Today, the Albany New York Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin remembers the celebration at Albany of the newly completed Erie Canal on November 2, 1825 with three different discussions of the celebrations.
From the Albany Chronicles, A History of the City Arranged Chronologically, compiled by Cuyler Reynolds, published in 1906:
November 2, 1825
Erie canal’s first boat, Seneca Chief, arrives at Albany, with the governor, lieutenant-governor, Mayor Spencer and other dignitaries aboard.
It was acclaimed all along the route, and in the morning as it approached Albany its coming was made known some time before by the booming of cannon.
At 10:57 it passed through the first lock into the Albany basin, which was as a bay of the river.
Immediately a series of cannon reaching from Albany to New York took up the message, and at 11:55 the return of the announcement was fired at this city.
At 11 a. m. the local celebration began with a procession of mammoth proportions, the city gaily decorated throughout, Francis I. Bradt, marshal.
On its reaching the capitol special services were held, consisting of an ode written by John Augustus Stone, sung, and addresses by Philip Hone of New York, William James, chairman of the Citizens’ committee, and Lieut.-Gov. Tallmadge.
After these exercises a collation was served at the Columbia street bridge to the Pier, elaborately decorated, and at night a grand ball at Knickerbocker Hall, at which all the fashion and wealth of the city and from around about were gathered.
From the History of the Great Lakes edited by John Brandt Mansfield, published in 1899:
The length of the canal from Buffalo to the Hudson river is 363 miles, the distance from Buffalo to New York is 513 miles. The width of the canal as constructed was 40 feet on the surface, 28 feet at the bottom, the depth of being four feet. It could pass boats of 76 tons. There were 83 locks, built of massive stone, the chambers of which were 90 x 15 feet, and they were capable of containing boats of about 100 tons!
Upon arriving at Albany a boat which passed through this canal had descended 553 feet: but her total ascent and descent in the course of her voyage was 662 feet.
First Boat. — The first boat that went down from Buffalo was the Seneca Chief. She left Lake Erie at 10 o’clock a. m. October 26, 1825, for Albany and New York, and was scheduled through to Albany, where she arrived November 2, at 1 o’clock p. m.
The first gun of the grand salute was fired at Buffalo at the precise moment of boat’s starting, and minute guns were fired all along the canal down to Albany, the gun being fired at Albany at 11 a. m. The salute then ran down the Hudson river to New York, the last gun being fired at Sandy Hook at 11:21 a. m.
The return salute began at 11:32 a. m. , and was continued through Albany to Buffalo, the last gun being fired at Buffalo 1 hour and 20 minutes later.
The committee of Buffalo citizens that went down on the first boat to Albany and New York was as follows: Hon. Samuel Wilkeson, Capt. Thaddeus Joy, Maj. David Burt, Dr. H. R. Stagg, Mr. Hernon B. Potter, Capt. M. M. Dox and Mr. Samuel Wells.
A Gift of the Gods. — Thomas L. Kenny in his tour to the lakes, while making a trip over the Erie canal in a cabin boat, soon after its opening, wrote as follows:
“It is not possible for me to convey any adequate idea of the wealth which flows upon the canal; nor of the advantages which are experienced from it by the people who live upon its borders, and those more remote settlements throughout the entire region of the Northwest.
“The truth is, the canal is in everybody’s mouth. The yeomanry, the bone and muscle of these regions, make you see in their countenances that they esteem it to be little short of a gift of the gods.
“The fact is that the canal is nothing more nor less than a great sluice of wealth; and the hardy settlers of all these regions are getting rich by the facilities that it affords them.
From the Political and Government History of the State of New York by Willis Fletcher Johnson and Ray B. Smith, published in 1922:
In the late spring of 1825 Governor Clinton, who was now one of the foremost figures in the nation, visited Philadelphia and travelled across Pennsylvania to Ohio and southward to Louisville, Kentucky, inspecting canals, roads, and other public works.
Everywhere he was received with such official and popular attention as seldom before had been given any man.
Finally, November 2, 1825, came the crowning day of Clinton’s career.
On that day the completion of the Erie canal was formally celebrated.
From Buffalo to Albany was placed an unbroken series of cannon, each within hearing distance of the report of the discharge of the next.
At a given signal the westernmost, at Buffalo, was fired; when its report was heard the next was discharged; and so on across the State to Albany.
Two canal-boats, the “Seneca Chief” and “Young Lion of the West,” came through from Buffalo to Albany, bearing Governor Clinton, the Canal Commissioners, and other officials and eminent citizens; and at Albany they passed from the canal through the final lock into the Hudson River.
Philip Hone, then an Alderman of New York (he was elected Mayor the following year), led a committee of eminent citizens of New York City and as their spokesman made an address of congratulation to the Governor.
The Albany New York Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin shows with an image of a boat on the Erie canal.