It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. So it goes for two ships and their diametrically contradictory paths through history.
The Half Moon is a full scale replica of the original Dutch ship of exploration sailed by Henry Hudson for the Dutch East India Company in 1609. The original Half Moon was the first European ship to document entry into what we now call the Delaware Bay and River, and to explore the Hudson River to its navigable limits.
The Hermione is a full scale replica of the French ship that brought LaFayette to America in 1780 and which joined Admiral de Grasse’s fleet for the Battle off the Capes on the lower Chesapeake and the siege at Yorktown. The ship then sailed to Philadelphia in 1781 where the Continental Congress visited and paid tribute to it.
The Half Moon is operated by the New Netherland Museum, a non-profit, educational institution, as a traveling museum dedicated to public education about life in New Netherland during the 17th century.
The Hermione replica was conceived twenty years ago when a small group met together and discussed the idea of reconstructing the Hermione. Now it is one of the most authentically built Tall Ships ever.
The Half Moon was part of the Quadricentennial in 2009 celebrating Hudson’s discovery of the river which would later bear his name.
The Hermione project envisions a sail to America in 2015 to bring to life the voyage made by LaFayette and to re-affirming the historic relationship between the United States and France.
The Half Moon remains fully operational, and has sailed as far as Lake Michigan and south to North Carolina. Most of its time is spent operating in the historic waters of New Netherland, with extensive operations on the Hudson River and extending outward to the Delaware River and Bay and to the Connecticut River.
The Friends of Hermione-Lafayette in America (FOH) aim to develop a multi-faceted Education & Outreach Program that will prepare for the Hermione’s arrival, run throughout the voyage, and become part of the American education system long after Hermione returns to France. Such programs are, and will be, designed to highlight the theme of the oft-forgotten French contribution to the American Revolution for students, teachers and parents.
The Half Moon arrived in Albany in the spring of 1999 with a crew of student sailors from area middle schools and opened for tours with great fanfare and high expectations for public programs. The resounding success of that voyage, and the programming that has continued to expand over the past fifteen years, is due to the commitment of an incredible group of people who range from as far as Asia, through Europe, and the United States who have committed their time and talents to keeping this programming going. Since then it has produced several education and curriculum guides and booklets for use by teachers and in the classroom as part of its educational outreach efforts of over more than a decade.
The Hermione School Exchange Program will continue, at the initiative of teachers and school leaders, to explore the historic friendship between France and the United States. The Hermione School Exchange Program will establish annual contacts between American and French public and private schools, first on the Atlantic seaboards of both countries and then across both nations.
Under the initiative of FOH and the National Washington Rochambeau Revolutionary Route Association Inc. (W3R® US), beginning in September 2015, there will be an annual program of educational dialogue between French and American schools about Lafayette, Hermione and the French and American Revolutions. This dialogue will be carried out on three levels, including 5th, 8th and 10th grades in the US and their counterparts in France where American History, the Atlantic Community, or World History is taught.
1. Croton Harmon High School, Croton, NY and Lycée Jean Dautet, La Rochelle, France
In cooperation with the French American Cultural Exchange, a nonprofit organization chartered by the State of New York, FOH will collaborate on developing lessons units, projects and content about Lafayette, the Hermione Frigate and the American Revolution, with the following schools and community centers.
Participating New York City High Schools:
– Bronx International High School
– Manhattan International High School (Manhattan)
– Claremont International High School (Bronx)
– International Community High School (Bronx)
– International High School at Crotona (Bronx)
– Brooklyn International High School
– International High School at Lafayette (Brooklyn)
– GED+ Jamaica Learning Center (Queens)
– International High School at Prospect Heights (Brooklyn)
– NYFACS, New York French American Charter School (Harlem)
– Malian Cultural Center (Bronx)
– Haitian Americans in Action, Bethanie SDA Church (Brooklyn)
– Haitian Americans in Action, Ebenezer SDA Church (Brooklyn)
The Half Moon and its parent New Netherland Museum have conducted periodic teacher workshops over the years in various venues.
The Hermione was the subject of a teacher workshop on May 21, 2014, hosted by the New-York Historical Society, in partnership with FOH in America.
The Dutch have been the subject of numerous exhibits from the New York State Museum to the New-York Historical Society amplified by presence of many Dutch sites in New York and the Hudson River Valley. It is closely affiliated wit the New Netherland Institute in the NYS Library and participates in an annual conference on the Dutch in New York. However, there is no Dutch Path through History and rarely are there teacher programs which visit the Dutch sites in the state. These Dutch sites are listed in the Ramble and Path weekends.
The Hermione will be the subject of an exhibit at the New-York Historical Society during 2015.
The Half Moon project led to an initiative by then Governor George Pataki to establish a permanent home for the Half Moon on the Albany waterfront – a proposal that unfortunately was dropped in the aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center.
The Hermione kickoff event was a gala held October 14 onboard the Intrepid under the generous corporate sponsorship of Moët Hennessy for more than 600 diplomats, dignitaries, guests and Francophile supporters from across the globe. Present at the Gala was Bertrand Lortholary, Consul General of France in New York, as well as The Honorable and Mrs. Craig R. Stapleton, former U.S. Ambassador to France. To begin the evening’s ceremonies, the first-ever Friends of Hermione-Lafayette In America Leadership Award was presented to Dr. Henry A. Kissinger by FOH-LA President Miles Young. The irony of meeting in New York City, the city on which Washington was fixated but avoided attacking before heading for Yorktown in part due to Rochambeau, was lost on everyone.
The Half Moon’s situation in New York has become bleak, its future untenable. Almost simultaneously with the Hermione gala, Chip Reynolds, Director, New Netherland Museum and Captain, Replica Ship Half Moon, issued a statement (bold emphasis mine):
We have kept this programming going unabated, but still face two unrelenting obstacles: the lack of a permanent berth and programming site for the Half Moon, and a substantial annual budget shortfall.
It is in this context that Andrew Hendricks, MD, the founder and Chairman of the New Netherland Museum, invited representatives from the Westfries Museum in Hoorn, The Netherlands, to visit the Half Moon and consider taking ownership of the vessel for permanent placement at their museum north of Amsterdam.
This past weekend the Director of the Westfries Museum and an elected official from Hoorn toured the Half Moon and our office in Albany. They were most impressed with the operation, and indicated serious interest in taking ownership of the vessel and moving it to Hoorn. According to them, and to news articles in Dutch newspapers, municipal officials in Hoorn will vote on this proposal at a meeting later this year.
Irrespective of what the officials in Hoorn decide, the outcome is clear: continued operation of the Half Moon in our current capacity is financially unsustainable.
Unfortunately, I do not have a solution to offer; we have pursued many options over the years, but none have come to fruition. While several concepts remain as possibilities, no person or entity in New York has so far been prepared to take ownership of the Half Moon and move forward with a larger plan.
French involvement in the American Revolution will be the subject of a Gilder Lehrman Institute in 2015. Ironically Lewis Lehrman once was a candidate for New York State governor. The Institute he co-founded rarely if ever runs summer programs in New York on the history of New York or involving visiting the historic places of New York..
The contrast between these two ships passing in the night couldn’t be more stark. Unfortunately, both of them may be sailing to Europe next year.
The Hermione will sail as part of its scheduled plan to return home.
The Half Moon will sail to its new home in the Netherlands because the state and city which ignore the 350th anniversary of becoming New York and not New Netherland has no interest in the ship which arrived here 55 years earlier.
Maybe on the 500th anniversary of Hudson’s arrival there will be some interest again in the ship he sailed.