Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Technology In The Old West...!

Even in the old days, the advance of "modern technology" couldn't be avoided. It had to be embraced!

Those that saw the many advantages of using things like the steamboat to their full advantage could reap great financial rewards, especially with the proper funding from the boys in the backroom, if you know what I mean! Having the right contacts in all the right places made many folks rich, even in the Old West!

Mar 26, 1832:
The steamboat Yellowstone heads for Montana

The mighty American Fur Company adopts the latest in transportation technology to its business, dispatching the company's new steamboat Yellowstone to pick up furs in Montana.

A decade earlier, John Jacob Astor had formed the Western Department of his American Fur Company to begin exploiting the fur trade in the western reaches of the continent. In 1828, Astor established a large trading post called Fort Union at the strategically important point where the Yellowstone River merged with the Missouri. Located near what would later be the Montana-North Dakota state line, Fort Union allowed Astor to dominate the fur trade of the northern plains and Rockies.

With ruthless efficiency, Astor's American Fur Company steadily undercut and eliminated its competitors. The company had the financial resources to invest in competitive advantages that smaller companies like the Rocky Mountain Fur Company could not afford. Far from being a rustic backwoods operation, Astor's company was one of the most modern and progressive corporations of its day. In 1830, Astor saw an opportunity to use a new technology to further consolidate his stranglehold over the western fur trade: the steamboat.

The paddle-wheel steamboat New Orleans had begun regular service on the lower Mississippi only 18 years earlier. During the 1820s, steamboats occasionally ventured as far north on the Missouri as Council Bluffs. Now the American Fur Company boldly proposed to extend regular steam service all the way up to its Fort Union trading post at the mouth of the Yellowstone.

The company hired a Louisville shipyard to build a boat specially designed for the treacherous currents of the Missouri. Christened The Yellowstone, it was a sturdy craft with a large cargo deck to carry furs and trade goods. It had a high wheelhouse from which the pilot could see to avoid the many snags and shoals of the Missouri.

Departing from St. Louis on this day in 1832, The Yellowstone reached Fort Union in June, where the craft attracted the marveling admiration of Anglo traders and Indians alike. Thereafter, The Yellowstone and a fleet of similarly designed steamboats regularly traveled to Fort Union-when the water level was not too low or the rivers frozen.

While the American Fur Company modernized with steamboats, its less affluent competitors continued to rely on small, man-powered keelboats to move their furs and trade goods. By the mid-1830s, boats like the Yellowstone had helped Astor eliminate lesser fur companies and the American Fur Company enjoyed a virtual monopoly over the Far Western fur trade.

Guess it never hurts to have a firm monopoly in any business, especially if you're looking to get rich! Time hasn't changed that very much since the days of the old west, I reckon! The rich and powerful always seem to get more rich and powerful, often with the technology of the day as a valuable tool!

Coffee out on the patio this morning. It's in the 60s, so that's not too bad!


Sixbears said...

The rich get richer. It's an old old story.

Of course, who doesn't love steamboats?

Billy Bob said...

Due to the fact that the old Billy Bob has a certain fascination for steamboats, I Googled Yellowstone. What a beautiful craft it was. It's Texas history will astound you. Never knew that before. Thanks Jim.

Phyllis (N/W Jersey) said...

Oh how true! The rich ones are smart and use the modern technology to their advantage. A lot of smart people are out there, but they don't have the money to get started. 26 here, so will enjoy your patio! I'll have two of whatever goodies you have on the table.

linda m said...

Interesting article this morning. I always wondered what business John Jacob Astor was in. Yes, the rich still get rich. Coffee outside sounds good to me. Save the swing for me.

HermitJim said...

Hey Sixbears...
Guess that's been the story for a long time.

Steamboats are cool, for sure!

Thanks for coming over today!

Hey Billy Bob...
It sure seemed suited to the job at hand. The design was as good as it gets for the time!

Thanks, my friend, for coming over today!

Hey Phyllis...
Have to admit that some of those old boys like Astor saw the advantage to using the latest tools to advance their agenda.

Takes that kind of insight to stay successful, I reckon!

Thanks for coming over today!

Hey Linda...
I'm glad you enjoyed it! The Astors had a long history of using the latest technology to further their cause.

They made it count, that's for sure!

Thanks for coming by this morning!

Dizzy-Dick said...

When I was a kid, I would watch paddle wheel boats come up the Allegheny river as far as they could. They would come through the locks on number 9 dam and go up river to East Brady where they loaded and unloaded people and freight. Am I giving my age away?

HermitJim said...

Wouldn't it be fun to take a ride on one of those boats today?

I've been wanting to take a train trip for a while now. Only had one when I was a kid!

Trains and boats...sounds like fun, doesn't it?

JO said...

When you have the money to back your thoughts it turns out quite well most of the time.
I went on a paddle boat a few years ago it was great and road the train to Grand Canyon that was really fun.
I'll take a refill please.

Rob said...

Have you ever seen "Peacemakers" a TV series that ran on USA Next work. Talks about early police work back after the civil war. Show only ran one season, too bad because I found it interesting. I found on Hulu.

Dizzy-Dick said...

Yes Jim, that does sound like a fun thing to do. Both my Grandpas worked on the RR when they had steam locomotives. They were noisy and dirty but I loved them!!

HermitJim said...

Hey Jo...
Gonna have to relist the train ride on my bucket list, I guess!

Sounds like the train ride to the Grand Canton would be a good one!

Thanks, sweetie, for coming over today!

Hey Rob...
I haven't heard of or seen that show. Reckon I'll have to look it up!

Many thanks for coming by today!