For two weeks in 1909, communities along the Hudson pulled out all the stops to commemorate the voyages of Henry Hudson and Robert Fulton. And New York City was the natural focus of the festivities. There were parades with elaborate floats. Flowery speeches and fireworks displays. Exhibits of the latest industrial and cultural achievements. Replicas of the Half Moon and Clermont (which accidentally collided with minor damage). Ceremonial banquets and balls. A fleet of foreign and U.S. warships. And a galaxy of millions of electric lights everywhere from the Brooklyn Bridge to Grant's Tomb.
There were even flights by aviation pioneers and rivals Glenn Curtiss and Wilbur Wright, who circled the Statue of Liberty aboard the Wright Flyer III saluted by a chorus of ships' whistles including that of the ill-fated Lusitania. In case he had any problems, Wilbur had attached a red canoe to the plane's skis so he could paddle his way to safety.
The Hudson River Valley Institute at Marist College has made it possible to view the complete 1909 Hudson-Fulton Celebration Volumes I and II. Click here to view these digitized volumes as text searchable PDFs. http://hudsonrivervalley.net/books/HF300/