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The Half Moon and The Hermione: A Tale of Two Ships

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 HermioneThe 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.

Participating Schools:

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)

Elementary Schools:
– NYFACS, New York French American Charter School (Harlem)

Community Centers
– 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.

12 thoughts on “The Half Moon and The Hermione: A Tale of Two Ships

  1. As someone who’s been actively involved with the Half Moon and New Netherland Museum for well over a year, calling this news disheartening is woefully understating the disappointment many of us feel about this news. Sadly, it’s a reflection of how the state (as well as the general public) fails to truly appreciate its own culturally and historical legacy. A part of me is hopeful that we’ll be able to keep the Half Moon here, but the cynical side has accepted the fact that the Half Moon will soon find her new home on the other side of the Atlantic.

  2. Thank you Peter for the dimension and support.

    Please allow me to elaborate a little as we all care for the Dutch history as well for the Half Moon.

    Last October 11th it was 400 years ago New Netherland saw its light, as it became a region in North America recognized by the Dutch Staten General, the Dutch Government at that time. That is to my humble opinion the birthday of New York, Albany or the region in a native European context but they seem to forget or ignore. Fort Nassau symbolizes that 1614 moment but it is somehow also amazing that at the last New Netherland seminar were the fort’s construction and location stood central, did not recognize the important fact of the becoming of New Netherland 400 years ago and recognized the men involved. While the New Netherland Institute is joining events of the English birthday 350 years New York and New Jersey which ironically commemorating it also as the conquest of New Netherland. In fact the 350 years events could even be seen as a commemoration of the English colonization.

    With the arrival of Hudson in 1609 (In the service of the Dutch on a Dutch ship) and the triggering that Dutch fur traders who either had to secure their fur trade or geared up to establish that in the area, anchored the Dutch presence by establishing solid relationships with the local native communities respecting each other’s sovereignty that lead to the creation of New Netherland in 1614 and building of a Fort. For sure was a trading house because it was all about trade. It was even a free trading zone as the traders established that even Iroquois could come and trade there even it was in Mohican territory. All that created the foundation for the Dutch to adopt the region officially and establish Fort New Amsterdam and Fort Orange in 1624. (25)

    Something really important (even beautiful) happened there on that Castle Island and what Fort Nassau actual symbolizes. But it seems of nobody’s really interest except a few and the discussion goes just about its exact location and how it looked like as that is the most important. But is it really? All attention and credit goes as history tells us to 1624 when New Netherland got its official adoption papers by the Dutch Staten General and it became a West Indie Company guarded and exploited territory. The Dutch most of the time bought all the property they worked on and with and kept a way more respectful and friendly attitude towards the indigenous peoples who they still regarded as the rightful inhabitants, owners. Of course that eroded quickly away as colonization has its own rules.

    But somehow amazing that the Natives last year commemorated that “moment” according to their own history which just deserves respect even though they may have used it maybe for political purposes but what is wrong with that? Who does not do that and by the way what means do they have left? It goes about the essence and a forged or copied 19century document or question if the traders had authority to represent the Dutch or not, or that wampum beats could not be purple, (all academic arguments.) are all not relevant to what happened as for sure something important did. A lot of work is still to do here.

    1664 was a moment the region changed ownership. The new owner, England, actually stool it from the Dutch and renamed the region and cities. England just claimed it all (They did not buy a thing.) and they needed to keep the Dutch happy as they had the good relationships with the natives and that was crucial for the English, the new occupiers (Owners), to keep the peace. Of course till they gained control and did what they did and always did when colonizing.

    When America became the United States 1776 and won the war in 1783, even respecting the presence and sovereignty of the indigenous peoples of its states and continent, it would be just and logic to go back where it started as far as it goes for NY, NJ, (And DA, CT, MA) history and that is 1609, 1614, and 1624. But even though the war of independence was won on the English, the English, Anglo-Saxon sentiments and powers at be, remained very influential and managed to create an ongoing Anglo perspective on American history that is imbedded in it till today and we are as it sometimes appears conditioned to accept and believe.

    Somewhere in there is maybe the answer to be found why the Half Moon, being a Dutch ship, representing Dutch history even Hudson was an Englishman, as well as the replica ship Onrust representing the Dutch traders and the trade period, have so little real support. That a situation is created that after many years of hard work and managing to make the ships not just floating museums but educational centers for science and values of what we believe in today and working together, have to consider stopping or find support across the oceans where they came from. It is not just pitiful but kind of shameful too is it not?

    History repeats itself goes the saying and unfortunately it is true while the whole meaning and importance of history is not to make the same faults. Just go back and read (“Hoopla on the Hudson” by Lincoln Diamond.) about what happened with the first replica ship of the Half Moon that was given as a present of the Dutch to New York to participate in the 1909 tricentennial commemoration of his arrival in 1609. It is quite a sad story and gives one to think.

