Steamboats 1845-49


Built: 1845, Cincinnati, Ohio.
Type: Sidewheel, wooden hull packet.
Size: 304 feet, 886 tons.

This is a 1850 lithograph of the MISSOURI, also called the BIG MISSOURI because it was the largest steamboat on the river below Louisville before the launch of the SULTANA in 1848. It operated mainly between St. Louis and New Orleans and was destroyed at St. Louis in 1851.

Ben Rogers hove in sight presently — the very boy, of all boys, whose ridicule he had been dreading. Ben’s gait was the hop-skip-and-jump — proof enough that his heart was light and his anticipations high. He was eating an apple, and giving a long, melodious whoop, at intervals, followed by a deep-toned ding-dong-dong, ding-dong-dong, for he was personating a steamboat. As he drew near, he slackened speed, took the middle of the street, leaned far over to star-board and rounded to ponderously and with laborious pomp and circumstance — for he was personating the Big Missouri, and considered himself to be drawing nine feet of water.
Credit:~ Chapter 2, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain.


Built: 1847, New Albany, Indiana.
Type: Sidewheel, wooden hull.
Size: 210 tons.
Engine: Unknown.

The ST. LOUIS exploded her boilers on February 20, 1851, at St. Louis, with the losss of 20 lives.

In 1847 St. Louis became the first city west of the Mississippi to have a direct connection to the eastern cities via the telegraph, but the booming city’s moral was undermined in 1849, when St. Louis suffered the Great Fire, which destroyed 15 city blocks and 23 steamboats along the riverfront. And later that year, St. Louis suffered a serios cholera epidemic, which claimed thousands of lives.

By 1850, river traffic had increased so much that as many as 170 steamboats could be counted on the levee, some of which were literally “floating palaces,” decorated with chandeliers, lush carpets, and fine furnishings.


Built: 1848, Freedom, Pennsylvania.
Type: Sidewheel, wooden hull packet.
Size: 241′ x 30′ 7″ x 7′ 7″.

The GRAND TURK was well-known in the early years of the steamboating era, running on the lower Mississippi in the trade from St.Louis and Louisville to New Orleans. She was partly owned by Capt. Newman Robirds, from St. Louis. The GRAND TURK was the victim of a conflagration in New Orleans, on Feb. 6, 1854, when a fire that began on the CHARLES BELCHER, loaded with cotton, spread to nearby boats, including the NATCHEZ III.

The barber of the GRAND TURK was a spruce young negro, who aired his importance with balmy complacency, and was greatly courted by the circle in which he moved. The young colored population of New Orleans were much given to flirting, at twilight, on the banquettes of the back streets. Somebody saw and heard something like the following, one evening, in one of those localities. A middle-aged negro woman projected her head through a broken pane and shouted (very willing that the neighbors should hear and envy), “You Mary Ann, come in de house dis minute! Stannin’ out dah foolin’ ‘long wid dat low trash, an’ heah’s de barber offn de “Gran’ Turk” wants to conwerse wid you!”
Credit:~ Chapter 14, Life on the Mississippi, by Mark Twain.


Built: 1849, Elizabeth, Pennsylvania.
Type: Sidewheel, wooden hull packet.
Size: 149 tons.

The MINNESOTA was built under the direction of, and commanded by, Capt. Richard C. Gray. The Northern Line Packet Company operated her on the Upper Mississippi River from Galena to St. Paul, and later on the Minnesota River. She was destroyed by fire in 1862.

The painted paddleboxes of the MINNESOTA were a feature of this boat.


More boats to be added …