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 Spring 1811, and they provide
context for understanding the Roosevelts' "steamboat
adventure." (Note that newspaper editors often reprinted
stories that appeared earlier elsewhere.)
This period found the Roosevelts in Pittsburgh. Nicholas Roosevelt was supervising the construction of the steamboat, launching the hull in March and continuing to work on the cabin and the engine after that. Lydia Roosevelt was probably occupied with the care of their toddler daughter, Rosetta; even so, she took an interest in the business, encouraged by her father, the architect Benjamin Henry Latrobe.
Meanwhile, in March, a French astronomer made the first sighting of the Great Comet of 1811, which would make an impressive backdrop for the first weeks of the New Orleans' trip later in the year.
Mar. 2, 1811, Western Spy - a narrative about white settlers and Christianity inevitably displacing Native Americans and their culture (despite warnings from the "Prophet of the Alleghany")
Mar. 8, 1811, Pittsburgh Gazette - advertisement for The Navigator, an indispensible guide to river travel that the Roosevelts surely purchased before beginning their trip
Mar. 18, 1811, Western Spy - a "descendant of Japhet" argues that biblical prophecy makes American race relations inevitable
Mar. 30, 1811, Western Spy - a re-discovered version of "Logan's Lament," a 1774 speech, by the leader of the Mingos, critical of white aggression and cruelty
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 - report of the "first rigged vessel that ever arrived at Cincinnati" by travelling upriver from New Orleans
1871, First Steamboat Voyage - Lydia Roosevelt's brother recalls the New Orleans's construction in spring of 1811