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Long before its namesake Henry Hudson sailed up the river in 1609, the Hudson had been a major travel route for Native Americans. While it did not provide the Europeans with their desired connection to the Pacific, the river opened up trade routes north to Canada and west to the Great Lakes. Until the Mississippi Valley was settled, the Hudson was America’s most prominent (and profitable) waterway. From the beginning, thousands of visitors plied its waters on their travels. The river’s dramatic scenery – the Palisades, the Hudson Highlands, the Catskills – soon became known around the world, carried on the tongues and in the letters of travelers. The Hudson and its scenery became a popular subject for artists and writers, inspired by its beauty and facilitated by its convenience to the port of New York. As publishing grew more common in the 19th century, particularly in New York, the sublime locales along the river found expression in ink, both as pictures and travel accounts. As more print views, poetry and tales were published, more travelers were attracted to the region, from all parts of the western world. This phenomenon is now about to enter its fifth century. The enduring popularity of the river has left an extraordinary historic record, both in its scope and quality. The Hudson River is an often-used term to describe much of the most distinctive landscape art and regional literature created in the United States.

The New York Public Library has created this site to make rare images and texts available to researchers, students and lovers of Hudson River history and art. These resources bring together some of The Library's most celebrated materials from the heyday of the Hudson River in the 19th century. See also "Planning Digital Projects for Historical Collections" (1999) based on initial work for the website that became "A Hudson River Portfolio."

Funding for this project was provided by the New York State Education Department, Electronic Doorway Library Program, and by an appropriation from New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.


Neil Larson, Curator  

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