When the steamboat New Orleans made her way
down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers from Pittsburgh to New
Orleans in 1811-1812, it marked a turning point in the
Transportation Revolution. After the New Orleans showed that it
could be done, steamboats proliferated on the Ohio and the
Mississippi and their tributaries. Steamboat traffic
helped create a national economy, opening markets for farm goods
and drawing people and commerce to cities along the rivers.
The Great Comet of 1811, first observed in March and easily visible in the night sky during September and October, made a dramatic backdrop for the first weeks of the trip. More information on the Great Comet of 1811 is available from astronomer Gary W. Kronk.
5, 1811, Liberty Hall - first sighting of the
comet in Chillicothe, Ohio
June 8, 1811, Western Spy - first sighting of the comet in Chillicothe, Ohio
Sept. 1811 a Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, schoolteacher describes the comet in his journal
Sept. 18, 1811 (in Two Lectures) - Harvard professor John Farrar observes the Great Comet
Sept. 25, 1811, Liberty Hall - Great Comet of 1811 visible in the north
Sept. 28, 1811, Western Spy - astronomical observations of the comet
Oct. 1811 (in Two Lectures) - a scientific observer in Salem, Mass., describes the comet
Oct. 12, 1811, Western Spy - more astronomical observations of the comet
Oct. 19, 1811, Western Spy - background on comets, extracted from an astronomy textbook
Oct. 19, 1811, Western Spy - "ludicrous effects" of a 1712 comet
Oct. 28, 1811 - The New Orleans Steaming Upstream by Moonlight, 1811 (painting by Gary R. Lucy) includes the Great Comet of 1811
Dec. 6, 1811, Pittsburgh Gazette - humorous story about "an honest Hibernian" in a London crowd gathered to view the comet
Dec. 10, 1811, (in Two Lectures) - Harvard professor John Farrar describes the comet's path from September to December
Dec. 27, 1811, Pittsburgh Gazette - the phenomena of the earthquake and the comet suggest that Nature can "no longer tolerate the moral turpitude of man"
Jan. 25, 1812, Western Spy - "whimsical account" of the comet
Jan. 29, 1812, Liberty Hall - review of "remarkable events" in world history, relevant to the comet
Feb. 22, 1812, Western Spy - "various conjectures" about the cause of the earthquake include "the comet's near approach to the earth"
Mar. 7, 1812, Niles Weekly Register - lengthy summary of scientific observations of the comet
Apr. 10, 1812, Pittsburgh Gazette - overview of momentous events in 1811, including the comet
1871, First Steamboat Voyage - Lydia Roosevelt's brother reports that the people of Louisville thought the comet had fallen in the river when the New Orleans arrived