Steamboat Adventure
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The Transportation Revolution


The Transportation Revolution refers to innovations and internal improvements of the early nineteenth century, including canals, highways, and steamboats.  Together they made a truly national economy possible by allowing farmers to ship their goods to wider markets and allowing manufacturers to reach more consumers.

The first commercially successful steamboat (owned by Robert Livingston and Robert Fulton) offered service from New York City to Albany, New York, beginning in 1807.  They arranged with Nicholas Roosevelt to build a steamboat in Pittsburgh, take it down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, and establish service between New Orleans and Natchez. 

When the New Orleans succeeded in this, it marked a turning point in the Transportation Revolution.  Soon, steamboats were proliferating on the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and on their tributaries.  Steamboat traffic opened markets for farm goods and drew people and commerce to cities along the rivers.

News of shipping and transportation:

1805, Travels, by Michaux - extended description of shipping and shipbuilding in Pittsburgh
Mar. 8, 1811, Pittsburgh Gazette - advertisement for The Navigator, an indispensible guide to river travel that the Roosevelts surely purchased before beginning their trip
May 11, 1811, Western Spy - report of the 113 boats that passed the Falls of the Ohio in the previous month and of their cargo
May 29, 1811, Western Spy - "first rigged vessel that ever arrived at Cincinnati" by traveling upriver from New Orleans
July 3, 1811, Liberty Hall - report of the ship Three Sisters ("largest that ever descended the Ohio") arriving in New Orleans safely
Sept. 18, 1811, Liberty Hall - argues it is the "duty and interest of the United States" to build a canal around the Falls of the Ohio
Oct. 18, 1811, Pittsburgh Gazette - describes the New Orleans; reports that her trial run "fully answers the most sanguine expectations"
Oct. 23, 1811, Liberty Hall - specifications of the New Orleans
Oct. 25, 1811, Pittsburgh Gazette - the New Orleans leaves Pittsburgh
Oct. 26, 1811, Western Spy - a (belated) report on the steamboat Nicholas Roosevelt was building
Oct. 26, 1811, Western Spy - describes the New Orleans; reports that her trial run "fully answers the most sanguine expectations"
Oct. 28, 1811 - The New Orleans Steaming Upstream by Moonlight, 1811 (painting by Gary R. Lucy) captures the moment the steamboat arrived in Louisville
Oct. 30, 1811, Liberty Hall - "two large barges" carrying flour head from Cincinnati to New Orleans; the New Orleans passes Cincinnati on Oct. 27
Nov. 2, 1811, Western Spy - the New Orleans passes Cincinnati on Oct. 27
Nov. 16, 1811, Western Spy - a discussion of steamboats and a belated report of the New Orleans' departure from Pittsburgh
Nov. 20, 1811, Western Spy - James Stubbs describes various machines he has invented, including a steam engine for boats
Nov. 21, 1811, Liberty Hall - the New Orleans arrives in Louisville on Oct. 28
Nov. 23, 1811, Western Spy - another report of the New Orleans' arrival in Louisville, Oct. 28
Jan. 1, 1812, Liberty Hall - ad for an inn in Brookville, Indiana Territory, offering "the best imported liquors" and "good stabling for 16 or 18 horses"
Jan. 15, 1812, Liberty Hall - flatboats destroyed by the earthquake
Jan. 18, 1812, Western Spy - flatboats, "laden with port," destroyed by the earthquake, ruining their owner
Jan. 18, 1812, Western Spy - the barge Cincinnati traveled from Cincinnati to New Orleans in 41 days (a record, given the conditions)
Jan. 22, 1812, Pennsylvania Gazette - report on the number of families (and sheep) leaving Pennsylvania for Ohio
Jan. 29, 1812, Liberty Hall - Robert Livingson and Robert Fulton (through Nicholas Roosevelt) offer shares in a new steamboat company
Feb. 12, 1812, Liberty Hall - the New Orleans arrives in Natchez on Dec. 30; announces that will soon offer packet service
Feb. 8, 1812, Western Spy - the New Orleans arrives in Natchez on Dec. 30; announces that will soon offer packet service
Feb. 14, 1812, Pittsburgh Gazette - report on the goods passing over the Falls of the Ohio in October and November, 1811
Feb. 14, 1812, Pittsburgh Gazette - the New Orleans arrives in New Orleans on Jan. 10; 259 hours from Pittsburgh (8 mph)
Feb. 19, 1812, Connecticut Current - William L. Pierce reports (for navigators) on the effects of the Dec. 16 earthquake; at least four boats sunk by earthquake
Mar. 6, 1812, Pittsburgh Gazette - the New Orleans makes a trial run of the New Orleans-Natchez trip on Jan. 23; steams upstream at 3 mph
Mar. 13, 1812, Pittsburgh Gazette - James Smith provides revisions for the Navigator on the Mississippi River's "wonderful changes for the worse" because of the earthquake
Mar. 14, 1812, Western Spy - reports "numbers of boats and lives have been lost" from the earthquake; 100 or more gather "near the mouth of Ohio, afraid to proceed"
Mar. 20, 1812, Pittsburgh Gazette - after the Feb. 7 "hard shock" in New Madrid, the barge carrying cargo for John Vertner and Mrs. Walker sank, and they lost everything
Mar. 21, 1812, Western Spy - the Feb. 23 shock sank Mr. Carter's boat, though he saved part of his cargo; "many other boats" were destroyed and people killed
Apr. 4, 1812, Western Spy - February shocks sink several boats; one sank with seven children and their mother, only the father surviving
May 2, 1812, Louisiana Gazette - federal law on licensing steamboats
June 15, 1812, letter from Robert Fulton, reporting on income, expenses, and debt for the New Orleans
1827, Recollections - Timothy Flint describes river traffic in 1816 and discusses the consequences of using steamboats

1871, First Steamboat Voyage - Lydia Roosevelt's brother remembers river transportation before steamboats (keel boats, barges, and flatboats)
1871, First Steamboat Voyage - Lydia Roosevelt's brother describes the New Orleans's construction
1871, First Steamboat Voyage - Lydia Roosevelt's brother describes the second day of the journey
1871, First Steamboat Voyage - Lydia Roosevelt's brother describes the New Orleans's passage over the Falls of the Ohio and changing attitudes toward steam

 

 

 

More about the "Steamboat Adventure" of 1811-1812 --


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Chronology

Spring 1811
Summer 1811
Fall 1811
Winter 1811-1812
Spring 1812

Locations

Pittsburgh
Cincinnati
Louisville (Kentucky) and Madison (Indiana Territory)
New Madrid (now in Missouri)
Chickasaw Bluffs (now Memphis)
Natchez
New Orleans

Topics

Nicholas and Lydia Roosevelt
The Transportation Revolution
The Great Comet of 1811
The New Madrid Earthquakes
Indian Relations

Questions or comments -- historians@hanover.edu