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Thread: Launch of the ROBERT E. LEE

  1. #1

    Default Launch of the ROBERT E. LEE

    I know this is of little interest since it occured 150 yrs. ago and does not mention the DELTA QUEEN, but I find it fascinating.
    The Louisville Daily Courier, July 19, 1866
    LAUNCH OF THE ROBERT E. LEE - "Yesterday morning the new southern packet, building for Captain Cannon, was launched from the shipyard at Lower Albany amid a vast concourse of spectators. She was laid on the stocks at right angles to the river and had to be launched stern foremost. The lashings were cut away about 9 o'clock and she darted to the water, having a good run to make, with accellerated velocity, making an imposing launch.
    Owing to the low stage of the river, the launch was not as successful as it should have been. Just before the boat reached the water the "packing" (a drift pile) along the ways caught, or jammed, and the proud boat had to actually climb over the debris to reach the river. Her momentium was so great, added to the great weight, that she overcame the obstacles that she rushed into her future element like a thing of life, and she she now rides triumphantly at the wharf, the future mistress of the inland seas.
    The boat, in launching, broke her main fore and aft hog chains and the hull in the strain, "jumping the packing, is somewhat out of shape. It is, however, considered wholly uninjured, and by the time the machinery is aboard she will be drawn to her proper shape and trim. The model is the keenest ever constructed and, if shes not a screamer to run, it will not be John Cannons fault."

  2. #2

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    HI JIM: Plenty of interest on my part. It is supposed about history!!! It is more interesting than some discussions being had on this site.
    Have a good day and keep posting on here, I hate facebook.

  3. #3
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    *ROBT. E. LEE launch Etc.*
    Morning, steamboating colleagues,
    Jim, I have to agree with Capt. Bill Judd above. Your brief account of launching THE ROBT. E. LEE interesting. Capt. Fred Way's PACKET DIRECTORY lists some five boats bearing that name. The ROBT. E. LEE in your above gets a 'big blow' from Fred Way with Entry No. 4777 running from Pg. 395 to 397. Many grouse about "use of WAY'S DIRECTORY" but when we need to know to flesh out an article then that's where we go. I don't get this 'purist' thinking about steamboats. Fred meant his two DIRECTORY volumes as solid information, resource material. Fred mentions her construction [hull] down at New Albany in what was called "the lower yard" by DeWitt Hill. Seems a number of the unusually big boats built down there or sent down over the falls for completion due to logistics, size and, no doubt, competing price bids. They towed her across to the Kentucky side to paint her name ROBT. E. LEE due to hard feelings from the recent war. Fred elaborates that "Hoosiers resented the name." Interesting reading about her hull nearly hanging up on the river debris and what happened. 'River reporters' for newspapers in those days knew their stuff along with being excellent writers in the near Victorian 'Gothic Style.' Many reporters had spent time aboard steamboats themselves or in/around the steamboat business. Good river writing was important as that was big stuff then with local and national business, cargo shipping news and rates, Custom House filings, pricing, scheduling of boats. This similar to stock exchange news today. I'm sure Jim, you and Kenny Howe both heard much RE: the famed LEE in conversation with Mrs. Loretta Howard. 'Racer' LEE's engines later removed over to another LEE with disastrous results later written up from memory by veteran steamboat engineer Gibbs. Keep em coming! I assume you are settled back in Florida for the winter, right?

    R. Dale Flick
    Old Coal Haven Landing, Ohio River, Cincinnati

  4. #4

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    I really wonder about the validity of the statement "they had to tow her across the river to paint the name on her" because her name was known before the launching. Seems like, if there were hard feelings, there would have been protests before she ever hit the water. I think they probably towed her over to the Portland landing....just below the locks on the Kentucky side....to finish and outfit her since a lot of the furnishings, etc. were supplied by Louisville vendors. It would have been a lot easier to tow the boat over than to ferry all the furnishings to New Albany.
    Just my thoughts, but the folk tale makes a good story.

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    *Painting name on LEE/Tow to Portland*
    Morning, Steamboating colleagues,
    Jim, good questions you pose and I know I don't know. You know how a lot of steamboat stories, myths, legends, romance got in circulation over the years. No idea who penned the story of the LEE in the newspaper. Do you see or know who possibly wrote it? For years Will S. Hayes was the leading writer in Louisville in general and in river articles in particular. I do know hard feelings still existed stemming from the "war of the rebellion" for sure. People ask, "What's in a name?" with the answer being, "plenty." Even here in Cincinnati the leading paper CINCINNATI ENQUIRER had legions of good haters as evidence pointed to the ENQUIRER being a tad more slanted to the south in general leading up to the first shot fired in 1861 and even during the war itself.

    As an example we know of more than a few 'stories, legends, myths' with the DELTA QUEEN over the years. Some true, others fancy cooked up at the time for PR and promos, cultivate an image. Most people only knew the set orthodox history of the DQ from 1947 on with little of the early years in California. That ended with John Burns, son of old Jim Burns, Stan Garvey attending S&D with Stan writing his definitive book. Times are when history has something else on its mind. CHEERS!

    R. Dale Flick
    Old Coal Haven Landing, Ohio River, Cincinnati.

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    Couldn't agree more with Bill's comment about Facebook. Enjoyed the comments about the Lee launch. I'd like to pose a question related to the 1870 Lee/Natchez race. Does anyone know the source of the Lee's time of 3 days, 18 hours and 14 minutes for the race? This time is mentioned by numerous people but I can't find a "source" for the time. When I do the math on the many accounts of the race I've come across, none of them add up to 3-18-14. Has anyone else had this problem?

