October 1st, 1811 – The First Mississippi River Steamboat

Today-In-History

On October 1st, 1811, the first steamboat to sail the Mississippi River arrived in New Orleans and thus began the golden age of the steamboats and River Queens.

steamboat

The era of the steamboat actually began in Philadelphia in 1787 when John Fitch (1743-1798) made the first successful trial of a 45-foot (14-meter) steamboat on the Delaware River on August 22nd, 1787, in the presence of members of the United States Constitutional Convention. Fitch later built a larger vessel that carried passengers and freight between Philadelphia and Burlington, New Jersey on the Delaware.

Steamboat 680The first steamboat to travel the full length of the Lower Mississippi from the Ohio River to New Orleans was the New Orleans in December 1811. Its maiden voyage occurred during the series of New Madrid earthquakes in 1811–12. Steamboat transport remained a viable industry, both in terms of passengers and freight until the end of the first decade of the 20th century. Among the several Mississippi River system steamboat companies was the noted Anchor Line, which, from 1859 to 1898, operated a luxurious fleet of steamers between St. Louis and New Orleans. In 1817 a consortium in Sackets Harbor, New York funded the construction of the first US steamboat, Ontario, to run on Lake Ontario and the Great Lakes, beginning the growth of lake commercial and passenger traffic. 

In his book Life on the Mississippi, river pilot and author Mark Twain described much of the operation of such vessels. He wrote extensively on the steamboat commerce which took place from 1830 to 1870 on the river before more modern ships replaced the steamer. The book was published first in serial form in Harper’s Weekly in seven parts in 1875. The full version, including a passage from the then unfinished Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and works from other authors, was published by James R. Osgood & Company in 1885.

“Today in History” on The Pandora Society dot com is primarily focused on Victorian and Edwardian history and does not always have a direct connection to Steampunk, Dieselpunk, or whatever punk; in fact it rarely does, but it is our hope that in sharing these historical events they might serve as some inspiration to the writers in our community to create potential alternative history stories which we look forward to reading 🙂


 

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