PROGRESS OF STEAMBOATING
Every year has seen some new steamboat constructed which surpasses in size, magnificence, or speed, those previously made. There is no doubt that the mechanics of this country excel those of any other in their inland steamboats — let us hope that in a few years the same can be said of our sea-going steamships.
During the present year the new steamboat JAMES HOWARD has commenced running in the New Orleans and St. Louis trade, and is the largest boat afloat or ever built for the navigation of the Western waters. And as she is the ne plus ultra in architecture and size for this decade at least, it may be well, before speaking further of her character and of her builder and namesake, to look back a little and see what progress has been made since the first steamer ever was launched.
SCOTCHMAN JAMES WATT
Although to the United States belongs the honor of originating the first successful steamboat, credit must be given to the Scotchman James Watt, for such improvements on the steam-engine in 1786 — the structure of the double-acting condensing engine — without which, steam in the propulsion of boats was almost impracticable.
There were many men of genius, both in Europe and America, for a few years before this, attempted the project of application of steam to vessels, but of course without success.
JOHN FITCH OF PHILADELPHIA
The most noteworthy of these was John Fitch, a Philadelphia watchmaker, but native of Connecticut, who, after long endurance and incessant toil, and the sinking of all his means, completed the steamer PERSERVERANCE in the year 1787, which on trial at Philadelphia on the Delaware, made but three miles an hour. She ran twenty miles to Burlington, burst her boiler, but with a new one afterward made eight miles an hour.
Fitch was called a dreamer, but he was only a great genius in advance of his age. His vision of the future was very clear, if unsuccessful himself; for he prophesied that "in less than a century we shall see our western rivers swarming with steamboats," and expressed a wish to be "buried on the shores of the Ohio," from a noble bluff of which he beheld this vision, "where the song of the boatmen may enliven the stillness of his resting place, and the music of the steam engine soothe his spirit."
He was heard afterward to remark that in one century the West should be the centre, and the Atlantic States the suburbs of the nation. That century will not terminate for a score of years, yet the vision or prophecy is fulfilled.
ROBERT FULTON OF PENNSYLVANIA
But after all the failures of others, it was Robert Fulton of Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, who was destined to receive from the historian the glory of successfully introducing the steamboat, or one of the most useful applications of mechanics, to the civilized world and very properly, therefore, did the committee of the __st London exhibition, in 18__, say:
"…it is in the sacrifice and exertions of the Amercian Fulton that is due the everlast- ing honor of having produced this revolution, both in naval architecture and navigation."
Although Fulton took a deep interest during the last decade of the last century, in originating steam navigation, in connection with Watt, Stanhope, and other noble men in England and France, he is not called the originator thereof, nor, except in planning to a certain extent for Watt, is he the inventor of the mechanism for such navigation; but he was the first successfully to cross the chasm from mere attempts to positive acheivment, rendering steam navigation practicable, and profitable.
Fulton's first steamer, the CLERMONT, named after the residence of Chancellor Livingston, was built in New York, and made her first voyage on the Hudson to Albany in August, 1807, (only sixty-five years ago) its engine being built by Watt, from Fulton's plans.
Steam ferryboats also were first built and established upon this ferry between New York and Brooklyn; and to this day, no ferryboats in any other part of the known world equal those plying on that same old track.
Steamboats were not introduced into Great Britain until 1812, five years later than the successful voyage of Fulton.
Bell built the first boat upon the River Clyde at Glasgow.
"ORLEANS" FROM PITTSBURG TO NEW ORLEANS
It was a year before this, 1811, that Fulton and Chancellor Livingston of New York (who had been interested in boat-building from the first), established a ship yard at Pittsburg, and built an experimental boat, the ORLEANS, the first ever placed on our western waters. She had a stern wheel and masts, a 400 tonner.
Her first trip was made from Pittsburg to New Orleans in the winter of 1812 — less that three score years ago –arriving here on the 10th of January, 1812, just after the admission into the Union of Louisiana, and the adoption of her constitution, as if to do honor to the new state.
She was an extraordinary sight that day, and of course created a greater sensation than would the arrival of the mammoth JAMES HOWARD today, 4000 tonner as she is.
FULTON PREDICTED RAILROADS
It was during Fulton's stage ride over the Alleghany Mountains, to build this steamer, that he predicted to some incredulous and unbelieving gentlemen voyagers, the early advent of railroads.
He remarked, "The day will come, gentlemen — I may not live to see it, but some of you who are younger, probably will — when carriages will be drawn over these mountains by steam engines, at a rate more rapid than that of a stage upon the smoothest turnpike."
One of those gentlemen, who, in 1811, laughed at the apparent absurdity, told the anecdote in 1834, when being rapidly drawn in a Baltimore Railroad car over the same mountains.
