In large part due to her lasting fame and her relatively slow dismantling, many artifacts survive from the Mary Powell. Although some have had different homes over the years, when the Hudson River Maritime Museum was founded in 1980, many artifacts made their way from private collections to the museum, along with correspondence from Absalom Lent and Absalom Eltinge Anderson, ephemera including advertisements, time tables, and more, plus hundreds of photographs, many of which we have shared as part of this exhibit.
Tracking Artifacts Through Time
Almost all of the following artifacts, often shown in tandem with older photos acquired by Donald C. Ringwald, are currently on display at the Hudson River Maritime Museum.
The Mary Powell's famous bell, which originally rested behind her pilot house, went first to Bear Mountain, where it signalled steamboat departures at the steamboat dock. Later, it went to Indian Point Park, a Hudson River Day Line recreational park at Indian Point in Peekskill, where it also signaled steamboat departures. Eventually it made its way to the Hudson River Maritime Museum, where it resides today. While it is not rung as often as it was when it was on the Mary Powell, its loud clang delights visitors of all ages.
The whistle of the Mary Powell originally was repurposed aboard the Hudson River Day Line passenger steamboat Robert Fulton. Later, it was displayed at the Albany Institute of History and Art, before arriving at the Hudson River Maritime Museum, where it is currently on display, on loan from Bill Ewen, Jr.
Perhaps most famously, the pilot wheel of the Mary Powell made its way to the Senate House Museum, where it stayed until 2019. The Hudson River Maritime Museum gratefully received the pilot wheel on loan from the Senate House State Historic Site especially for this exhibit.
This lifeboat from the Mary Powell is unique - a wooden boat covered in what appears to be strips of zinc. This makes it very heavy, but remarkably well-preserved. Rescued by Chester and Ruth Glunt, who donated it to the Hudson River Maritime Museum in 1981, the lifeboat is on permanent display in the museum.
The lunette was a decorative wooden piece that centered on the diameter of the paddle wheel boxes. This is one of a pair. Note the decorative, entertwined "MP" in the center. The lunette in the museum's collection has been on display for decades, as it is one of staff and visitor's favorite artifacts. It is currently on display as part of the Mary Powell exhibit.
The name board of the Mary Powell was lost to fire with the destruction in 1957 of the cabin made from her timbers. But her stern boards survived. In this photo acquired by Donald C. Ringwald we see a young Billy Mabie displaying the stern boards at his father Roger Mabie's house in Port Ewen, NY. Roger Mabie later donated the boards to the Hudson River Maritime Museum.
The "Mary Powell" stern board is picutred here on display in the museum - the "Rondout, NY" stern board is on display on the other side of the pilot wheel.
The wooden block from the Mary Powell was donated in 1997 by Dorothy Alexander. The three coat hooks from the Mary Powell were used in the captain's cabin and were donated in 2020 by the Redfield, Rodie, and Shultz families.
As you can see in the historic photo, the Mary Powell had a number of masts to hold the guidewires that made up her superstructure - these wires helped hold the boat together and prevent twisting or buckling from the torque of the steam engines. She also had several flagpoles. These, especially the flagpole tops, which are made of zinc and were originally painted gold, were often saved. Two mast caps are currently on display in the exhibit, the one labeled "Mary Powell" was donated by Ines Cline in 1991.
Sadly, the Goddess of Liberty figure from the Mary Powell is not currently on display at the Hudson River Maritime Museum, but is housed in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History as part of the The Eleanor and Mabel Van Alstyne American Folk Art Collection. You can view the full collection listing here.
Placed on the pilot house of the Mary Powell in 1863, the Goddess of Liberty represents Columbia - the personification of the United States before the invention of Uncle Sam in the 1910s. Whether or not she represented abolitionist sentiments of the Anderson family, given her installation during the height of the American Civil War, is unclear. But she remained the figurehead aboard the Mary Powell until her removal sometime in the 1890s.
Previously Unseen Artifacts
Many of the following artifacts have not been seen outside the Hudson River Maritime Museum or its archives, or are on loan from other museums and private collectors.
The letter reads,
"Capt. Absalom Anderson's Hat
"This hat was given to me by Valerie Capowski, widow of Dr. William Capowski, of Milton, NY, who told me that the hat was given to the doctor by descendants of Capt. Anderson, who had assured the doctor that this was the Captain's dress hat which he wore during the period when he was the captain of the Mary Powell."
Sept. 1960, William H. Austin.
To accompany the hat, the Klyne Esopus Museum in Port Ewen, NY graciously loaned these two items to the Hudson River Maritime Museum for display. The name plate reading "A. L. Anderson" was likely installed on board the Mary Powell during Absalom Lent Anderson's tenure as captain. The small case holds a daugerrotype of Absalom Lent Anderson as a young man, possibly from when he first became captain of the Mary Powell in the early 1860s. The image pictured here is a copy of the daugerrotype, so the case may continue to protect it from the light and degradation.
Donated to the museum in 2003 as part of the Donald C. Ringwald Collection, Ringwald acquired this table from the Mary Powell by former first mate Philip Maines. It has been on display in the museum since that time.
Several luggage tags survive from the Mary Powell - unsurprisingly, as they were an easy souvenir. The tags were given to the passengers in exchange for checking their luggage. The passengers would return them to retrive their luggage at their destination port.
Numbers 437 and 375 were donated to the museum in 1981 by Alexander Olcott. Number 226 was donated by Mary Van Valkenburgh in 1986. Number 373 was donated in 1992 by Thomas W. Miller. Number 49 is on loan from Jack Weeks.
This steam pressure gauge from the Mary Powellwas saved and lovingly mounted and labeled, "Mary Powell." It was donated to the museum in 1987 by Jack Motrie.
This small iron and brass stove, enameled in robin's egg blue, was originally located in the captain's cabin of the Mary Powell. It was donated in 2020 by the Redfield, Rodie, and Shultz families.
This elegant folding deck chair from the Mary Powell is made of wood with caned back, seat, and leg rest. On loan from G. M. Mastropaolo, it is currently on display at the museum.
This brass boiler plate from the Mary Powellwas from a set of boilers built for the Powell in 1904 by Towsend Downey Shipbuilding Company of New York. Hudson River Maritime Museum Collection.
This electric lantern, used aboard the Mary Powell sometime after electric lights were installed in the winter of 1887-88, is a unique artifact in the museum's collection. This particular lantern was likely meant for use by the crew. Designed to either plug in to direct current lines or unplugged for use powered by an internal battery, this was likely used in the engine room. It is currently on display as part of the Mary Powell exhibit.
If you would like to see all of these artifacts in person, and more, please visit the Hudson River Maritime Museum for its new Mary Powell:Queen of the Hudson exhibit, which this online exhibit is companion to.