Why is there is so little interest in old steamboats? My definition of old is precisely the years between 1811 and 1848. These were the years of great experiences and many great men. Has interest faded because the information is too hard to find? The data exists. I also believe we must find it soon or it will be too hard to find, or worse lost forever.
Two recent examples from the tiny village of Georgetown, PA worthy of note.
(1) Account of Adam Poe, Sr River Experiences
written 2 May 1889
(2) Steamers Built in Pittsburgh from 1811-1904
presented on 20 Sep 1904
Capt Adam Poe’s account of his river experiences is a fascinating glimpse into an interesting life. It started as a struggle for survival, yet he lived to see prosperity for his family. In genealogy correspondence, I had read about this book, but I still have never held it. I did find a photo copy, with a few lines distorted beyond understanding, at the Beaver County Genealogy and History Center in Beaver Falls, PA. The autobiographical account has been loaded under Capt Adam Poe as a page called book of river experiences.
People in Georgetown know of my interest in steamboats and their history. Several have provided old documents and photos. Recently, my aunt showed me a book written by hand listing all the steamboats built at Pittsburgh between 1811-1904. Its author was Benjamin M Laughlin. His list was compiled from “Custom House records taken by Mr Showing”. On the fly leaf, he presented the book to his brother RD Laughlin (Robert Dawson Laughlin). He lists 50 pages of boats pre 1848. I repeat 50 pages of steamer names and tonnage pre Capt Way. He comments on some boats, ie where she snagged, exploded, sunk, etc. He lists the names of the daily packets of the old Pittsburgh and Cincinnati Packet Line (1842-1855). BM Laughlin remembered the flood of 10 Feb 1832. The first steamer remembered was the Emigrant built 15 Aug 1831. A fascinating trove of information from a person who lived during the time. I have not come across unique primary source data like this. I will share this information as I am able.
Copyright © 2009 Francis W Nash
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