    I am a Dutchman, studying for 20 years the early Dutch-Native history and asking attention for the forgotten period 1609-1624 as in there is an untold story and one that deserves more recognition and historical credit as well as the men and natives involved, as till today is given. But it seems non discussable and we are somehow conditioned to believe what has been written.

    I am curious what NY and its people are going to do to make sure the Half Moon remains here and can maintain sailing on America’s waters and can maintain together with the replica the Onrust to present NY earliest European, native, heritage and can keep educating young and old and that without foreign support. But it is a shared heritage and it is logic that the sides that share, the Netherlands, maybe even Flanders and Walloon (Belgium) as we all share in that history, and New York, or Federal as it covers several states, should be supportive. I have put my part in the past 20 years and will continue to do that as now I have put my 2 cents in the advocacy for the preservation of history and search for the truth.

    I remain.

    Hubert de Leeuw.

    I apologize for linguistic mistakes and typing errors as my native tongue is not English and Dutchisms are to be expected as well I suffer dyslexia. I can’t afford to have others editing all the time. I hope you can accept and forgive.

  3. Great post Peter and Keep fighting.
    There should be sufficient resources in the State and City of New York to keep the Half Moon, which is one of the most historic ships in New York’s history, here. Although I know you were told the “ship has already sailed” to Horn, I urge you and other supporters to keep up the fight. I don’t know how strongly you have approached The De Blasio administration with its $60 billion budget, the Manhattan Borough President’s office, the City Councilmen in Lower Manhattan, as well as Dutch owned U.S. financial institutions, and American U.S financial institutions created in New York such as Chase, Citibank, Goldman Sachs, and Bank of New York all of which in some sense are derived from the voyage of the Half Moon. I also understand the Dutch government has put up not insignificant funds to rebuild Peter Minuit Park. You should also try to rally established New York City historical organizations such as the New York Historical Society and Museum of the City of New York, as well as the major University such as NYU, Columbia, and the City University behind the project. Also maybe you get convince one of the local papers (i.e. the Daily News or the New York Post) to emulate Joseph Pulitzer’s fight to save the Statute of Liberty with smail individual contributions.
    The recently formed Lower Manhattan Historical Society, which did the Saratoga Yorktown commemoration in Trinity Churchyard on October 12, will try to help. Come to the next meeting at 55 Wall Street at 1 pm on November 10. However, since this organization was only formed three months ago and has no source of funding, its resources are limited.

  4. Peter: Sorry to say that that “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” is not accurate.
    Actually, it was the Florentine explorer, Giovanni da Verrazano (Verranzano) who made the first documented voyage in to New York waters on April 17, 1524 aboard the French ship “Dauphine” . He led an exploration of the North American continental coast from Florida to Newfoundland,. Also on the voyage was Gerolamo de Verrazzano, mapmaker and brother of Giovanni
    Verrazano called the surrounding land “Angoulême” because the his patron, the king, of France, Francois I was count of Angoulême. He also called the bay enclosing the land “Santa Margarita” after the king’s beloved sister, Maruerite, Countess d’Alençon and later Queen of Navarre. His report is the first written description of New York Harbor. And said in part”
    “After a hundred leagues we found a very agreeable place between two small but prominent hills; between them a very wide river, deep at its mouth, flowed out into the sea; and with the help of the tide, which rises eight feet, any laden ship could have passed from the sea into the river estuary. Since we were anchored off the coast and well sheltered, we did not want to run any risks without knowing anything about the river mouth. So we took the small boat up this river to land, which we found densely populated.”

  5. In the past ten years I have worked with and on the Half Moon. The ship should be named as the flag ship to New York. I’ve learned that Albany hates its history and keeps it buried under buildings. The Half Moon ship should be regarded as an icon to New York. I find it discussing that New York is just casting aside our history and disgracing the men who sailed on that ship over 400 years ago. New York and the people who made this decision to sell off the Half Moon should be ashamed of their selves. The Government can throw away money on programs that benefit no one or nothing. Why can they not preserve our history. Why can they not preserve what made this country America. The people in government who turn their back to this kind of history are not very educated and have no love for this great country. If thy can not embrace what made this country America they should not be making decisions for America and its legal tax paying Americans. I sick to my stomach that this is allowed to happen.

  6. Even though the Half Moon and its Dutch traders:
    -terminated their exploration of the Hudson River at Albany;
    – built their first permanent trading house and fort at Albany in 1613-1614;
    -starting 200 continuous years of trade with the Iroquois and Algonquin Indians at Albany;
    -making Albany the oldest and longest permanent European settlement in the original 13 colonies (Jamestown was abandoned in 1699);
    ……. you will be hard pressed to find 5 people who know that.

    The lack of interest or enthusiasm in New York history can be directly attributed to our schools that teach almost no local history. I don’t think the teachers know it.

