Visitors to the North River Historic Ship Festival at Hudson River Park in Lower Manhattan will have the opportunity Saturday, June 22nd, to experience New York history on the Hudson River aboard the 1907 tug Pegasus. A limited number of tickets will be available for walk-up visitors that day at Pier 25.
This tug, originally named S. O. Co. No. 16, was one of four sister tugs built to serve waterside refineries and terminals for the Standard Oil Company of New Jersey. She also served auxiliary fireboats, lighter barges carrying petroleum products, and docking ships. During her first ten years in service, she aided large sail-powered ships in and out of New York Harbor that were used to transport wooden crates filled with cans of kerosene to the Orient. Steam tankers had been around since the 1880s for this purpose but ports in New York and Philadelphia continued to rely on sailing ships.
Standard Oil had several refineries in the area: Brooklyn, Long Island City, Jersey City, but the largest one was on Constable Hook, Bayonne, New Jersey. In addition to coming to the aid of sailing ships, oil company tugs were also used to transport tanks or drums filled with refined petroleum products to either ships docked at other terminals or to New Jersey railway yards. Such products included fuel oil, lubricants, and illuminating oils.
After serving the oil industry for 45 years, S. O. Co. No. 16 was sold to McAllister Towing for use as a harbor tugboat. Her name was changed to John E. McAllister. While on a job in Norfolk, she was purchased by Hepburn Marine and renamed Pegasus. She was brought back to New York for general towing of oil barges and railroad carfloats within the harbor. She retired at the age of 90 in 1997 and has since been undergoing restoration supervised by Captain Pamela Hepburn.
Pegasus serves as a floating museum and as a floating classroom telling the story of tugs and the changes that have taken place in the Port of New York/New Jersey during the 20th century. She visits other seaports as part of her education mission. The Tug Pegasus Preservation Project is ongoing and a volunteer effort. To quote from the website, “We need rustbusters, painters, deckhands, rope workers, captains, engineers, cooks, navigators, galley slaves, mates, and muckers. Skalleywags and mutineers need not apply.”
Written by: Cynthia Collins, Museum Correspondent