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
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
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.
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.