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Jim Reising 04-16-2009 12:12 AM

More Info On Steamboat Painting
We've had a lot of discussions in the past on steamboat painting as to what was painted and what wasn't. From scanning in the Howard photos I can definitely say that without exception wood hulls were only painted down to the waterline, not below. Also, I ran across a picture of the INDIANA just prior to launch in which you can see the underside of the main deck was not painted, it may have been creosoted or oiled but it was not painted. With further study I found this to be the case with all the boats were photos show the underside of the guard.
The other night I was watching the movie Apallo 13 on AMC and I noticed that the inside of the space capsule was painted the exact same shade of green that that all the old steamboat pilothouse interiors used to be painted...the DQ, AVALON, GCG, GEORGE M. VERITY, CHARLES R. HOOK, HERBERT E. JONES; they all had green pilothouse interiors. Uhm, wonder if it took a team of NASA scientist a million dollars worth of research to pick that color or was it just coincidence?

Frank Grimm 04-16-2009 02:17 AM

I once read in a flying magazine, that Russian fighter jet interiors were painted green.

R. Dale Flick 04-16-2009 07:42 AM

*RE: Steamboat/Space capsule green.*
Jim, Frank & steamboating colleagues:
Interesting research/observations on what and what wasn't painted on steamboats along with that certain 'green' paint employed. Scientist, psychologists for some years have studied and experimented with various paint colors and tones used in interior spaces for 'reflective' qualities, impact on the human eye and other influences including phychological. Look at hospital, office, school rooms and you often see the same color--or variations on the theme. I'd offer an opinion that the certain green for pilothouse interiors was a well-studied for various light conditions during a twenty-four hour period and affect on the human eye. The British, and others, began studies nearly 200 years ago now on the impact of light and certain paint colors, tints and tones. Interior paint colors/tones employed on the interior of big ship enclosed bridge and pilothouse areas are often the same. Yet, some ship bridge interiors back then show fine wood panel work in oak, teak, mahogany etc. in a dark, rich, somber color. It varied. I wonder if different boat yards on the rivers had their own approach and thinking in painting or not painting hulls? I'll dig and look at old REES and CINCINNATI MARINE RAILWAY photos of steamboats and see if there was a variation. John Fryant has always been interested in this subject and, perhaps, has information. John mentioned to me more than once that we are often mistaken that all steamboats were painted white--some were off-white to a 'buff' color. Many of the big ships on the Indian and Pacific Ocean did this years ago to cut down on glare from the torrid sun.

Well, what do I know?

Coal Haven Landing, Ohio River.

Shipyard Sam 04-16-2009 08:20 AM

Amazing Paint
I'm still fascinated with a certain paint that was used on a prefabricated house built in Cincinnati in the 1840's, painted a dazzling white, knocked-down and shipped by flatboat to Rodney, Mississippi where it was reassembled and stood for a century and a half until a friend saved it from demolition and moved it to his farm near Bolton where it now stands in all its former splendor. Besides its architectural integrity, the home's ancient paint, on many protected surfaces, is just as regal as it was when Ragtown painters first applied it. This same type of paint surely found its way down to the nearby boatyards and used on the steamboats Cincinnati was famous for creating. Paint cannot found of such quality today.

In 1965, as the DELTA QUEEN passed the site for the future Mockport-Brandenberg Bridge, crews were [I]clamshelling [/I] the remains of the ALICE DEAN from the depths of the Ohio River and piling it high on a deck barge. The pristine condition of the bright white paint was startling after a century of immersion. How could that paint look so fresh, I wondered, and I still can't figure it out almost half a century later of thinking about that amazing sight. How I wish I could have gotten a piece of the DEAN.

Keith Norrington 04-16-2009 08:54 AM

1 Attachment(s)
A civic club at Mauckport used to sell gavels, small picture frames, lamp bases and other items made of wood salvaged from the ALICE DEAN, set ablaze and sunk by General John Hunt Morgan and his raiders on July 8, 1863 after they crossed the Ohio from Brandenburg, Kentucky near Morvin's Landing. I have one of the picture frames which contains a photo of the second ALICE DEAN, built in 1864, as no image has yet come to light of the original vessel, which was a new boat at the time of her untimely demise, having been built at Cincinnati in 1863 for the Cincinnati-Memphis trade. It was said that she was built short in order to fit into the small lock chambers at Louisville, and that her replacement was more or less built from the same specifications.

