Hudson-Fulton Celebration began 106 years ago this week. Starting on September 25, 1909, over a million New Yorkers and tourists enthusiastically joined in the two-week festivities to commemorate the tricentennial of Henry Hudson’s discovery of the river that now bears his name and the centennial of Robert Fulton’s invention of the steamboat.

Hudson Fulton Celebration, 1909, Float 32, Publishing the Constitution, 1909. Unidentified Photographer. PR 268, Hudson-Fulton Celebration Collection, New-York Historical Society, 82517d.

Washington’s Farewell Float, Hudson-Fulton Land Parade, September 25- October 9, 1909. Unidentified Photographer. PR-002-205, New-York Historical Society, 81313d.

An exclusive committee consisting of the United States’ most elite businessmen, including J.P. Morgan and Andrew Carnegie spent four years planning the celebration. Together they designed pavilions and organized fêtes and parades for the occasion. The event lauded New York as a global city at the heart of American progress and at the center of the nation’s emerging identity as a world power.

Human Flag, Yonkers, Hudson Fulton Celebration, September 25- October 9, 1909. Unidentified Photographer. PR 268, Hudson-Fulton Celebration Collection, New-York Historical Society, 82531d.

Among the impressive parades and parties across the five boroughs was a historic flyover enjoyed by over a million onlookers. Wilbur Wright of the famed Wright brothers successfully completed a 20-mile flight over the city on October 4. For many, it was their first glimpse of an airplane. During the festivities, many parts of the city were illuminated for the first time—500,000 light bulbs lit up New York’s most famous monuments. The Statue of Liberty, Grant’s Tomb, and the Washington Arch were cast in an electrified glow.

Washington Arch lit up for the Hudson-Fulton Celebration, September 25- October 9, 1909. Unidentified Photographer. PR 268, Hudson-Fulton Celebration Collection, New-York Historical Society, 82512d.

And if you’re interested in learning more about New York technological history, be sure to check out our upcoming exhibition, Silicon City: Computer History Made in New York. The show opens on November 13!

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