ABOUT RIVERBOAT
BUILDING IN
PITTSBURGH, PA


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Some years ago a site visitor submitted photos of these pages to me.
I honestly do not know from what publication they came.
Due to computer changes over the years, and e-mail changes, I do not even know the name of the good person who submitted them.

If anybody knows where these pages were originally printed, in what publication, please let me know.


Allegheny County's
Boat Building

104

(Cont from page 103)

flour, to St. Thomas, and the other, also loaded with flour, to Philadelphia, from whence they sent them to Bordeaux, France, and brought back a cargo of wine, brandy and other French goods, part of which they sent to Pittsburgh in wagons at a carriage of from six to eight cents a pound. In 1802 they built the brig Nanina, 250 tons; in 1803 the ship Louisiana of 300 tons, and in 1804 the ship Western Trader of 400 tons. The schooner Monongahela Farmer was built at Elizabeth, by a company of ship carpenters, who were brought out in 1787, from Philadelphia, by Colonel Stephen Bayard. She was owned by the builders and farmers of the neighborhood, who loaded her with a cargo of flour, and sent her via New Orleans to New York. The brig Ann Jane was built in 1803, at Elizabeth, for the Messrs. McFarlane, merchants, and was of 450 tons burden. She was loaded with flour and whisky, and sailed to New York. This brig was one of the fastest sailers of her day, and was run for some time as a packet to New Orleans from New York,

The year 1811 was an important one in the history of Allegheny county. In that year was built the first steamboat for the navigation of the western waters.

This boat, called the New Orleans, was built at Pittsburgh in 1811. The location where she was constructed being at Suke's run, at or about where the Pittsburgh, St. Louis A Cincinnati railroad bridge crosses the Monongahela. She was 138 feet keel, and between 300 and 400 tons burden; her cabin was in the hold, and she had port holes; also a bowsprit eight feet in length, in ocean steamer style, which was painted sky blue. She was owned by Messrs. Fulton, Livingston and Roosevelt, and her construction was superintended by the latter gentleman. Her cost was $40,000. She was launched in March, and descended the river to Natchez, in December, at which point she took in her first freight and passengers, and from thence proceeded to New Orleans on the 24th of the same month. She continued to ply between New Orleans and Natchez until 1814, making the round trip in ten days, conveying passengers at the rate of $25 up and $18 down. On her first year's business she cleared $20,000 net. In the winter of 1814 she was snagged and lost at Baton Rouge.

The formation of the company to build steamboats is thus mentioned in Cramer's Almanack, of 1810:

"A company has been formed for the purpose of navigating the river Ohio in large boats, to be propelled by the power of steam engines. The boat now on the stocks is 138 feet keel, and calculated for a freight as well as passenge boat between Pittsburgh and the Falls of the Ohio."

The boat here alluded to was the one afterwards known as the "New Orleans."

In the first years of steamboat building the progress was slow. While Roosevelt and Fulton had succeeded in the constructing the first practical "steamer,'' yet there were many difficulties to be overcome in the perfect adaptation of steam-boats to the varying currents, rapids, shoals, floods and low waters of the western waters. The growth of boat building at Pittsburgh was, however, inevitable. However, energy and artificial means may ultimately enable an industry to be established at any chosen point, the force of natural advantages is at all times the

105

greatest factor. Those in Allegheny county have always been So powerful that they have at all times placed it first and foremost in all the manufacturing industries in which its population have engaged.

While proximity of suitable material for the complete construction of ships or steamboats is a factor to success therein, yet primarily is the existence of navigable waters into which they can be launched and navigated to their destined point of delivery. This a force of nature of which Pittsburgh is in full possession.

The hydraulic factor just quoted was in the years when steamboat building was inaugurated at Pittsburgh of far greater force than now, from the absence of the yet immaterialized transportation power of the railroad, although that was predicted by Fulton when coming to Pittsburgh to arrange for the building of the "New Orleans."

In the course of some conversation on the almost impassable nature of the mountains over which they were dragged with great toil, he said: "The day will come, gentlemen, I may not live to see it, but some of you who are younger probably will, when carriages will be drawn over these mountains by steam engines, at a rate more rapid than that of a stage coach upon the smoothest turnpike." The then apparently absurdness of this prediction excited great laughter.

The successful result of " Fulton's steamboat" at once gave new value to the eighteen thousand miles of river navigation, continuous, from Pittsburgh, and the abundance of fine timber and other requirements for boat building at that point made it beyond any competition the ship yard of the western rivers.

For all the success of the "New Orleans" and the boats that immediately succeeded her, the practicability of the navigation of the Ohio by steamboat was doubled.

A writer in the Western, Monhtly Magazine states that, in 1816, he formed one of a company of gentlemen who, watching the long continued efforts of a stern-wheel boat to ascend the Horsetail ripple, five miles below Pittsburgh, came to the unanimous conclusion that such " a contrivance might do for the Mississippi as high as Natchez, but that "we of the Ohio must wait for some more happy century of inventions."

While it would not be possible to give in the scope of this volume a history of the careers of the various boats built in Allegheny county, yet a brief notation of a few of the earlier boats is indulged in.

The second boat constructed at Pittsburgh appears to have been the "Comet," of twenty-five tons, built by D. French, for Samuel Smith, in 1812-13. She had a stern wheel and a vibrating cylinder. She made one trip to Louisville in 1813; descended to New Orleans in 1814, made two trips to Natchez, and was sold and the engine put up in a cotton-gin.

The "Vesuvius " and the "Aetna," of 340 tons each, were built by the "Mississippi Steam Boat Co." in 1813-14. The "Vesuvius," under the command of Captain Ogden, left Pittsburgh in the spring of 1814 for New Orleans; in July, 1816, she was burnt near New Orleans. The " Aetna," under command of Captain Gale,

(Cont. on pg. 106)

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