Steamboat History
 


 

Items in Blue were submitted by Robert Hunt December 15, 2006
 

1793-Cincinnati merchant Jacob Meyers started the first weekly keelboat passenger service between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh.

1798-John Fitch, of Nelson Co. Kentucky built the first steamboat on the Ohio at Bardstown, Kentucky. Failing to find backers, he committed suicide.

1807-Robert Fulton built his first steamboat on the Hudson River.

1807-The Clermont, built and owned by Robert Fulton and Robert R. Livingston, was used on the Hudson River and became the first commercially successful steamboat.

1811-Keelboats made the round trip between Cincinnati and New Orleans in 78 days. Passage was $160.

1811-Keelboats made the voyage from Cincinnati to New Orleans in 78 days. Passage was $160.

1811-Fulton’s steamboat, New Orleans, was built at Pittsburgh and sailed down the Ohio and Mississippi rivers to New Orleans. It was the first steamboat in western waters. Passage on the New Orleans was $30.

1811-The steamboat New Orleans, was built at Pittsburgh for her owners: Fulton, Livingston and partners. She was was the first steamboat on western waters. She steamed down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to New Orleans. Passage on the New Orleans was $30.

1814-Henry Shreve and Daniel French built the Enterprise, the fourth steamboat on western waters. Andrew Jackson confiscated the boat to move military supplies during the Battle of New Orleans. The Enterprise was the first steam vessel to make the return trip from New Orleans to Louisville.

1814-The Enterprise, the fourth steamboat on western waters, was built by Daniel French at Brownsville, Pa. for her owners: The Monongahela and Ohio Steam Boat Co. The Enterprise was the first steamboat to engage in regular commerce on the Ohio River.  Louisville's Western Courier reported on August 22: "The steam boat Enterprise will depart this port for Cincinnati on Tuesday next at 10 o'clock A. M. For freight or passage apply to the master on board."  After command was transferred from Israel Gregg to Henry Shreve, the Enterprise transported munitions from Pittsburgh to New Orleans for Andrew Jackson's army to use during the Battle of New Orleans. The Enterprise was the first steamboat to make the return trip from New Orleans to Louisville.

1816-Henry Shreve built the George Washington at Wheeling, WVA. The 150-foot-long, 400-ton side-wheeler set the pattern for all future steamboats, with a shallow hull, horizontal boilers on the main deck, passenger cabins on the second deck, twin smokestacks and a pilot house. Shreve named his passenger cabins after states of the union, calling them staterooms.

1816-The Cincinnati Gazette reported on September 23 the arrival of the George Washington at Cincinnati. ‘‘Acting upon a single wheel placed in the stern, without a beam or fly wheel, it propels the vessel at the rate of 10 mph with the current and the captain assured us that he could make seven miles against it.’’

1816-The Washington was built at Wheeling, WV for Henry Shreve and four partners. The 150-foot-long, 400-ton stern-wheeler set the pattern for future steamboats, with a shallow hull, horizontal boilers on the main deck, passenger cabins on the second deck, twin smokestacks and a pilot house. Shreve named his passenger cabins after states of the union, calling them staterooms.

1816-The Cincinnati Gazette reported on September 23 the arrival of the Washington at Cincinnati. ‘‘Acting upon a single wheel placed in the stern, without a beam or fly wheel, it propels the vessel at the rate of 10 mph with the current and the captain assured us that he could make seven miles against it.’’

1816-The Vesta was the first steamboat to be built at Cincinnati’s Fulton shipyards.

1817-The Zebulon Pike, built at Cincinnati, was the first vessel designed exclusively for passenger service, the first official mail carrier and the first steamboat to ascend to St. Louis. It was the first boat in the Cincinnati-based United States Mail Line, which became the longest lasting steamboat line.

1819-Seven steamers were built at Cincinnati.

1820-The 1,480-mile, 16-day passage from New Orleans to Cincinnati and Newport, against the river current, was $15. The Cincinnati/Newport-to-New Orleans trip was $25 and took eight days.

