Archive for February, 2010

Railroads and Their Bridges

Sunday, February 28th, 2010

After the Wheeling Bridge Case, the next conflict with river bridges was the Case of the Effie Afton. In Sep 1857, the steamer Effie Afton crashed into a new railroad bridge spanning the Mississippi River at Rock Island, IL. The steamer was destroyed by the resulting fire. The owners of the steamer brought suit against the railroad. There were two legitimate complaints:

(1) The railway level of the bridge was not sufficiently high.
(2) The piers were not placed with proper reference to the channels.

Abraham Lincoln represented the railroad and achieved what amounted to a victory with a hung jury.

Railroads and their bridges were here to stay!

More Mark Twain on Steamboats

Friday, February 26th, 2010

“I think the most enjoyable of all races is a steamboat race… two red-hot steamboats raging along, neck and neck, straining every nerve… that is to say, every rivet in the boilers – quaking and straining and groaning stem to stern, spouting white steam from the pipes, pouring black smote from the chimneys, raining down sparks, parting the river into a long streak of hissing foam – this is a sport that makes a body’s liver curl with enjoyment. A horse race is pretty colorless and tame in comparison.”

Mark Twain on Steamboats.

Monday, February 22nd, 2010

“She is long and sharp and trim and pretty. She has two tall fancy-topped chimneys, with a gold device strung between them; a fanciful pilothouse, all glass and gingerbread.

…Finer than anything on shore. Compared with superior dwelling-houses and first-rate hotels in the valley, they were indubitably magnificent; they were palaces.”

Monthly Wages

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

In 1869, the monthly wage rate on all boats out of St Louis except those bound for the Missouri River:

 

                                      1869 $s                  2006 $s

Captain                                   $175                       $2,800
Pilots                                      $250                       $4,000
1st Clerk                                 $140                       $2,240
2nd Clerk or Mud clerk           $60                       $   960
1st engineers                          $110                       $1,760
2nd Engineer                            $70                       $1,120
Mates                                     $110                       $1,760
Steward                                    $70                       $1,120
Deck hands                           $30-60                   $   480-960  

 

Pilots on the Missouri earned $500-2,000 ($8,000 – $32,000 in 2006 dollars) if they steamed above Sioux City to Ft Benton.  The average length of a trip from St Louis to Ft Benton was 100 days making a pilot  a wealthy man.

 

More RR Steamboat Comparisons

Saturday, February 13th, 2010

It is not only in carrying capacity, but in quick delivery, that the steamboat outclassed the railroad in most cases – though popular conception is to the contrary.  The Interstate Commerce Commission reported in 1913 that the average movement of a freight car per day as 23 miles.  An ordinary packet traveled 120 miles per day, including all stops for receiving and discharging of passengers and freight.  One of Pittsburgh and Cincinnati Packet Line boats would deliver 800 tons of miscellaneous cargo from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati, a distance of 468 miles, in sixty hours, which would not be ordinarily accomplished by any of the railroads running between these two points short of six days. [1]

 

References.


[1]  Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly, Volume 22, the Ohio Historical Society, Columbus, Ohio,  April 1913, p 90.

Steamboating Reputation

Friday, February 12th, 2010

Steamboating had a long standing reputation as a high risk business.  In 1868, a US Treasury Department report indicated that 96 of the 1,042 inspected steamers on inland rivers were lost.  That was a 9.2% rate of  loss.  Of the 96 boats lost, the single greatest cause was snagging.  The following table lists the number and percentage of boats lost per cause. 

