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'Steamboating's 'rough & tumble' 1830s.'

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Old 12-24-2007, 03:00 PM
Join Date: May 2006
Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, U.S.A.
Posts: 1,573
Default 'Steamboating's 'rough & tumble' 1830s.'

Steamboating colleagues:
A recent posting by Lexie mentioned her family's history and journey to Texas in the 1830s. A recent discovery here in a Cincinnati book store produced a volume 'A DIARY IN AMERICA, 1839' by British captain Frederick Marryat 1792-(1848). Marryat, son of upper class member of Parliament, went to sea at age 14 seeing action in the Napoleonic wars, also the distinction of being naval guard for Napoleon exiled at St. Helena. He became a noted writer and friend of Dickens in addition to many American writers and statesman, Henry Clay being one. His travels in America put him in Cincinnati at the time of the MOSELLE explosion here in 1838. His account of that event, and related observations of steamboat design and operation here, are remarkable. At first Marryat looked a bit askance at our steamboats on the rivers until he came to understand their needs, design and the waters upon which they steamed. In time be became totally 'hooked on our steamboats and penned his sentiments traveling on the Mississippi. Unfortunately, like so many contemporaries on their grand tours ot America, he neglected to record the name of this 1830s steamboat.
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"Talk not of your northern steam-boats! A Mississippi steamer of seven hundred tons burthen, with adequate machinery, is one of the sublimities of poetry. For thousands of miles that great body [*Steamboat] forces its way through a desolate country, against an almost resistless current, and all the evidence you have of the immense power exerted, is brought home to your senses by the everlasting and majestic burst of exertion from her escapement pipe, and the ceaseless stroke of the paddlewheels. In the dead of night, when amid the swamps on either side, your noble vessel winds her upward way--when not a soul is seen on board but the officer on deck--when nought is heard but the clang of the fire-doors amid the hoarse coughing of the engines, imagination yields to the vastness...and mightiness of art in contrast with the mightiness of nature.

Such a scene, and hundreds such have I realised, with an intensity that canot be described, always made me a better man than before. I never could tire of the steam-boat navigation of the Mississippi." END
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R. Dale Flick
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