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The New York Public Library holds a wide variety of 19th-century materials relating to the heritage of the Hudson River and its region. The selections below range from important works in the history of Hudson River art to representative examples of popular publications. Prints were published as artistic views for aesthetic appreciation as well as decorative display in homes around the world. Hudson River views were published in England, France and Germany, from paintings and drawings brought back by traveling artists. European artists were drawn to the primitive natural and cultural landmarks of the New World. These views were seldom created without people, buildings or structures, and thus they provide valuable information about 19th-century life along the river.

Illustrative prints also appeared in literary and historical accounts of the region. As steamboat and railroad travel increased, published guidebooks proliferated, providing both narrative and pictorial views of the river for tourists to follow as they passed along its shores. Maps were another widely-circulated form of pictorial representation of the river that provided information about the region. Later in the century, photographs and stereoscopic views replaced engravings and lithographs in published media, while the volume and variety of images multiplied from hundreds to thousands.

Five published collections of views are featured in this section. They range in date from 1820 to 1874 and represent the most popular images from the era. One set was created by an Irish watercolorist, another by an English artist, and a third by a French traveler. Additional prints are included here that served to illustrate descriptive and historical texts about the river and the different regions along its route. Media and styles changed over the period; however, certain locales and landmarks along the Hudson remained constant.

For all the Romantic fascination with the American wilderness, few 19th-century depictions of the Hudson are without evidence of civilization. As a result, early prints provide compelling documentation of the appearance of towns and buildings along the river. The selection of images illustrates some of the architectural landmarks visible from the river that attracted travelers' attention. See also Wade & Croome' s Panorama of the Hudson (1846) and Panorama of the Hudson Showing Both Sides of the River from New York to Albany (1910) which illustrate and identify numerous buildings on the river's shores.
The Hudson River inspired the first American short stories, Washington Irving's "Rip Van Winkle" and "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," published in 1819-20. The next generation of writers is represented here by prose sections from American Scenery (1840) by novelist Nathaniel Parker Willis and Picturesque America (1874) by poet William Cullen Bryant.
In the nineteenth century, American writers and artists, seeking to create a cultural identity for the nation, began to look back on the history of the Hudson and reflect on its significance. The river's central role in New York's distinctive Dutch colonial history, the Revolutionary War, the construction of the Erie Canal, and the growth of commerce and industry provided historians with gripping subject matter. Included here is a searchable text version of Benson J. Lossing's illustrated history The Hudson, From the Wilderness to the Sea (1866).

The large number of people who traveled daily along the Hudson during the 19th century, first by steamboat and later by railroad, created a great demand (and market) for guidebooks that identified and explained the sights along the shores. The earliest Hudson River guides were parts of publications that covered broader territories, such as all of New York State or the entire northeastern United States; only sections pertaining to the Hudson River are contained here. Later, the growing amount of traffic on the Hudson supported guides more specific to the region, particularly those published by steamboat and railroad companies.
Maps and Panoramas
The first pictorial representations of the Hudson River were maps. Explorers' maps reflected their reliance on the river and created a sense of the land from that perspective. Later maps of the river retained this orientation, especially those designed for travelers in the 19th century. Some of these maps were quite detailed and served also as travel guides. The desire to represent the shoreline in greater detail led to illustrative maps or panoramas. The 1846 panorama is presented here as a continuous scroll and also in panels to allow a closer examination of locations.
In the second half of the 19th century, photography and photomechanical printing took the place of the artist-produced prints that had made images of Hudson River popular for previous generations. Photographers continued to take traditional prospects and vistas but, in general, the arrival of the camera changed the way the river was represented. Romantic, pastoral views gave way to documentary and action-based images. Very early photographs of the Hudson River subjects are presented here, along with a link to the Library's Robert N. Dennis Collection of Stereoscopic Views where hundreds of additional images of the Hudson River can be found.

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