Journalist Erik Hesselberg has covered Connecticut’s waterways for decades. This hour, we preview his new book about the vibrant history of steamboats in our state, taking a trip on Night Boat to New York.
"For more than a century, overnight and day-excursion steamers had plied the route between Hartford and New York," writes Hesselberg, "carrying passengers, mail, and goods on regularly-scheduled runs. More than just transportation, a trip on a river steamer was an adventure in itself."
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— The steamboat Olver Ellsworth was the first of the CT Rierr night boats, offering regular service to New York beginning in the spring of 1824. THE MARINER's MUSEUM.png
From "Night Boat to New York" by Erik Hesselberg. "The steamboat Oliver Ellsworth was the first of the Connecticut River night boats, offering regular service to New York beginning in the spring of 1824."
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— This birds eye view of East Haddam Connecticut published by O.H. Bailey in 1888 gives some idea of the prominence of the river town in those years..png
From "Night Boat to New York" by Erik Hesselberg. "This 'bird’s-eye' view of East Haddam, Connecticut, published by O.H. Bailey in 1880, gives some idea of the prominence of the river town in those years. The quaint village was an important shipbuilding and commercial center in the eighteenth century, which blossomed into a prosperous resort area with the coming of the steamboat beginning in the 1830s. Goodspeed’s opera house is shown, just three years after its completion."
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From "Night Boat to New York" by Erik Hesselberg. "Both the steamboats Traveller and Champion, pictured in this broadside from 1851, ran on the Connecticut River. Passengers had the option of disembarking at New Haven to catch a train to Hartford or proceeding by water."
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— Middletown underway.png
From "Night Boat to New York" by Erik Hesselberg. "The steamer Middletown was a well-known sight churning up to Goodspeed's Landing in the early 1900s when this photo was taken."
Hesselberg explains that through much of the 1800s, the steamboat was a social phenomenon at the center of a recreational revolution, drawing wide swaths of the public to commune with nature and, eventually he says, to the seashore.
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