Steamboat Adventure
Made possible by the Rivers Institute and the History Department of Hanover College.

Fall 1811

New Orleans
The New Orleans arrives in Louisville (Oct. 28, 1811), painting by Gary R. Lucy.


The steamboat New Orleans' 1811-1812  trip down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers from Pittsburgh to New Orleans 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 items below were published in Fall, 1811, and they provide context for understanding the Roosevelts' "steamboat adventure."  (Note that newspaper editors often reprinted stories that appeared earlier elsewhere.)

At the beginning of this period, Nicholas Roosevelt was supervising the completion of the New Orleans.  After a successful test run, the New Orleans steamed out of Pittsburgh on Sunday, October 20. Although the Roosevelts' neighbors thought that Lydia should stay in Pittsburgh, rather than accompany her husband on what might be a dangerous journey, the Roosevelts insisted on making the trip as a team.  With the Great Comet of 1811 in the sky above them, the Roosevelts, their toddler daughter, and the crew steamed into Louisville late on October 28. There, on October 30, Lydia gave birth to their son, Henry Latrobe Roosevelt.  They stayed in Louisville through November, waiting for the river to rise enough to allow them through the Falls of the Ohio.

Meanwhile, long-tense relations between American settlers and Native Americans turned to open conflict in the Battle of Tippecanoe on November 7 (in what is now northwestern Indiana). Tensions throughout the area were such that many Native Americans along the Mississippi perceived the New Orleans' presence as a threat.

Sept. 1811 a Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, schoolteacher describes the comet in his journal
Sept. 18, 1811, Liberty Hall - Gov. William Henry Harrison requests cavalry from Kentucky for his "proposed expedition against the Indians"
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
Sept. 18, 1811, 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. 18, 1811, Pittsburgh Gazette - the New Orleans makes a trial run and "fully answers the most sanguine expectations"
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. 23, 1811, Liberty Hall - "Mr. Roosevelt, it is stated, is building a Steam Boat, to run on the Ohio and Mississippi"
Oct. 25, 1811, Pittsburgh Gazette - "The Steam Boat sailed from this place on Sunday last."
Oct. 26, 1811, Western Spy - a (belated) report on the steamboat Nicholas Roosevelt was building
Oct. 26, 1811, Western Spy - optimism about the New Orleans based on her Oct. 15 test voyage
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 - shipping news, including the New Orleans' passing Cincinnati on Oct. 27
Nov. 2, 1811, Western Spy - the New Orleans passes Cincinnati on Oct. 27
Nov. 2, 1811, Louisiana Gazette - reproduces August speeches made by Miami leaders in response to rising tensions between white settlers and Indians organized by Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa
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, Western Spy - publishers "stop the presses" for this extra edition headlined "War! War! War!" (on the Battle of Tippecanoe)
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
Nov. 23, 1811, Louisiana Gazette - "Cosmopolites" dismisses those who fear the comet will bring disaster -- "the great Architect" would not destroy  his creation
Nov. 30, 1811, Louisiana Gazette - the newspaper shares travellers reports on the Battle of Tippecanoe and blames the British for Indian aggression

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 Roosevelts' stay in Louisville, their son's birth, and the New Orleans's passage over the Falls of the Ohio

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



Steamboat Adventure homepage


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


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


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

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