HALF MOON: An Equally Exciting Life for a Replica

The 1909 replica of Half Moon at anchor Spuyten Duyvil Creek, October 2, 1924 Negative # 1984.187.13965F

In September of 1609, Henry Hudson, aboard ship Half Moon (Dutch: Halve Maen) with his mixed Dutch and English crew, arrived at the mouth of “The Great North River” (later to be known as the Hudson River). Although he was not the first European to discover the river, Hudson and his crew were the first to sail any distance up the river exploring the shorelines and banks and looking for the Northwest Passage. They encountered natives (with mixed results) and were in wonder of the abundance of trees and fruits. Hudson’s mate and log-keeper Robert Juet wrote: “The Landes … were as pleasant with Grasse and Flowers, and goodly Trees, as ever they had seene, and very sweet smells came from them.”

On September 25, 1909, a replica of Half Moon left the Brooklyn Navy Yard and entered the Hudson as part of the Hudson-Fulton Celebration in commemoration of the 300th anniversary of Hudson’s discovery of the Hudson River and the 100th anniversary of Robert Fulton’s first commercial application of the paddle steamer in 1807. A replica of Fulton’s Clemont was built by the Staten Island Shipbuilding Company from the careful research of an appointed committee. The researchers for the Half Moon replica scoured the archives of the VOC (Dutch East India Company) and Robert Juet’s log looking for details of the type and size of the ship for the time period and decided on a set of plans thought to be a sister ship. The keel was laid October 1908 and launched April 1909. She was put aboard a Holland-American Line steamship Soestdyk and transported from Rotterdam to New York.

The Hudson-Fulton Celebration took place September 25, 1909 to October 11, 1909. The lengthy planning, 1905-1909, was organized by a group of wealthy and influential New Yorkers including J.P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie and others called the Celebration Committee. The event not only highlighted the maritime achievements of Hudson and Fulton, it also gave a venue for Wilbur Wright to fly around the Statue of Liberty and on October 4 he made a flight to Grant’s Tomb over the Hudson, where perhaps 1 million people witnessed their first airplane flight. And the replicas Half Moon and Clermont were included in Celebration’s grand naval parade of American and foreign warships.

The Hudson River Day Line purchased the replica of Clermont in 1910 and she served as a transportation museum and a historic ship attraction until the company eventually lost interest in keeping her as a money-making attraction. They kept her presentable at Kings Point, NY until the economic impact of the Great Depression. It is reported that she was broken up in 1936.

In 1924, NYC Park Commissioner Francis D. Gallatin was determined to save the replica of Half Moon that had been lying at anchor up the Hudson. The replica had been plundered of her sextant, quadrant, bronze and brass fittings. It was also reported that at one time the replica had been a refuge for bootleggers. Commissioner Gallatin planned to bring Half Moon to Spuyten Duyvil Creek and also make a memorial to Hudson under the tulip tree where legend had it Hudson wanted to trade with the natives.

Later that year on September 27, 1924, the community of Inwood at Spuyten Duyvil Inlet welcomed the replica of Half Moon towed by tug Libbie Barber. Hudson and his crew of high school swashbucklers were dressed in their feathered caps, leather suits and clanging swords and provided great amusement to the Boy Scouts and Girls Scouts present. Pictured here is Half Moon on October 4, 1924, a few days after the celebration. Unfortunately, she did not find a permanent home at Spuyten Duyvil Creek. She was towed back up the Hudson and was destroyed by fire July 22, 1934.

— Carol Mowrey