Steamboats were very common on the Missouri River. Out of the
about 400 steamboats lost to the Mighty Missouri around 300 were
'snagged'. Snags were immobile and hard to see. Snags were usually
broken off below the water surface.
Robert Fulton is the designer and builder of the first commercially successful steamboat; The Clermont. Fulton was born on November 14, 1765 in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. At age 21, Fulton went to England to study with Benjamin West. Fulton made a living as a artist. Later, he became interested in engineering developments. After 1793, he gave his full attention to engineering. In 1769, James Watt patented a steam engine. Inventors in Europe and the United States tried to copy Watt's steam engine and power boats. Fulton had other plans. He bought an already proven steam engine from James Watt. The Clermont, a.k.a. Fulton's Folly, traveled the 150 miles from New York to Albany in just 30 hours! The Clermont was originally 142 ft long and 14 ft wide. After rebuilding it was 149 ft long and 18 ft wide. Although Robert Fulton is credited with making the FIRST steamboat, he really wasn't!
John Fitch designed the first workable steamboat.It was steam engine powered with six paddles on each side of the 45 ft long boat. It went 3 miles per hour. Their was not enough demand for passage, so it was not financially successful.
There are several steamboat records such as the Phoenix was the first steamboat to make an ocean voyage. The Siruis was the first ship to offer regularly scheduled trips across the Atlantic Ocean. The Savannah was the first steamboat to cross the Atlantic Ocean.
Some people called steamboats 'floating palaces' and they were right. The Grand Republic had Brussels carpet and oil lamp chandeliers. The Grand Republic had calender dimensions.It was 365 ft long, 52 ft wide, 12 ft hull depth, 7 decks high, and cost $365,000.00.
The Steamboat Arabia was capable of holding 222 tons of cargo.It
was 171 ft long and could go 6 or 7 miles per hour upstream. The
Arabia was built in Brownsville, Pennsylvania in 1853.It was sold
in 1855 to serve in Missouri towns. In February of 1856, it was
sold again to William Boyd and Capt. William Terill. They went
as far up river as Sioux City, Iowa. The Arabia reached West port
Landing at Kansas (presently Kansas City, MO) on September 5th.
Only 2 hours upriver would take her to Parkville, Missouri. The
Arabia would never make it to Parkville. One mile south of Parkville,
as passengers were eating dinner, DISASTER STRUCK!
Lying straight ahead was a snag. The snag, a walnut, pierced the Arabia's cargo hold on the left side. The cargo hold quickly filled with water, pulling her down in less than 5 minutes.The Missouri River is very shallow, as the hull hit the bottom the upper decks were high and dry.
The only life lost on board was a forgotten mule, tied to a piece of sawmill equipment at the stern.
The Arabia started sinking deeper and deeper. Until finally, Arabia's fully loaded hull and cargo brought her down. The Arabia held merchandise bound for frontier stores, such as over 300 hats, canned fruit, firearms, buttons, clothing, hand tools, oysters, sweet pickles, and tons and tons of hardware. The steamboat also held personal belongings of the passengers, and, most memorably, 400 barrels of fine Kentucky bourbon. All was lost to the river.
A group called River Salvage, Inc. excavated the Arabia, found buried in a cornfield. They , however, were not the first. The five men, Bob Hawley, his sons David and Greg Hawley, Jerry Mackey, and Dave Luttrell were looking for an adventure and they found one!
The partners of River Salvage, Inc. had a decision to make; sell off the collection of artifacts or put them into a museum. They chose the latter, and picked a location in Kansas City, Missouri's historic River Market. Come visit this amazing time capsule from 1856! You can contact the Steamboat Arabia Museum at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The World Book
World Book, Inc.
2. A History of Steam boating
on the Upper Missouri River
William E. Lass
University of Nebraska Press
3. River Boats of America
Thomas Y. Crowell Co.
World Book Encyclopedia
world Book, Inc.
5. Steamboat Legacy
Dorothy Heckmann Shrader
The Wein Press
6. The Treasures of the