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"A River's Ghosts": A look at Connecticut's forgotten steamboat era

Goodspeed's Landing, with the steamboat City of Hartford, 1850s
Erik Hesselberg
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From Erik Hesselberg's "Night Boat to New York." The City of Hartford steamboat is seen pulled up to Goodspeed's Landing in this 1850s illustration.

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."

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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Cat Pastor contributed to this show which originally aired June 24, 2022.

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Katie is a producer for Connecticut Public Radio's news-talk show Where We Live. She has previously worked for CNN and News 8-WTNH. She enjoys Victorian novels and walks with her dog Sonny.
Lucy is the Executive Producer and Host of Connecticut Public's morning talk show, 'Where We Live.' She’s a longtime public radio reporter covering several beats including immigration, juvenile justice and child welfare issues, education, veterans affairs and the military.