A box of old New York hotel keys
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    Auction Finds

    Ticket office sign for Day Line to New York

    I approached the old sign in much the same way that I approached most of them: I was innately curious about what it was selling. As I got closer, I saw that it was not a sign but appeared to be the façade of a ticket booth.

    It read “Day Line To New York. Ticket Office.” I wasn’t sure what it referred to, but I was anxious to find out. The sign, though, held on to its secrets; there was not another word printed on it to give me any idea about where it had originated.

    Hudson River Day Line

    An up-close view of the Day Line ticket sign. Does it refer to the Hudson River Day Line fleet of steamboats?

    So I went Googling for an answer. The closest I came was the Hudson River Day Line, a steamboat company that operated between New York City and Albany, NY, for 85 years. It distinguished itself as a fleet for passengers rather than cargo (as most apparently were).

    Did this sign come from one of its ticket offices? Had it seen thousands of passengers stand in line to buy tickets for a ride aboard one of the steamboats of the “great white fleet,” as it was apparently called? Its steamers were “fitted up in the most elegant style, exclusively for passengers. Their great speed, fine orchestras, spacious saloons, private parlors and luxurious accommodations render them unexcelled,” according to an entry in the May 1915 International Railroad Journal.

    The steamboats offered an “unequaled opportunity of viewing the magnificent scenery of the Hudson by daylight,” according to the journal. Except on Sundays; they didn’t operate on that day.

    Hudson River Day Line

    A full view of the Day Line ticket sign at auction.

    “As the daylight passenger of today sits in his easy chair on the cool spacious deck of one of these floating palaces listening to the soft harmonious strains of the orchestra, he looks out over the beautiful panorama of blue, dreamy, haze-covered mountains, valleys and woodlands, and loses himself in pleasant reverie,” fawned the 1915 book “The Hudson River Today and Yesterday.”

    An early photo of a parlor on the Hendrick Hudson in the 2011 book “Steamships on the Hudson River” showed Tiffany sconces on the walls, comfortable seating and a deck. The line also sold souvenir postcards of the trip and its steamboats, and published four issues of its Hudson River Day Line magazine from May to October.

    Hudson River Day Line

    A steamboat in the Hudson River Day Line fleet in Albany, NY, circa 1904. From the Library of Congress.

    Apparently, this was not a mode of travel for those without means. I could not find out how much it cost to take the trip up or down the Hudson, but I’m sure it was more than many could afford.

    If the sign/façade at auction was for the Hudson River Day Line, it had a lot of history behind it. The company launched its first steamship, the Daniel Drew, in 1863, followed by a succession of others into and through the 20th century. Among them were the Hendrick Hudson, the Robert Fulton and the Washington Irving (the largest in the fleet, which could carry 6,000 passengers). Built in 1913, the Washington Irving sank in 1926.

    The heyday of the Day Line steamers was the 1920s, according to the New York State Library website. The Depression, the country’s love affair with the automobile and other forces caused its demise. It discontinued service in 1948, with the Robert Fulton making the last journey from Albany to New York. The company was sold to another line.

    Hudson River Day Line

    A circa 1923 brochure from the Hudson River Day Line with photos of scenes along the route. From the oldimprints.com website.

    It was not the only fleet making the trip. Others included the Hudson River Night Line (which was operated by another company and taken over by the Day Line after a bankruptcy in 1932. It was later sold), Peoples Line, Citizens Line and Catskill Evening Line.

    I wasn’t around when the sign/facade sold, so I’m not sure how much it went for. I’m more interested, though, in whether it referred to the Hudson River Day Line. I’d love to hear from anyone who can identify it.


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