1817 STEAMBOAT NAVIGATION ON WESTERN WATERS
It was not until March of 1817, fifty-three years ago, that the public were convinced of the success of steamboat navigation of Western Waters.
This was by the WASHINGTON, 400 tons, built at Wheeling, running from Louisville to New Orleans and back in forty-five days. She was commanded by Capt. Henry K. Shreve.
There were but seven or eight vessels built previous to this.
This settled the practicability of steamboats, whereas up to this date (1817) some twenty barges afforded the only facilities for transporting merchandise from New Orleans to Louisville and Cincinatti, and they made but one trip a year.
"SAVANNAH" CROSSED ATLANTIC 1819
It was but two years after this (1819) that the first steamship crossed the Atlantic. This was the SAVANNAH, 380 tons, built by Crocker & Fickett, New York.
Her first voyage was from New York to Savannah, whence she steamed to Liverpool direct, reaching that port Sept. 21, 1819, in eighteen days, using steam but seven.
And of course when, with American banners flying, was greeted with vociferous cheers of the thousands lining the docks.
The first British steamship which crossed was the GREAT WESTERN, in 1838, about a score of years later.
ROBERT L. STEVENS IN "PHOENIX" IN 1808
Though really the first instance of ocean steam navigation on record, was the taking by Robert L. Stevens of the PHOENIX, built by his father, John Cox Stevens, in New York, around to Philadelphia by sea in 1808.
This same steamer came near reaping the first success which Fulton achieved; let Stevens have the honor to which he is entitled of being the first to navigate the ocean by the power of steam.
FIRST TO NEW ORLEANS
In 1818 a steamship plied from New York to New Orleans, touching at Charleston and Havana.
FIRST REGULAR LINE TO ENGLAND IN 1838
The regualar line of steam communication between England and America was not established until 1838, with the GREAT WESTERN, BRITISH QUEEN, and PRESIDENT.
The latter, which sailed from New York in March, 1841, was never heard from after, her fate remaining a melancholy mystery.
Each of these steamers cost 90,715 pounds.
While England today has no less than fourteen establishments for the construction of iron ships, it was only in October 1839 that the first iron ship, built in Liverpool, the IRONSIDES, was launched.
This was the year that Capt. John Ericsson, the Swedish inventor and engineer, emigrated to the United States, the British Admiralty having blindly rejected his invention of the propellor, and of the new arrangements of the steam-machinery in ships of war which has revolutionized the Navies of the world.
He had found more confiding listeners in our consul at Liverpool, Francis B. Ogden, (who joined him in building the propellor of that name), and Robert F. Stockton of the United States Navy, who ordered him at once to build him two iron boats after his plan.
His first propellor in the United States was the ship of war PRINCETON, the first steamship ever built with the propelling machinery under the water line and out of reach of shot; and therefore the foundation of the present steam marine of the whole world. Ericsson lacks but two years of 70, yet labors daily like a boy for the glory of his adopted country.
At that time (1840), the comparative steamboat force of Britain and America was 68,000 of tonnage for Britain, against 155,000 for America. The United States had 800 steamers (600 of them belonging to Western waters,) where in 1834 the number was but 254.
In 1850, only ten years later, the United States built thirty-one sea-steamers of a total tonnage of 42,097 tons. Four of these were the Collins steamers, costing $600,000 each, of greater speed than the Cunard steamers; and they were the first warmed by steam by the ships' boilers.
In that year 1850 was also built the inland steamer, NEW WORLD, (which ran on the Hudson River), then the largest steamer afloat in the world, being 371 feet long by 69 wide. Her decorations were of the most superb and costly character.
Ten years later she was certainly excelled in size (though not in speed or stroke of engine) by that completion in London of the mammoth sea-going steamer GREAT EASTERN, which arrived in New York from Southampton just eleven years ago (June, 1860)
A remarkable circumstance is that her planner was I. K. Brunel, son of the renowned Sir M. I. Brunel, and the Frenchman who built the Thames Tunnel, and, who, during his banishment from France in 1793 to New York, was engaged with Fulton in his early efforts at solving the steamboat problem.
The tonnage of this ship by our Government measure is about 22,000 tons. Her displacement of water is 25,000 tons. Her promenade deck is nearly one-eighth of a mile in length. Her eight propelling engines were of nominally 4,000 horse power.
She was intended to accomodate four thousand guests –eight hundred first class, two thousand second class and twelve hundred third class — independent of the ship's complement.
But, though she is the greatest wonder of nautical architecture in this or any other age, she was too slow, averaging but fourteen miles an hour on her first trip, was too expensive, cost $4,000,000 and was found to be anything but a "paying institution," and is now entirely devoted to laying ocean cables, for which she is admirably adapted.
