Cornell Steamboat Company Barges and Boats

Along Rondout Creek in Kingston, New York, are the remnants of barges from the Cornell Steamboat Company.

Along Rondout Creek in Kingston, New York, are the remnants of barges from the Cornell Steamboat Company which was founded in the late 1840s by Thomas Cornell in nearby Rondout. 2 3 After working at a family-owned dock and general store along the Delaware & Hudson Canal, Cornell became part-owner of the steamer Telegraph in 1847. As river traffic blossomed in the decades following the opening of the Delaware & Hudson and Erie Canals, steamboats began towing barges instead of loeading them onboard. As early-model passenger steamboats aged, Cornell acquired them, stripped them down to their hull, and converted them to serve as towboats.

In 1850, Cornell obtained the contract for towing Delaware & Hudson Canal Company barges and later expanded into the manufacture of tugboats. 3 By 1880, the Cornell Steamboat Company boasted more than 60 vessels and was the dominant towing operation on the Hudson River. In 1900, the company’s passenger fleet were abandoned so that the company could focus on its more profitable towing operations. 2

Business began to decline for Cornell after the Delaware & Hudson Canal was shuttered in 1904. 3 At the same time, demand began to wane for the shipment of ice and brick for which the company was dependent upon for revenue. Faster and cheaper railroads and improved highways led to further decay at Cornell and what remained was sold to its largest customer, the New York Trap Rock Corporation, in 1958. 2 3 After erecting a new vessel in 1960 for the sole purpose of moving stone barges between New York City and its quarries in the Upper Hudson valley, the company was liquidated in 1963. 3 Whatever remained after was acquired by by the Red Star Towing Company of Brooklyn in 1964. 2

Numerous barges from Cornell, anchored for years along Rondout Creek, were abandoned and eventually sank in place. 1



  1. Medenbach, Deborah. “Go back in time on Rondout.” Times Herald-Record, 17 Dec. 2010.
  2. Cornell Steamboat Company.” Tugboat, 2023.
  3. Platt, Frances Marion. “The life & times of Rondout transport tycoon Thomas Cornell.” Hudson Valley One, 17 Jan. 2020.

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