- Series III: Legal Documents
- Series IV: Organizational Materials
- Series V: Ephemera
- Series VI: Clippings
- Series VII: The Fourth Annual Report of the Hudson Fulton Celebration Commission
- Series VIII: Materials unrelated to the Hudson-Fulton Celebration
Scope and Content Note
The Hudson-Fulton Celebration Commission Records document the activities of the Commission from 1905 to 1913. The bulk of the material is from 1909 to 1911, the time in which most of the preparation and follow-up activities occurred. While the Invitation Replies subseries, as well as a few pieces of correspondence, do discuss the event's success, most of the collection focuses on preparation activites and the Commission's inner workings, rather than the celebration itself. However, The Fourth Annual Report of the Hudson Fulton Celebration Commission offer a detailed account of the Celebration, as well as insight on the event's successes.
The bulk of the collection is composed of correspondence and financial documents, particularly payment vouchers. The collection also contains legal documents, organizational materials, clippings, ephemera, and assorted materials unrelated to the Hudson-Fulton Celebration. There is very little visual material, as most of this is housed in the Print Room's collection (see Related Material).
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This collection should be cited as Hudson-Fulton Celebration Commission Records, MS 314, New-York Historical Society.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
Gift of the Hudson-Fulton Celebration Commission, 1911.