Within the last few weeks a new ocean steamer, the OCEANIC, which is excelled in size only by the GREAT EASTERN, has arrived in New York. She was constructed in Belfast, Ireland, and is the pioneer propellor passenger ship of the White Star Line, which has five other steamers of a like size and pattern now under construction.
The dimensions of this mammoth are: Length on deck, 432 feet; breadth of beam, 41 feet; depth of hold, 36 feet; load draught, 24 feet; tonnage, British measurement, 2,349 tons net, and 4,350 tons gross.
And though her engines alone cost over $150,000, the total cost of the ship was but $650,000 — only $25,000 more than each of the four steamers. ATLANTIC, PACIFIC, ARCTIC and BALTIC, of the Collins line, built in 1850, that were so much smaller, being only 290 feet long on deck.
It takes our American steamboat builders to realize almost the same speed in steamers which the railway engineers have done in the rail.
The GREAT EASTERN's engines had the enormous stroke of fourteen feet, but our NEW WORLD had fifteen. The Hudson River steamer DANIEL DREW, of a superior model, and built for speed, made an average of twenty-five miles an hour between New York and Albany in October of the same year that the GREAT EASTERN arrived, 1860.
And although the greatest steamboat race on record occured the past year on our own river between those Hoosier and Buckeye built races, the LEE and NATCHEZ, yet the DREW's time has never to our knowledge been beaten.
As steam navigation took its rise on the Hudson, so the steamboats navigating that river, it is but justice to say, have uniformly been before all others in point of speed.
That great Irish writer on physical science, Dr. Lardner, Britisher as he is, admits the same thing in his work on the steam engine, when he says:
"Doubtless the greatest speed ever attained on the surface of water has been exhibited in the passages of these vessels between New York and Albany."
Yet the contests for speed, or practice of racing, between rival steamboats, during the last forty years, have been about as great on the Mississippi as on the Hudson. And though certain journals and parts of the community are alarmed at and condemn this practice, whoever heard of an accident occuring from this cause?
BUILDING BOATS ON WESTERN RIVERS
Yet the great field for building and running steamboats is, and always has been, the Western waters. On the banks of the "white and foaming rivers," Ohio, is that mightiest vassal of man's mechanical genius, working its sublimest results.
Pittsburg and Cincinnatti are among the greatest manufacturing cities in the world. At these cities chiefly, steamboats are built, and huge engines of all kinds furnished.
But the Hoosier and Kentucky shores of the same belle riviere are by no means idle in this respects, particularly the former, at Madison, Jeffersonville and New Albany.
The Cincinnatti district alone turned out during the quarter ending April 1, 1871, three side wheel steamers of 23,064 tons, two stern-wheel steamers of 22, 016 tons, one propeller of 56 tons, and five model barges of 12,023 tons altogether amounting to 52,094 tons.
"JAMES HOWARD" BUILT AT JEFFERSONVILLE, INDIANA
As before intimated, it was Cincinnatti that the beautifully modeled and fast racer NATCHEZ was built, while New Albany, Ind., has the honor of constructing her more successful rival the elegant ROBT. E. LEE.
Madison, in the same state, over thirty years ago, contained the ship-yard of James Howard, he who has just constructed at Jeffersonville, Ind., and at Louisville Ky., the mammoth steamer which bears his name.
Since he commenced building at the "great cut," as Madison in called, "Jim Howard" has turned out over four hundred steamboats!
NEW ORLEANS GREATLY ENRICHED BY STEAMBOATS
New Orleans and Louisiana have been greatly enriched during half a century by commerce which has floated down the thousand miles of clear waters the Ohio. Let those clear waters continue to smoothly and peacefully float down their steamboats and other wealth:
"Stream of my fathers! sweetly still
The sunset rays thy valley fill;
Pour slantwise down the long defile,
Water, wood and spire beneath them smile!"
Louisana and New Orleans have indeed derived more important advantages from the use of steamboats than any other state and city in the Union. The introduction of steamboats upon the Western waters has contributed more than all other causes which have grown out of human skill to advance the prosperity of this city and State as well as of the whole West and Southwest, and they should be doubly grateful to Fulton therefor.
New Orleans should erect a statue on her grand levee to Robert Fulton and James Watt for their inventions, if not to James Howard, who has so greatly aided in building up her commerce. Without these men, our great "valley world," though traversed from north to south by a river unmatched among the streams of the earth — sweeping as a royal conqueror along, receiving tribute from many a province and distant empire — could never have been peopled, or had what would be worthy the name of commerce.