       Cause No Pct
Sank, mostly by snagging 51 53.1
  Burned 29 30.2
  Exploded   9   9.8
  Collisions   7   7.3

 

                                 

 

In 1868, 4 of the 62 boats (6.5%) leaving St Louis for the upper Missouri were lost.  All were snagged and total losses.  The Amelia Poe owned by Thomas W Poe of Georgetown, PA was one of the four casualties in 1868.   [1]  

 

The Steamboat Act of 1852 attempted to improve river transportation safety and reduce the loss of civilian lives due to boiler explosions by annual inspections and licenses for boats, pilots, and engineers.  Less than one percent of the boats on inland rivers exploded in 1868.  However, the loss of life from fire and scalding water made sensational news.  Boatmen, ever practical business men, supported river improvements as their preferred method to improve safety.  Removal of snags and channel improvements would make river navigation safer and reduce costs of shipping for government and private businesses.   The facts support the river improvement advocates.  Action did not happen.  Although snag boats were built with federal assistance,  channel improvement such as rock removal in the Dauphins Rapids did not occur until the 1870s.  The first lock and dam on the Ohio River was not built until 1885.        

  

Davis Island Dam opeining ceremony, Ohio, Oct. 7, 1885. Taken during the opening ceremony at the dam. C. W. Batchelor has star between stacks. (From the Collection of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County)

Davis Island Dam opeining ceremony, Ohio, Oct. 7, 1885. Taken during the opening ceremony at the dam. C. W. Batchelor has star between stacks. (From the Collection of the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County)

 

George WE Poe was a pilot of the CW Batchelor during this time, but whether he was the pilot the day of the ceremony is unknown.

References.

 



[1] William E Lass, Navigating the Missouri/ Steamboating on Nature’s Highway, 1819-1935, (University of Oklahome Press,2007), p 257.

Record of Floods

Monday, February 8th, 2010

The flood stage of the Ohio River at Pittsburgh is twenty-five (25) feet.  According to the US Geological Service, elevation of zero of the river at the point is 694.2 feet above sea level.  The following two charts are old newspaper clipplings from unidentified papers.   The first, and oldest, compares the river stages at Pittsburgh and Wheeling.  The second chart lists only the flood stages at various dates for Pittsburgh.

 

Record of Flood stages at Wheeling and Pittsburgh 1907 (Anna L and John F Nash Collection)

Record of Flood stages at Wheeling and Pittsburgh 1907 (Anna L and John F Nash Collection)

 

Record of flood Stages at Pittsburgh 1762-1940 (Anna L and John F Nash Collection)

Record of flood Stages at Pittsburgh 1762-1940 (Anna L and John F Nash Collection)

A Glance at the Wheeling Bridge Case

Saturday, February 6th, 2010

he Wheeling Bridge Case in the US Supreme Court in 1849-52 and 1854-56 was interesting for its relationship between two rival cities and two competing industrial transportation systems.  Wheeling wanted a bridge over the Ohio River to connect  with central Ohio and Indiana.  Pittsburgh wanted free navigation of the Ohio River.  A Wheeling plan to secure US Congressional aid to build a simple span across the river was defeated because the elevation of 90 feet above low water would inhibit the passage of steamboats with tall smoke stacks.   Even the Supreme Court decided against Wheeling.  Not accepting failure, Wheeling approached the Virginia legislature where the Pittsburgh opposition could not be heard.  In 1846, the Commonwealth of Virginia granted the charter to the Bridge Company.  Also in 1846, Wheeling secured a promise from the Baltimore and Ohio RR of a western RR terminal.  [1]

 

Fearing that Wheeling would become the transportation “Gateway to the West”, PA filed suit stating the bridge obstructed passage of steamboats and threatened to injure business in Pittsburgh.  Edwin Stanton, a Pittsburgh attorney and later Sec of War in the Lincoln administration, argued the case for PA before the Supreme Court.   Of the nine regular packets of the Pittsburgh and Cincinnati Line, five would be unable to pass under the bridge.  These boats conveyed half the goods (in value) and three- fourths of the passengers between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.  VA argued that the bridge was necessary to carry freight and passengers into the interior which would be diverted from the steamboats because of the greater safety and speed of the railroads which would soon be concentrated at Wheeling.  The bridge had first been proposed to carry the National Pike across the Ohio.  Despite an injunction the bridge was built.[2]

Although unstated directly, this national controversy was also a skirmish between free and slave states.  It was a national event drawing the attention of Henry Clay who formulated the Missouri Compromise of 1850.   The South, specifically Virginia, wanted to divert commerce from Philadelphia to Norfolk.  From there via Richmond to Wheeling, Virginia and slave holding  influence  in the Midwest and territories further west would be greatly enhanced.