1825-1830-The Louisville & Portland Canal was built. It bypassed the Ohio rapids at Louisville and allowed cargo and passengers to travel on one boat all the way from Pittsburgh to New Orleans without changing boats or waiting for high water.

1834-By this date, 304 steamboats have been built at Pittsburgh, 221 at Cincinnati and Covington, and 103 at Louisville.

1838-The Moselle, built at Cincinnati,  claimed to be the fastest boat on the river, but 25 days after launching it exploded at Cincinnati, killing 160 passengers in the worst steamboat disaster to date.

1841-After 31 days in office, President William Henry Harrison, a Cincinnatian, died of a cold. He was buried at North Bend near his home on the Ohio River. It is a tradition for steamboats to blow a low whistle when passing his tomb, in gratitude for his services in the War of 1812, when he fought to keep the Ohio River from falling under British control.

1845-Steamboat builders added a third deck just as Texas was admitted to the Union as the 28th state. In the tradition of naming cabins after states, the new deck was called the Texas.

1848-Fontayne and Porter’s eight plate daguerreotype of the Cincinnati riverfront was the first photograph of steamboats. More than 35 side-wheelers were docked.

1852-8,000 landings were recorded at Cincinnati at the peak of the steamboat trade.

1861-The Civil War suspended traffic on the Mississippi and curtailed commercial boat building at Cincinnati. Shipyards converted steamboats to iron clad gunboats.

1863-The gunboat Cincinnati was sunk by gunfire at Vicksburg.

1865-The Sultana, built at Cincinnati in 1863, exploded near New Orleans while carrying Union prisoners released from Confederate prison camps. 1,700 were killed in the worst disaster in steamboat history.

1867-Despite protests from steamboat captains who feared that their smokestacks would not pass under the span, the Suspension Bridge was completed between Cincinnati and Covington. It was the first bridge over the Ohio River.

1868-The America collided with the United States, both Cincinnati boats, near Warsaw, Kentucky. 40 were killed.

1870-The end of the Civil War ushered in a new age of steam boating. Boat owners responded to competition from railroads by building ‘‘floating palaces,’’ made for elegance and speed. The best boats were called Cincinnati boats. Two of the finest and fastest are the Natchez, built in Cincinnati in 1868, and the Robert E. Lee, built in New Albany, Indiana, in 1866.

1881-River traffic was halted when the Ohio River reached its lowest level on record, 1 foot, 9 inches.

1890-Cincinnatian Gordon C Greene and wife Mary Becker Greene bought the H K Bedford, the first boat in the Greene Line.

1893-Gordon Greene bought a second boat, the Argand. Unable to pay a second captain, Mary Greene took the Argand. She was the only licensed woman pilot and captain on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.

1896-The new Island Queen began carrying passengers between the Public Landing and Coney Island. For the next 50 years, four Island Queens, the Island Maid, Island Princess, Tacoma and other excursion boats, served Coney Island.

1897-The Queen City, billed as ‘‘the finest steamer ever afloat on Western waters,’’ was launched at Cincinnati.

1918-The Ohio River, frozen for 51 days, crushed the hulls of the steamers City of Cincinnati, City of Louisville, Greenland, Loucinda, Julius Fleischman, Val. P. Collins, Island Princess and Island Queen.

1922-A fire at Cincinnati’s Public Landing destroyed the Island Maid, Chris Greene, Tacoma and Morning Star. The Island Queen was rebuilt.

1926-The twin boats Delta Queen and Delta King were built in Glasgow, Scotland, disassembled and shipped to Stockton, Calif. They carried passengers between San Francisco and Sacramento.

1929-President Herbert Hoover dedicated a monument in Eden Park that recognized the completion of the 49 lock and movable dam system that created a 9-foot navigable canal along the entire 980-mile length of the Ohio River. The Great River Parade from Pittsburgh to Cairo, Ill., where the Ohio meets the Mississippi, marked the event.

1949-At 79, Mary Becker Greene died aboard the Delta Queen.

1984-The Delta Queen moved to New Orleans but still retains the ‘‘Port of Cincinnati’’ sign on her stern.

 

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