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Old 01-31-2017, 08:05 AM
Jim Reising Jim Reising is offline
Join Date: Apr 2006
Posts: 770
Default I must take exception

Dale, I must take exception to some of the points you brought out in your posting. You're right packets were not "romantic", they were a tool. A uniquely American invention without which the American heartland would not have been settled as quickly as it was. You site flimsy construction, they had to be built lightly in order to both handle tons of materials and still navigate on the shallow, twisting rivers of the West. Remember until the late 1870's, packets were pretty much built and operated by the individual captains, ie..the Cannons, Leathers who individually financed their boats without a lot of capital to spend.
Deck passage seems almost cruel today, but without it the swarms of immigrants that flooded into the heartland could not have done so without cheap passage. I would think my ancestors and perhaps yours came up the Mississippi "on deck". Remember until the Civil War more people came into this country through New Orleans than through New York because it offered cheap and easy transportation to the heartland because of deck passage on steamboats.
You mention the food served on steamboats. First let me say this Alan Bates never rode on a packet so he got his information from what he read. I think that the captain/owner of the old packet boats tried to provide the best food they could. All food back then was greasy, heavy on pork and light on beef. Without the best food they could provide a captain/owner wouldn't be able to attract passengers or keep a crew. By today's "refrigerated" standards or a gentrified European of the day, the food probably was very bad. they weren't. I draw parallels to something we know about...trains. If you read the ads for the crack trains of our youth, they look very "romantic" but how many people today would ride in a pullman berth? Like steamboats as soon as something better came along, people abandoned trains, only to be looked back upon with fond nostalgia.
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