    Peter Hess

  7. Columbus, Ohio had the same issue. They built the Santa Maria, even though Columbus, Ohio has no real connection to Christopher, although the city was named in his honor. It was built in 1991 with donations. It was then a museum, and a place rented by corporations for prime seating during river events, mainly the 4th of July Celebration, Red, White, and Boom. While I understand that renting the deck to corporations was a fund raiser, it also seemed to make it something for the elite of Columbus, and created a divide between the elite and the rest of the population, who started to view it as something not available to them, unlike the zoo, for example. Hence, tours were not seen as an educational opportunity, as much as a glimpse into a world not occupied by most people. This summer it was announced it was being dismantled to make way for riverfront redevelopment, and unless $1million can be raised through donations, it won’t return. $1 million is a pretty small sum for Columbus, which has some very wealthy residents and corporations. But, unless those Red White and Boom seats are really missed, I see the money going toward the zoo/aquarium (the largest zoo in the country), COSI (the science museum), or a hospital. A boat with no real ties to the community isn’t a big deal. It also needed repairs, and has never really pulled its weight economically as a tourist draw or an event destination. While I suppose some people want a pirate wedding, it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, not to mention the anti-Columbus sentiment in recent years.

    I don’t think it is a problem limited to boats though. The Joseph Brant home in Canada has suffered the same fate. A wave of community excitement raised the funds for building, and early planners didn’t make sustainability part of that early wave of enthusiasm, believing that the home would always be valued. I think the real lessons is that fund raising needs to include some amount for future care. Raising money to provide an income stream to fund, even partially, repairs and upkeep. One of my pet peeves is the Eagle Scout rewarded for cleaning up a cemetery. He gets his award, goes to college, and then, 2 years later, one would ever know anything happened. No sustainability in the project. Though, it gives another kid an opportunity to earn the award.

  8. One of two surviving suffrage campaign wagons, artifacts from the women’s movement of the early 20th century, is in storage at the New York State Museum. (The other one is at the Smithsonian.) We want it on permanent display, especially with the centennials coming up in 1917 and 1920.

  9. On Sun, Nov 2, 2014 at 12:35 PM, Linda Dianto wrote:
    Hello Peter,
    Thanks for making us aware of the dilemma of the Half Moon.
    The loss of the Half Moon would be tragic to New Yorkers and sad to a see such history, right in our hands already, not be retained…
    Wish we could resolve, thoughts are to bring down to NYC and possibly berth locally, crossed my mind. But unsure how this could play out…we are hoping to create an historic ship District on the National Lighthouse Museum site down the road, but uncertain how entwined this history can play out locally as local historic ships are struggling in NYC, but certainly not a cause to be fought…it would be better kept in Albany most likely, but support needs to come and once again with all maritime museums, including the National Lighthouse Museum and historic ships, we are not getting the key support from the industries that we should… Those that should support this history are the very ones that have benefited by it over the years, but the current maritime industry has not delivered all around.
    Are you familiar with the Coalition of Historic Ships and their fight in NYC, just for berthing facilities ?
    Much to be reckoned with, but certainly worth fighting for…unsure how to approach at this point, but will certainly keep in back of mind as I move the NLM forward…

    Linda C. Dianto
    Executive Director
    National Lighthouse Museum
    PO Box 10296
    Staten Island, NY 10301

    Sent from my iPad

  10. Great post, Peter; thanks! I wonder if anyone has contacted the Holland Society of New York about this.
    Also, there are various online genealogy groups made up of large numbers of avid, knowledgeable descendants of the Dutch in New Netherland, who take tremendous pride and interest in their ancestors’ role in the earliest days of this region. They weigh in from all over the country, and I’m generally impressed by the amount of care taken in their historical research. I’ll share this with the groups to which I belong; I doubt that most descendants who don’t live around here are even aware of the replica, that those who are here are largely unaware that the Half Moon is in trouble (I was, until I read your article), and all will be mortified to hear of its lack of support.

  11. I am 71 years old, was a maritime graduate student at East Carolina University [Greenville, North Carolina] in 1990 and for a short period of time I crewed on a replica version of the Half Moon. I recall there was a gentleman who was the main re-enactor on board at the time that had a wonderful bell cup rapier with star cut-outs. I lost track of him and the vessel shortly after this period. I recall my wife and I saw the ship in New Bern later and it appeared sunk with the rigging and mast above the water. Is this the same ship as that built by Benton. If not, what ship is it as it was definitely a copy of the Half Moon and time was definitely spent in the crow’s nest. It also had an engine and I think someone named Cedric Spalding was affiliated with it.

    I took some photos of the replica of the Half Moon that I crewed on in North Carolina in 1990. They are long gone but I wondered if this was the same ship as that built by Nicholas Benton…if not, what ship was it?…and what became of it?

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