Thursday, July 30, 2009

All along the Hudson

The brickmaking I knew about; you can still find pieces of water-smoothed bricks at Croton Point and other places along the Hudson. (You can also find them underneath the Manhattan Bridge.) Tanning decimated the hemlocks, whose astringent bark was used to soften cowhides from South America. Iron ore, cement, and bluestone were all carved out of surrounding rock; and icehouses strawed away coolness for the summer after the very water was carved; the Hudson River was an industrial river for a long time. But whaling? Huh! I learned in Carmer’s The Hudson that the town of Hudson, 130 miles north of the Battery, was founded by Nantucketers and Vineyarders in the early 1780s. Safer there from the British Navy, they sent out whalers to the edge of the earth. Hudson boomed, and almost beat out Albany as the state capital. Poughkeepsie and Newburgh would smell the mammal fat passing them by and then send out boats as well. The financial Panic of 1837 largely ended all that (three months of frozen river had never helped), but for a while whaling in far seas made some men up the river rich. Not so rich. This is some kind of slag I found at Croton Point a couple years ago and carried back on the Metro North and the subway. There I was carrying this heavy metal glob in my fist, and nobody seemed to notice. Good ol’ New Yorkers. Top looks like some kind of molten squirt was plopped on; underside, it's volcanic and dense.