The Corp of Discovery -- The Lewis and Clark Expedition
1804 , May 14, departed the confluence of Mississippi and Missouri Rivers above St. Louis and
rowed __ miles upstream, against the current to
the Mandan Villages, where they built Fort Mandan near present day Washburn, North Dakota (30 miles N or Bismarck) to spend the winter. It took them in 148 days. The rowed back down, with the current, in 37 days arriving in St. Louis, Sept 23, 1806.
Events were already underway that, within a few years would allow a steamboat to make the trip upstream in days.
Early Steamboat Developments.
Cast of Characters.
John Fitch (1743-1798) First American steamboat August 22, 1787, on Delaware River in the presence of delegates from the Constitutional Convention. It was propelled by a bank of oars on either side of the boat. The following year Fitch launched a 60-foot boat powered by a steam paddle-wheel. With this boat he carried up to thirty passengers on numerous round-trip voyages between Philadelphia and Burlington, New Jersey.
Robert R. Livingston (1746-1813), Committee of Five (1776) that drafted the Declaration of Independence , Chancellor of New York (1777-1801, Chief Justist) , U.S. Secretary for Foreign Affairs (1781-83) , Minister to France (1801-04) negotiating the Louisiana Purchase. Encouraged Roosevelt and Fulton. Negotiated shipping business.
Nicholas J. Roosevelt (1767-1854). Built early steamboat for Livingston, funding ended when Livingston went to France as ambassador in 1801. Selected to lead the western rivers branch of their enterprise. Obtained U.S. patent for vertical wheels, 1814 December 1. Uncle of President Teddy Roosevelt.
Robert Fulton Livingston's nephew by marriage . Built the first commercial steamboat and business organizer.
Daniel French (1770- ) inventor of the horizontally mounted, high-pressure, non-condensing, directly connected steam engine for mills, boats, etc. French was awarded a patent for his steam engine in 1809. This type of engine became standard on the western steamboat.
Henry Shreve (1785-1851) Keelboatman, became captain of Enterprise. Upon showing upriver travel reliable, Shreve and four partners commissioned George White to build Washington at Wheeling, Virginia (later West Virginia). The engine and drive train were built by Daniel French at Brownsville.
1763 . William Henry of Lancaster, Pennsylvania, built a steam-engine and attempted to put it in a boat ; the boat sank. But he inspired others.
1776 . Marquis de Jouffroy made a working steam boat with rotating oars ; the Palmipede sailed on the Doubs in June, July 1776.
1783 . Jouffroy made a paddle wheel steamer, Pyroscaphe. French Revolution interferred.
1786 . James Rumsey built a pump-driven (water jet) boat and successfully steamed upstream on the Potomac River.
1787 . John Fitch steamed on Delaware River in the presence of delegates from the Constitutional Convention. It was propelled by a bank of oars on either side of the boat.
1788 . Twin hulls with a center paddlewheel in Scotland.
1788-1790 . John Fitch built a paddle boat that carried passengers between Philadelphia and New Jersey.
1789-96 . John Fitch builds various boats with paddle wheels and screw propellers
1798. Nicholas Roosevelt built Polacca of Livingston's design which traveled at three miles per hour in still water on the Passaic River. He described building a vertical paddle wheel which Livingston rejected,
but in an 1802 discussion with Fulton, Roosevelt's idea was adopted in their design.
Designs up to this period were rowboat size.
1802 . Charlotte Dundas towed two 70-ton barges 30 km (19 miles) along the Forth and Clyde Canal to Glasgow.
1803 Jan, Robert Fulton built and tested an experimental steamboat on the River Seine.
1807 August 17, Fulton's Clarimont cast off from Manhattan and moved up the Hudson River to Albany, 150 miles in 32 hours. Begins regular service.
1808 . Winans built Vermont in Burlington, Vermont, the second steamboat to operate commercially.
1809 . John Molson's Accommodation, was running successfully between Montreal and Quebec,
Early Western River Travel.
Flatboat was a solidly built raft with sides that floated down river where the cargo was unloaded and the raft broken up and sold for its wood.
Keelboats were soon introduced. These had a ribbed hull with shaped bow and stern that could be poled upriver. A heavy keel provided some direction stability and protection from running over logs and such. A round trip by keelboat from Louisville to New Orleans was a half-year effort -- six weeks going down river and four and a half months to pole back upstream. Continuing upstream to Pittsburg required another month.
Population: Pittsburgh - 1565 ; Cincinnati - 750 ; Louisville- 359 ; St. Louis - 925 (French till 1804)
1809 May, Roosevelt and his bride, Lydia, depart Pittsburgh to determine requirements to transit to New Orleans. Traveling in a flatboat, they arrived that December. Then took a ship and stagecoach to New York arriving in mid-January
with the news that it was possible and much data.
1809 October 11, Merriweather Lewis died on Natchez Trace enroute to Washington, D.C..
Census 1810 : Pittsburgh 4,768 ; Cincinatti 2540 ; Louisville 1357 ; St. Louis 3,667
1810 . Roosevelt establishes boatyard in Pittsburgh and builds New Orleans, a vertical side wheeler of Fulton design.
1811 . May, New Orleans launched.