Engineer Charles Ellet, Jr finished his bridge in 1849.   On 15 Sep 1849, famed statesman Henry Clay was a speaker for the dedication ceremonies.  He stated that “They might as well try to take down the rainbow.”  Clay’s “They” were Yankees, Stanton and the Pittsburgh objectors, who feared the bridge would choke river traffic.

 

The steamer Hibernia No2 on 11 Nov 1849 was delayed thirty-two hours after its stacks were damaged in a collision with the structure.  Its stacks stood 80 feet above the water; the bridge stood only 48 feet above water level.  Another boat was hired to transport the passengers of the Hibernia No2 to Pittsburgh.  Other boats were detained and at least two more accidents occurred.  The Hibernia No2 was mentioned specifically because Capt George W Ebert  of Georgetown, PA  had an interest in the packet.  Whether the Hibernia No2  intentionally rammed the bridge is still a great controversy.  [3]

 

The Virginia passing under the Wabash Bridge note the stacks (From the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

The Virginia passing under the Wabash Bridge note the stacks (From the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County.

In Aug 1851, a bill passed both the US Senate and House legalizing the existing conditions of the bridge and at the same time requiring steamers to regulate their chimneys so as not to interfere with the elevation and constructions of bridges.  Wheeling won.  Steamboats had to tailor their stacks.  Pittsburgh retaliated by declaring Wheeling outside of its travel line.  Pittsburgh established a station below Wheeling  to induce passengers to continue to Pittsburgh.  Pittsburgh also influenced the railway between Cleveland and the Ohio River to be terminated at Wellsville, OH which was located closer to Pittsburgh than Wheeling, VA.    [4]

 

The Wheeling bridge was blown down by a gale force wind on 18 May 1854.   Shortly thereafter in a derisive salute, the Pittsburgh and Cincinnati  Line packet, Pennsylvania, lowered her stacks approaching Wheeling with no bridge to lower them for.  Offended, a mob gathered on shore and pelted the packet with stones.  [5]

Finally, the great rivalry for the title “Gateway to the West” was settled.  Pittsburgh emerged as its keeper.

 

 

 

References.


[1] Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly, Volume 22, the Ohio Historical Society, Columbus, Ohio,  April 1913, p 44.
[2]  Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly, Volume 22, the Ohio Historical Society, Columbus, Ohio,  April 1913, p 45.
[3]  Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly, Volume 22, the Ohio Historical Society, Columbus, Ohio,  April 1913, p 46.
[4]  Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly, Volume 22, the Ohio Historical Society, Columbus, Ohio,  April 1913, p 51.
[5]  Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly, Volume 22, the Ohio Historical Society, Columbus, Ohio,  April 1913, p 52

 

 

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The Flood of 1884

Thursday, February 4th, 2010

The Flood of 1884 brought vast devastation to the Ohio River Valley from Wheeling to Cairo.  The Katie Stockdale commanded by Capt Thomas S Calhoon participated in the relief effort between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.  His story is told on the page The Mercy Mission.

St Luke’s Episcopal Church

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

A history of St Luke’s Episcopal Church of Georgetown, PA has been added as a page.  The history was nicely written by Frances Finley in 1979 while the church was preparing to celebrate the 165th anniversary of its founding.  The first twelve pages of the brochure list the church service activities of this celebration.  Those pages have not yet been scanned and loaded.

St Luke's Episcopal Church Cookbook published 1889 (Anna L and John F Nash Collection)

St Luke's Episcopal Church Cookbook published 1889 (Anna L and John F Nash Collection)

A fun cookbook containing local recipes was published in 1889 as a church fund raising effort by the women of Georgetown.  My grandmother as a young teen was the author of several of the recipes.