But by the inventions and enterprise of Watt and Fulton, and the industry and progressive character of James Howard and other architects on the banks of la belle riviere, our great "Sea of the West," as Henry Clay used to call the Mississippi when eloquently advocating Congressional aid to interior commerce, a mighty empire has sprung up on the banks of the Father of Waters, and such palaces as the JAMES HOWARD are daily borne on this, the most majestic tribute of waters which earth pays to ocean.
DESCRIPTION OF "JAMES HOWARD"
Thus, after glancing at the progress of steamboat building from the beginning, and at most of the steam craft from the North River, or CLERMONT, to the GREAT EASTERN, let us look again at the magnificent JAMES HOWARD, as she gracefully floats on that gleaming expanse of polished steel in front of the Crescent City, and puts to shame anything known as a steamer in any part of the Eastern continent. The length of her hull is 330 feet; breadth of beam 55 feet; depth of hold 10 feet; extreme width 94 feet; carrying capacity 3400 tons, though 4,000 tons may easily be freighted on her. Her machinery, made at the foundry of Messrs. Arnalie, Cochran & Co. of Louisville, consists of two main engines, with 34 1/2 inch cylinders, 10 feet stroke of piston, and water wheel 39 feet diameter; six boilers 30 feet long and 46 inches diameter. In addition are auxiliary engines for various purposes. The staterooms are of varying sizes, but the principal ones, with large bedsteads, wardrobes, wash-stands, and every convenience of bed-chambers "at home" are remarkably roomy and comfortable. The leading idea communicated from an inspection of this steamer is that there is plenty of room, the greatest solidity, and also elegance, without the gaudy ornamentation so common in American steamboats. In short, this mammoth moving freight and passenger steamer, there is comfort, light convenience and luxury everywhere. Her master, P.B. Pegram, is a model steamboat captain, and as the HOWARD towers above all other river craft, so, though most of his fellow commanders lack not in size, good looks, or other marks of nature's genuine nobility, they are generally pygmies beside such specimens of humanity as the commander on the deck of the HOWARD. As in most of the steamers on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, the HOWARD's engines are of the high pressure character. Formerly one or two of these generally blew up every season, ending a score or two of parboiled passengers to an inconvenient altitude in the atmosphere. But latterly a wide change in this and every other respect has taken place in these steamers and the character of the masters, passengers, and general appointments.
NEW ORLEANS BAD HARBOR PROBLEM OVERCOME BY STEAMBOATS
"Before the invention of steam navigation," says Dr. Lardner in the work already quoted from, "this Southern capital of the United States labored under the disadvantage of possessing almost the only bad and inconvenient harbor in the vast range of coast by which the country is bounded." The steam engine has overcome all difficulties and made it the best.
…STEAMBOAT TRAVEL IN 1833-34
To show the great contrast between everything pertaining to our steamers of the present day, and those of forty years ago, in closing this already extended article, an extract may be given from Capt. Thos. Hamilton's "Men and Manners in America," printed in 1834, in which that able literary Englishman describes his passage on a Mississippi steamer from Louisville to New Orleans at that time.
Of course, however, it must be taken in consideration that like all other Englishmen traveling in this country, he is affected pert, and there is a spirit of unjust depreciation predominating in all he writes. He says:
"In regard to passengers, anything so disgusting in human shape I have never seen. Their morals and their manners were alike detestable. A cold and callous selfishness, a disregard of all the decencies of society were apparent in feature, word and action.
"The conversation in the cabin was interlarded with the vilest blasphemy — not uttered in a state of mental ex- citement, but with a coolness and deliberation truly thoughtless.
"The scene of drinking and gambling had no intermission. It continued day and night.
"The captain of the vessel, so far from discouraging either vice, was one of the most flagrant offenders in both. He was decidedly the greatest gambler on board, and was often so drunk as to be utterly incapable of taking command of the vessel.
"In every steamboat there is a public comb and hairbrush suspended by a string from the ceiling of the cabin. These utensils are used by the whole body of passengers, and their condition the pen of Swift could alone adequately describe.
"There is no toothbrush, simply, I believe, because the article is entirely unknown to the American toilet. A common towel, however, passes from hand to hand and suffices for the perfunctory ablutions of the whole party on board."
COMPARED TO 1871
This was slander always, but would be still farther from the truth today. Look at the superb and costly decorations of the HOWARD!
Converse with the gentlemanly master and his elegantly dressed and intellectual passengers, and observe every comfort and luxury on that three-decker as she glides down the giant river, rolling onward the vast volume of its dark and turbid waters through what was, when Hamilton wrote, a vast wilderness, and be convinced there is no other such impressive scene of progress and greatness in the world.
(N.O. TIMES — April 30, 1871 p 5 c 3-4-5-6 MJS II 00215)