    Jerry Canavit, ASN

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    *ROBT. E. LEE's 'Speed Chart is true*
    Morning, Steamboating colleagues,
    Jerry, you ask a good question RE: "source" for the LEE's time in the celebrated race. Again, and again various 'legends, stories, myths, debates' circulated as to the LEE's true time with conflicts. Basically, when all said and done, her actual speed proved to be the above 3 days, 18 hours and 14 minutes. A few of these conflicting arguments from river people we know endured down to recent years. It made for good written copy, friendly [some times] debates and arguments over dinner tables, meetings. There were also 'questions' as to how the observers on both the LEE & NATCHEZ, on other boats, wharfboats, ashore 'set' or checked their watches of the day in time. Yet, with all said and done, the time in academic written sources still comes out at the above 3-18-24. There are always 'experts' as you know. I pulled books from my library here with, among many, the following that may give you insights. I mentioned in one previous entry above the sources in WAY'S PACKET DIRECTORY. Here are others.

    1. 'The Great STEAMBOAT RACE Between the NATCHEZ And The ROBERT E. LEE.' By Roy L. Barkhau. Roy's career and 'bio' needs no repeating here from those of us who knew him. He also wrote a fine account on 'The History of the Eagle Packet Co.'
    2. 'SHE TAKES THE HORNS: Steamboat Racing On the Western Waters.' By Capt. Frederic Way, Jr. 1952 by Young & Klein [Now out of business].
    3. 'FASTEST ON THE RIVER' by Manly Wade Wellman, Henry Holt & Co., New York, 1957. Probably the most in-depth account of the LEE & NATCHEZ with detailed accounts, history, time charts, information on steamboat business etc. Very academic but readable.
    None of the above deviate from the final time chart at: 3-18-14. In those days they had accurate clocks and watches but not down to the microsecond as today with ROLEX and other scientific time pieces running with computers. At this late date, why the controversy and debate beyond general conversation? There will, I guess, always be arguments and debates. I know, in addition to Capt. Fred Way, Jr., others who wrote beyond the above three book sources were Capts. Alan Bates, C.W. Stoll and Jack Custer of Louisville. Well, what do I know? I know I'm no expert and we have to watch out for that term as it can often come back to bite us. I rather prefer the line, "Those with varying levels of familiarity." Hope this helps. CHEERS!

    R. Dale Flick
    Old Coal Haven Landing, Ohio River, Cincinnati.

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    The list of those persons citing or supporting the 3-18-14 is a long one. Here are a few notables: Frederick Way, Jr., Roy L. Barkau, Manley Wade Wellman, Benton Rain Patterson, Garnett Laidlaw Eskew, John H. Carter (Commodore Rollingpin's Almanac), Norbury L Wayman, Herbert and Edward Quick, Ellis Clarence Mace, Lewis and Richard Collins, Samuel Clemens, Jack Rudolph. And there are more. Samuels, Huber and Ogden give the time as 3-18-13.

    3-18-30 is another time frequently cited. This this time is supported by Emerson W. Gould, Early Currier and Ives prints, Wes Conners (Pilot on the Lee), Capt. Andrew W. Swain (passenger on the Lee), The Lincoln Daily Journal, The Chicago Tribune, The Encyclopedia Americana, and others. One account of the race reported that when the Lee arrived at St. Louis she carried a banner stating the 3-18-14 time as she paraded past the wharf after arriving there. It must have been painted in a hurry. Where did the information come from? Was the existence of this sign really a fact or was this information just a reporters' embellishment to the event for dramatic effect?

    I continue to search for the original source of the 3-18-14 time and continue to have no luck. Many accounts of the race state that the "official" timekeeper of the race was Capt. John Kouns (a passenger on the Lee), but my research has not turned up an account per se attributable to the good captain. So far, inquiries to the Kouns family about any record of the race has been unsuccessful.

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    *Varying LEE times*
    Steamboating, colleagues,
    Hi, Jerry, and thanks for your notes above. Interesting, very interesting. You're sources also parallel mine but I didn't post earlier so as to keep my posting shorter. I did mention this to a 'river personality' sometime back only to have them say, "What difference does it make?" OUCH! Yes, Capt. John Kouns on the LEE is mentioned a number of times. I'm generally cautious when I hear "official" or "expert" in anything. Another fascinating aspect is how the LEE was rather made lean by supposedly removing her scape pipes which, for a boat her size, almost as big as the main stacks on other boats. The 'scape pipe' account also came under scrutiny with people finding a photo taken at end of the race and there were the scape pipes. [!] Also the information about removing front double-hung cabin doors and those in the rear to reduce air drag, make a kind of 'wind tunnel' with her main cabin. I'll look here for a possible source on Capt. John Kouns. Keep us posted. CHEERS!

    R. Dale Flick
    Old Coal Haven Landing, Ohio River, Cincinnati

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    Interestingly, the 3-18-30 time is also cited on a Currier and Ives print (1872). A later C & ! print gives a time of 3-18-14. Evidently someones' mind was changed about the winning time at a later date. It would be nice to note the source of the information that resulted in Currier and Ives making that change.

    I have come across two documented eye-witness accounts of the race. Capt. Wes Conner's (pilot on the Lee) account supports the 3-18-30 time. His start/finish times support this. The math works. Capt. Andrew Swain's (a passenger on the Lee) account also mathematically supports the 3-18-30 time (although the published article states a time of 3-18-13). Go figure. The Conners account appeared in the Waterways Journal on 9/10/1906. The Swain account appeared in the Waterways Journal on 7/4/1908. There is a difference of only one minute between the Conner/Swain accounts.

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