I know two ladies from Mauckport, one of them a retired towboat cook, who tell of watching a crew lifting the heavy iron safe from the ALICE DEAN wreckage during the construction of the bridge. They ALMOST had it safely to a barge when the cables broke and the safe plunged back into the river, never to be found again! There's an old general store on the river at New Amsterdam, Indiana that has a large timber and some square spikes from the ALICE DEAN hanging overhead as a display. At the Howard Museum we have a small oval dish with the boat's name on it and a few other odds and ends of square cut nails, scrap wood, etc. There are still numerous bits and pieces of the unfortunate little steamboat around this area.

R. Dale Flick 04-16-2009 09:37 AM

*RE: ALICE DEAN/White paint Etc.*
Great information from Keith and Shipyard Sam on 'paint' and the Str. ALICE DEAN. I'm certainly no expert or chemist where paints are concerned and, perhaps, there are others who frequent this web who know: Alan Bates, John Fryant, Tom Schiffer etc. No idea how long lead dates back to paint bases but know that in some compositions milk was applied as a bonding agent. Some early fine plaster work also employed honey along with horse hair as a bond. How they kept insects from going for the honey once set is a good question--probably painted or coated with a lead base or even arsenic. Some early wall coverings and paper have been found to be infused with arsenic with dire results to the residents. Arsenic was also a bonding agent for gold leaf in European structures.

Keith's report on the wood from the Str. ALICE DEAN very concise. I've a piece of fine grained, dark wood here also from the DEAN and am amazed at the pronounced 'fragrance' it produces when lightly touched with fine sandpaper. One report mentions a yard on the East coast who 'oiled and painted' each piece of wood before building the boat extending the life well, well beyond the usual life span.

Coal Haven Landing, Ohio River.

Hank Bloomer 04-16-2009 10:32 AM

There was a lot of research on the visual and psychological effects of color done in the late 1930s and early 40s that resulted in the ubiquitous "institutional green" seen in so many buildings built in the 40s and 50s. I would bet that the same shades and colors were arrived at on the river and elsewhere by practical experience long before the scientists put a "stamp of approval" on it.

I suspect that the brilliant and lasting white paint was zinc and perhaps white lead based. That was expensive, but gilves a long lasting and bright white.

R. Dale Flick 04-16-2009 10:50 AM

*RE: Zinc/white lead etc.*
Hi, Hank:
Great point on use of "zink and white lead base" for early paints. Steamboat painting back then was a high art with yards often bringing in outside contractors to do part/most of the job. A few old photos, when enlarged, show paint crews hanging on the sides ir rigging painting. Zinc/lead/copper on vessels has been causing no end of headaches to environmentalist finding many feet of this material on the floor of rivers, harbors and lakes where vessels were built or serviced. Harbor projects on the East coast require such 'bio hazards' to be pumped or dredged up and disposed of.

Another product for years has been fine linseed oil either pure or 'boiled.' Used on houses, boats, ships etc. and I've used gallons of it on the stocks of guns in my military days. In early steamboat days linseed oil was kept as a medicine to treat steam burns and scalds applied with white cotton 'batting.' Just last week I watched a crew apply fine teak oil to the wood decks of our liner at sea.

Well, what do I know?

Coal Haven Landing, Ohio River.

Hank Bloomer 04-16-2009 01:07 PM

Painting was indeed an art. Paint was mixed on the job and how close each batch matched depended entirely on the "eye" of the master painter. White was, and remains, one of the most difficult colors to get an exact shade match on.
As Capt. Bates noted in an earlier thread on this subject, it was common practice to add just a smidge of blue to white paint to help counteract the yellowing tendency of the linseed oil. There exist photos of seagoing ships where painting was begun on a side and the last batch didn't quite match the first. Nautical Research Journal ran some articles on this subject several years ago.

I too have rubbed in quite a bit of linseed oil over the years, either straight or mixed with Penetrol or mineral spirits. It was, and is, an excellent, if highly flammable, wood treatment and finish.

Keith Baylor 04-16-2009 04:00 PM

That light green paint is remarkably pervasive. The inside of all Minuteman missile facilities - both silos and launch control centers - is that color. The insides of armored tracklayers (tanks, personnel carriers, etc) are light green.....

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