In the fall and winter of
1811-1812, the steamboat New
Orleans traveled down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers
from Pittsburgh to New Orleans. The trip marked a turning point in American history. After
the New Orleans showed
that it could be done, steamboats proliferated on the Ohio and
the Mississippi Rivers and their tributaries. Steamboats
and other early nineteenth-century internal improvements and
innovations (such as canals and highways) constituted a
Transportation Revolution that made a truly national American
economy possible for the first time. Steamboat traffic
allowed farmers to ship their goods to wider markets and allowed
manufacturers to reach more consumers.
The trip was also an adventure story. Nicholas and Lydia Roosevelt chose to make the trip together, despite those who told them that Lydia should stay behind. They traveled under the Great Comet of 1811, and Lydia gave birth along the way. They traveled through Indian territory during a time of tense relations between Euro-American settlers and Native Americans. They also experienced the New Madrid earthquakes, with shocks strong enough to change the shape of the Mississippi River, creating miles and miles of uncharted waters in their path.
This collection of primary sources related to the Roosevelts’ 1811-1812 trip is organized chronologically, thematically, and geographically, as listed below and on the homepage. Researchers may also use keyword searching through the custom search engine.
A few documents that are only tangentially related to the
1811-1812 trip (uncovered in research on other projects) are
for those interested in more historical context.
I am grateful to Pat Schuring for transcribing most of the documents found here, to Shannon Baker for research assistance, to Joe Lackner and Stephen Cairns for design assistance, and to Matthew Vosmeier and Annabelle Vosmeier for advice and other assistance.