My 8-Year-Old Cousin Made an Accidental Trip to New York City in 1911

Recently, while searching for my Applebee cousins in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives, I found a humorous article about my cousin John Applebee, who made a solo trip to New York City without his parents’ knowledge at age 8.

An article about John Applebee, Watertown Daily Times newspaper article 14 September 1911
Source: GenealogyBank, Watertown Daily Times (Watertown, New York), 14 September 1911, page 9

This article reports:

“New York, Sept. 14 – A neatly dressed blonde boy, who said he was John Applebee, eight years old, of 888 South Pearl Street, Albany, N.Y., was brought to police headquarters today by a citizen and turned over to the children’s society, and his parents notified.

“The boy arrived in town this morning on the Albany night boat. His visit to the metropolis was rather unexpected and the result of his curiosity.

“Johnny said he boarded the night boat at Albany last night to look about the boat and while he was inspecting the vessel started off on the trip.

“Albany, Sept. 14 – John Applebee, the boy who said he made an unexpected trip to New York last night on the night boat, is a son of Alvin Applebee, an engineer of this city. The youngster is said by his relatives to be of a roving disposition and has made trips heretofore to Troy and Catskill without his parents’ knowledge.”

Imagine John’s surprise when the boat starting moving while he was on it! And imagine his parents’ shock upon learning that he was in New York City!

We get a good picture of a night boat from Albany to New York City that John might have taken via Gifford Beal’s 1915 painting The Albany Boat.

Illustration: “The Albany Boat,” by Gifford Beal, 1915
Illustration: “The Albany Boat,” by Gifford Beal, 1915, oil on canvas. Source: Pinterest.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art gives us more information on this painting and the ferry service that inspired it:

“At the period when this picture was painted, Gifford Beal was spending his summers in Newburgh, New York, where his parents lived. He knew the central Hudson River area well, and frequently used it for his settings. The trip to Albany on the Hudson River was an overnight journey from New York City, but many people traveled only as far as Newburgh, returning to the city on the boat plying in the opposite direction. Here, the passengers have probably just disembarked from the big steamboat that lies in the river below the parklike promenade, directly across from the town of Beacon. Gifford Beal, who had studied with William Merritt Chase, captured the movements and gestures of such scenes of recreation and entertainment with breezy and casual aptness.”

Source: Metropolitan Museum of Art

Looking at this painting, it’s easy to imagine the scene only four years earlier when young John Applebee made his solo trip.

Genealogy Tip: Learn the surprising stories buried in your family history by searching for your relatives in GenealogyBank’s Historical Newspaper Archives.

2 thoughts on “My 8-Year-Old Cousin Made an Accidental Trip to New York City in 1911

  1. What an interesting story! After he previously went to Troy and Catskill on his own, I would be giving the fish eye to his claim that he “accidentally” wound up in NYC. Did he end up in a career where he traveled a lot?

    1. No, he pretty much stayed and worked in Troy, New York.
      However – when he died, he was buried in Albany, New York and then, years later he was moved to a different cemetery.

      According to Find-a-Grave “Interment 17 Jan 1973 in the Mrs. Ida M. Applebee plot, section 204, lot 110 (Albany Rural Cemetery). Disinterred on 6 May 1975 to Waterford Rural Cemetery.
      ~Albany Rural Cemetery Burial Card A-937”

      Perhaps the hankering to see new places remained strong within him.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.