Wednesday, October 8, 2014

A Steamboat On Western Wednesday...!

Now keep in mind this wasn't just any ol' steamboat, but the first double-decked steamboat! Pretty cool for it's time.

Despite it's size, it was able to traverse many of the more shallow rivers and allowing better access than ever before.

Oct 7, 1816:
First double-decked steamboat, the Washington, arrives in New Orleans

On this day in 1816, a steamboat with a design that will soon prove ideal for western rivers arrives at the docks in New Orleans. The Washington was the work of a shipbuilder named Henry M. Shreve, who had launched the steamboat earlier that year on the Monongahela River just above Pittsburgh. Shreve's cleverly designed Washington had all the features that would soon come to characterize the classic Mississippi riverboat: a two-story deck, a stern-mounted paddle wheel powered by a high-pressure steam engine, a shallow, flat-bottomed hull, and a pilothouse framed by two tall chimneys.

Perfectly designed for the often-shallow western rivers like the Mississippi and Missouri, the Washington proved itself on its inaugural voyage the following spring. Steaming upriver against the current with full cargo, the Washington reached Louisville in only 25 days, demonstrating that the powerful new generation of steamboats could master the often-treacherous currents of the mighty western rivers. Soon the Washington began to offer regular passenger and cargo service between New Orleans and Louisville, steaming upstream at the then dizzying speed of 16mph and downstream at as much as 25mph.

With the brilliant success of the Washington, other similarly designed steamboats followed. At the peak of the era of the paddle wheelers in 1850, 740 steamboats regularly moved up and down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, carrying three million passengers annually. Had it not been for the ready availability of this rapid transportation technology, settlement of the western United States would undoubtedly have been far slower. Many emigrants setting out for the far western part of the U.S. often cut the first stage of their long journeys short by booking passage on a steamboat to the overland trailheads at Independence, Saint Joseph, and Council Bluffs. Gold seekers heading for Montana after 1867 could even take steamboats all the way up the Missouri to Fort Benton, just below the Great Falls, cutting months off the time required for an overland journey.

By the late 19th century, though, the golden age of the western steamboat was over, a victim of cheap rail transport and diesel-powered towboats and barges. But in its era, the steamboat was as important as any explorer or trailblazer in opening the American West to widespread settlement.

It may not seem like a speedy form of transportation, but it shaved months off traveling overland for many folks. Quite a marvel for it's time, for sure!

Coffee out on the patio this morning, OK?


Rob said...

That was just a year after the battle of New Orleans!

Sixbears said...

Having travelled on a small sailboat, steamboats were actually pretty fast. A small power boat would do well to keep that pace today.

Chickenmom said...

She must have been something to see and hear! If you want to learn more about her:
Thanks, Mr. Hermit - just love steam! I'll bring bagels and cream cheese for all.

linda m said...

I would love to take a trip on the Mississippi River on a steamboat. I've looked into doing this but the cost is out of my budget. Did a one hour cruise out of Hannibal MO and just loved it. Nice way to travel.

Mamahen said...

Can you just the excitement when she was coming into dock....always thought I would love a river about some orange slices to go with CM's treat :))

JO said...

Steams sure did save a lot of travel time back then. I would love to ride one.

It rained here and looks like more is on the way. I guess this means more skeeters but I really have to finish working on the camper today. But coffee on the patio first.

HermitJim said...

Hey Rob...
I reckon they felt it was safe to tr4avel there by then.

Thanks for coming over today!

Hey Phyllis...
I reckon she was a sight to behold, for sure!

Thanks for dropping in today!

Hey Linda M...
Like most things, the cost of steamboats and trains are almost the same as flying. Even the buses are not cheap anymore!

Thanks for the visit this morning!

Hey Mamahen...
I remember in Mark Twain's stories how excited folks got when the boat came in. Guess it was an event!

Many thanks for stopping by today!

Hey Jo...
I'd like to take a train ride just for the heck of it. Only been on one and tyhat was when I was a kid.

Thanks, sweetie, for dropping by this morning!