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The Western River Steamboat

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Overview

The first Western steamboat was built in 1811 in Pittsburgh, and thousands more were constructed in the years before the Civil War. These waterborne vehicles helped define the nineteenth-century trans-Appalachian West. Decades of incremental changes created a distinctive watercraft, and the steamboat became perfectly suited to the conditions of the Western rivers, transforming the West from a wilderness into a place of economic significance.

In The Western River Steamboat, nautical archaeologist Adam I. Kane traces the development of this once commonplace vessel. Kane describes the importance and impact of the steamboat in American history and complements his historical analysis with clear, concise technical explanations of the construction and evolution of Western river steamboats.

Using photographs, drawings, and charts to help readers visualize the early steamboats and the study of their remains by archaeologists, Kane explains how the rivers dictated the design of the hull, why stern wheels replaced side wheels, how hogging chains kept hulls from buckling, and why safety valves were of little use when engineers regularly overloaded them.

Anyone intrigued by the vessel that changed America's West, in addition to those studying historical or nautical archaeology, maritime history, or cultural resource management, will find this book of interest.


About the Author:
ADAM I. KANE lives in New Haven, Vermont, and works as a nautical archaeologist at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. He holds a master's degree in anthropology from Texas A&M University and has done extensive fieldwork at archaeological sites throughout the United States.

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Editorial Reviews

Colonial Latin American Historical Review
. . . an invaluable contribution in this brief history of the western river steamboat. . . . recommended for researchers as well as students interested in the history of transportation of people and things.
The Journal of Southern History
. . . Adam A. Kane is standing his watch in the wheelhouse of the history of western rivers, adding to our knowledge of steamboat structure and technology . . . All historians of American economics and technology and of the Ohio and Mississippi Valley frontiers and civilization should own a copy of this book.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

ADAM I. KANE works as a nautical archaeologist at the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in Vermont. He holds a master’s degree in anthropology from Texas A&M University. He has done extensive fieldwork at archaeological sites throughout the United States and has written numerous technical reports.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Tables
Foreword
Acknowledgments
Introduction
1 Westward, Onboard a Steamboat 3
2 Steamboat Archaelogy 33
3 An Unpromising Beginning: Steamboats, 1811-20 44
4 Trial, Error, and Adaptation: Steamboats, 1820-35 59
5 Colonizing the West: Steamboats, 1835-60 84
6 Conclusions 126
App. 1 Western River Steamboat Construction and Tonnage, 1811-80 131
App. 2 Table of Steamboat Measurements from 1850 133
Glossary 145
Notes 153
Bibliography 167
Illustration Credits 177
Index 181
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