1811 . October, New Orleans departs Pittsburgh in an epoch voyage.
Fantastic Voyage of the New Orleans
Several books are written of this voyage, but it deserves a movie, except that so much happened that it would be considered unrealistic fiction. "Steamboating of the Upper Mississippi" by William J. Petersen (history) ; "Mr. Roosevelt's Steamboat" by Mary Helen Dohan (novel).
Nicholas bought mines and stacked coal by the River between Pittsburgh and Louisville.
1812 . January 12, The first river steamboat arrives in New Orleans after 14 days running time. A week later it started regular runs between New Orleans and Natchez with passengers and freight. In July 1814 it sank near Baton Rouge.
At Cincinnati, disbelieving dinner guests on board were secretly sailed upstream to prove to the public it could go against the current.
Reaching Louisville on 1 October, they had to wait for nearly two months before the water was deep enough to navigate the Falls of the Ohio.
Lydia gave birth.
Then in last week in November, with maximum steam, the New Orleans headed into white water.
There was no coal below Louisville, so each day the crew had to go ashore to cut firewood.
Hostile Chickasaw Indians pursued in their canoes but could not catch it.
Fire destroys part of the forward cabin before the blaze could be put out.
New Madrid earthquake -- changed course of river.
1813 . Rooselvelt's boatyard built another steamboat each year till 1815.
Vesuvious, Etna, and the second New Orleans
1813 . Comet launched by Daniel French. Steamed to Louisville that summer and on to New Orleans.
1814 . Dec 21, Enterprise, French's second steamboat, departed Pittsburgh for New Orleans with munitions, where it was pressed into service by General Andrew Jackson to run supplies.
1815 . January 8 , Battle of New Orleans, the last battle of the War of 1812.
1815 . May 6 , Enterprise departs New Orleans for Pittsburgh arriving at French's Brownsville factory proving steamboats able to travel all the way upriver.
1816 . Washington two-decker by Shreve. Had double, horizontal, high-pressure boilers, stern paddlewheel. Set standard for steamboats.
1816 . Ten steamboats operating, mortality rate high.
1817 . Eight steamboats launched.
1817 . Washington traveled New Orleans to Louisville in 21-days
1917 . April 21, Monopoly of Lower Mississippi broken by Shreve. Start of the steamboat era.
1817 . Aug 2 , Zebulon, M. Pike arrives St. Louis. First above the Ohio.
1818 . National Road (Cumberland Road, of macadam) from Baltimore reached Wheeling, West Virginia, on the Ohio River. The Braddock Road had been opened by the Ohio Company in 1751 from Clumberland, MD to Pittsburgh,PA.
1918 . Sixty steamboats launched.
1819 . Post Boy carries mail.
1819 . May 28, "Independence" on Missouri River to Franklin, Missouri.
1819 . May 1 , Ocean steamer, Maid of Orleans, from Philadelphia docks at St. Louis. Also, steamship Sea Horse, from New York.
1819 . May 26, Meanwhile, back east, the steamship Savannah departed Georga for Liverpool and successfully crossed the Atlantic Ocean in 27 days. Hybred sailing vessel used steam when winds were calm.
1819 . One third of cargo carried by steamboats.
1819 . June 21, Western Engineer up Missouri River to Fort Snelling, Nebraska. a few miles from Omaha/Council Bluffs.
Western Engineer was built for the army with gun ports and a great serpent design to intimidate indians.
Pittsburgh - 7,248 ; Cincinatti - 9,642 ; Louisville - 4,012 ; St. Louis - 10,049
1820 . June 21, Western Engineer, this time on the Upper Mississippi, to the rapids at Keokuk, IA.
1823 Virginia on Upper Mississippi gets past rapids at Des Moines River into "Savage Lands" (Iowa, Minnesota) with supplies for Fort Snelling (St. Paul, MN).
1823 . Army advertises for bid to supply western river forts in Spring 1824.
1824 . William Clark takes party of 18 Indians on riverboat to Washington, DC.
1826 . Shreve appointed Superintendent of Western River Improvements.
1827 . First snagboat, Heliopolis , by Shreve ; starts clearing Mississippi.
Census : Pittsburgh - 12,568 ; Cincinatti - 24,831 ; Louisville - 10,341 ; St. Louis - 14,125 .
1830 . William Clark with Indians from Missouri on Planet attend treaty at Rock Island, IL.
1831 . April 15 . St. Louis to Pierre, S. D.
1932 . Warrior halts Black Hawk's escape across Mississippi.
1832 . St. Louis to Yellowstone, Fort Union.
1938 . Sept 1 . William Clark died in St. Louis.
1832-39. Shreve clears Red River, founds Shreveport, LA.
1876 . Battle of the Little Big Horn took place 15 miles from the steamboat "Far West" on the Upper Big Horn River. Wounded were rushed to the hospital in Bismarck, 710 miles in 54 hours.
Steamboating On the Upper Mississippi by William J. Petersen
Riverboats of America by Donovan
"The History of the Lewis and Clark Expedition",
Edited by Elliott Coues, in three volumes. volume 1, reprinted regularly.
Filson Historic Society
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Last updated on August 24, 2007 -- second draft