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Hudson River Pilots Association Records, 1945-1968

Identifier: SC-0002

Contents of Collection

The records include meeting minutes, a member agreement, bylaws, pilot log books, and summary ledgers. There is also a signed piece of legislation relating to regulation of pilots, New York State Senate Bill 3785 (1959), along with the pen used to sign it when it was passed into law. This bill


  • 1945-1968


Language of Materials

Materials are entirely in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Appointments to examine materials must be made in advance. Please e-mail for more information or to schedule an appointment.

Conditions Governing Use

Reproductions may be provided to users to support research and scholarship. However, collection use is subject to all copyright laws. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Historical Note

The marine pilots’ profession dates back to the seventeenth century, when the increasing size of sailing ships, particularly their larger draft, placed them in danger of running aground when attempting to enter or leave a harbor. Initially, ships’ captains would hire experienced local guides, who were familiar with the depth and potential hazards in and around their harbors, to guide their ships through these potentially treacherous waters. Over time, piloting emerged as a distinct specialty, with pilots boarding a ship entering or leaving a harbor to assume control of the vessel until it was ready to enter the open sea again.

On the Hudson River, just before a ship enters the mouth of the river, a pilot boards and steers the ship all the way to its dock. (In some areas, a special docking pilot takes over for berthing the ship.) The pilot’s work begins in Yonkers and may end as far away as Albany, a distance of 109 nautical miles. (If the ship will be traveling the whole distance, about halfway through the journey, a second pilot may take over, as total travel time is approximately 11 to 13 hours.) The pilot must board the ship from a small pilot boat, climbing a rope ladder while the larger ship is still under way (albeit moving slowly), in all weather and sea conditions, while wearing formal business attire.

On March 9, 1694, the British Colony of New York passed a law appointing experienced local seafarers as “Sandy Hook Pilots,” and a pilots’ association was chartered. Since then, pilots’ associations for the Port of New York and New Jersey, Long Island and Block Island Sound, and the Hudson River have existed, from informal aggregations to officially sanctioned organizations. The Hudson River Pilots Association was chartered in 1945.

In the March 28, 1946 Agreement and Bylaws (the organization’s charter), the organization’s purpose is stated as ensuring “equal participation of members thereof in the distribution of pilotage fees in proportion to work done” (Article II, Section 1). The concern with ensuring that each pilot receives the appropriate fees for the number of boats piloted was a chief reason for the 1895 consolidation of the New York and New Jersey contingents of the Sandy Hook Pilots Association into the single United New York and New Jersey Sandy Hook Pilots Benevolent Associations. Prior to this, nineteenth-century pilots raced their sailing vessels to be the first to reach an incoming ship, with the “prize” being the opportunity to pilot the ship into the harbor and to receive payment for this service. Although by 1945, motorized pilot boats were no longer chasing inbound ships, a concern with fair remuneration for pilots is a common theme for both pilots’ associations.

Today, the Hudson River and the Sandy Hook Pilots Associations remain separate organizations, representing the interests of pilots in their respective regions, but the same agency oversees the licensure and activities of their members: the Board of Commissioners of Pilots of New York. The Hudson River District and the Port of New York/New Jersey District are two of their three jurisdictions (the third is the Long Island and Block Island Sound District).


3.5 Linear Feet (Four standard document boxes, one half-sized document box, and one flat box)


The collection documents the activities of the Hudson River Pilots Association, the professional organization of state and federally licensed harbor pilots for the Hudson River. The collection includes pilot log books, summary ledgers, meeting minutes, a members’ agreement, bylaws, and a New York State Senate bill.

Arrangement of Materials

Materials are arranged in four series according to their function. Within each series materials are arranged chronologically. Series are as follows:

Series I: Meeting Minutes, Agreement, and Bylaws, 1945-1946

Series II: Pilot Log Books, 1945-1968

Series III: Summary Ledgers, 1945-1963

Series IV: Legislation, 1959

Physical Location

Stephen B. Luce Library, SUNY Maritime College 6 Pennyfield Avenue Bronx, NY 10465 Telephone: (718) 409-7231

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The collection was accessioned on permanent loan from the Hudson River Pilots Association on April 20, 1990.

Related Materials--SUNY Maritime College

The Records of the Board of Commissioners of Pilots of the State of New York (1845-1994) document the customary operations of the licensing board that regulates bar pilots on the Hudson River, Port of New York and New Jersey, and Long Island and Block Island Sounds.

Related Materials--Other Repositories

The Records of the Sandy Hook Pilots Association, 1694-1985, are held by the New York State Historical Documents archives in Albany, NY. This is a sister organization to the Hudson River Pilots Association that originated in the late 17th century.


Allen, Edward L. Pilot Lore, From Sail to Steam and Historical Sketches of the Various Interests Identified with the Development of the World’s Greatest Port. New York: United New York and New Jersey Sandy Hook Pilots Benevolent Associations, 1922.

Corcoran, Ian. “Hudson River Pilots Association Supports Safe Anchorages.” Boating on the Hudson and Beyond, Wednesday, August 24, 2016. . Accessed on September 26, 2016.

Duffy, Francis J. Always On Station: The Story of the Sandy Hook Ship Pilots. Fleischmanns: Purple Mountain, 2008.

Garschagen, Walter. “The River Pilot.” Hudson Valley, October 2006. http://www.hvmag/com/Hudson-Valley-Magazine/October-2006/The-River-Pilot. Accessed on September 26, 2016.

The Hudson River Pilots Association website. . Accessed on September 26, 2016.

Russell, Charles Edward. From Sandy Hook to 62o: Being Some Account of the Adventures, Exploits and Services of the Old New-York Pilot Boat. New York: Century, 1929.
Records of the Hudson River Pilots Association
Margaret Hammitt-McDonald
September 2016
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Stephen B. Luce Library Repository

6 Pennyfield Avenue
Bronx NY 10465 United States
(718) 409-7231