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Jim Reising 06-30-2017 02:54 PM

Painted or Not Painted...That's the Question
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Several times we have discussed whether or not paddlewheels on sidewheel boats were painted when new coming out of the shipyard. To my eye the attached photo may hold the answer.
When Howards built the J.M.WHITE, before the boat was completed they took it to the New Albany city front to get it's finishing touches (I'm not sure what time of the year it was,but they may have been afraid of having the boat caught above the falls in low water, she was too big for the lock).
Look at the attached picture taken at New looks to me like the wheel, eventhough it's in the shadow of the paddle box, is a little darker than the white painted hull. Unpainted new oak is not as bright as white painted wood. Keep in mind that in black and white photography, red comes out black, so it definitely wasn't painted red.
So I conclude that they did not paint the wheels...or at least not on the WHITE. What are your thoughts?

Jim Blum 07-01-2017 09:19 AM

Would, in this case, the Howard yard have their own sawmill on site? Would they possibly contract for a local mill to cut, in this case, wheel arms and bucket planks and use them "green" or would either Howard or contractor let the wood "cure" in their sheds or use wood that had been allowed to naturally "cure"? with a local sawmill.

If used "green" would the oak have enough sap to reject red lead or linseed oil?

If the wood was used "green" I would expect it to show a lighter color than if "cured" (I know that is not the correct word, but can't think of the correct term).

I do know that, at least at the end of their respective (Steam) careers, the Str Admiral and Str President did not have painted wheel arms or bucket planks.

R. Dale Flick 07-01-2017 10:03 AM

*RE: WHITE's wheels painted?*
Morning, steamboating colleagues,
WOW! Jim, good posting question and great photo of the then new J.M. WHITE all sparkling, clean and fresh. That didn't last long once she entered her trade, river smoke, dirt etc. Crews then worked constantly washing, sweeping, painting, polishing inside and out. Capt. Fred Way recalled steamboat crews in his young years walking around constantly with a scraper, sandpaper, paint bucket and brush tending to needs here and there. He recalled an old near 'deep sea' term for them called "sailormen." Later writers and commentators in the glory days of the great cotton packets often burst the image of the boats appearance inside and out after several years operating as a "myth...dull...dusty...dingy...dirty." It depended from company to company and captain to captain keeping their boats sharp looking.

I haven't a clew RE: the WHITE's wheels painted or not from visual evidence above. Howard, and other boat builders, 'could' have painted the wheels fresh when construction was finishing but I'd wager later repaired/rebuilt wheels may have been
left raw wood. Model builder John Fryant has written about "steamboating painting colors etc" and may have an insight on the above. Frank Prudent remembered his dad, Bill, commenting I 'think' that the sidewheels on the last ISLAND QUEEN were not painted. Am I right on this Frank? I have color photos here of the last OMAR, ORCO, VERITY, SEBALD etc. running but with rather dirty, dark sternwheels.

Those boats in their time were constantly on the move in their trade with wheels stern and side not painted the bright red with white trim we've come to know in later years [i.e. AVALON/BELLE OF LOUISVILLE, DELTA QUEEN ETC.]. The old U.S. Corps of Engineers kept the wheels on their boats pristine painted with that unmistakable yellowish/ochre tone. *Jim, you have there other photos of sidewheel boats at Howard Yards either on the ways or in the water. What do the sidewheels look like on them before launching? Our late Capt. Alan Bates talked/wrote about the use of "red lead" paint then. Heck, I don't know.

Summer: R. Dale Flick on the northern shores of mighty Lake Michigan.

John Fryant 07-03-2017 01:37 PM

I JUST SPENT THE BETTER PART OF HALF AN HOUR WRITING A RESPONSE TO JIM'S POST ABOUT PAINTING PADDLEWHEELS. SUDDENLY THE SCREEN FLICKERED AND IT ALL WENT AWAY!!! &%#$@^&*!! (each of those symbols represent swear words) Maybe sometime when I feel like it i"ll do it over.

Jim Reising 07-04-2017 09:13 AM

Jim...Oh, yes, the shipyard had its own saw mill, in fact the shipyard would sell lumber to anyone. Many houses in Jeffersonville were built with lumber bought from Howards. There was a shipyard strike in 1903 with the main complaint being the shipyard was not modernizing and still relied on brute muscle power....they still used oxen to move heavy timbers, etc. and the sawmill was still the original 1848 one.
Not only did they need to be experts in building boats, but also they had to be experts on how to cure, saw, steam, and store lumber.
The lumber came from the hills of W. Va. and eastern Ky. They stored the log rafts behind 6 Mile Island and towed the logs down to the shipyard on a as needed basis where they would pull the logs up the bank and saw them up according to the specs of the vessel they were building. The logs were in the river for at least a year before they were used.
By about 1905 the hills of Eastern Ky. were denuded of trees and acceptable lumber became very expensive and almost impossible to the point where steel hulls became price competitive. In fact, to get lumber for the last wood hull boats the yard had to bring lumber in by train from Michigan and Georgia. This was cost prohibitive.
The rough cut mill was in the shipyard, the finishing mill was across Market St. where the service station and Night Owl is now.
I used to wonder why there was no mention of swelling hulls by putting water in them until I read and explanation from Jim Howard. They would check to moisture of the lumber they would saw up for hull planking and with the exact "wetness" they could plank and chalk the hull and it wouldn't need swelling. But, they needed to get the hull launched pretty quickly before the planking dried out.

Jim Blum 07-04-2017 02:16 PM

I am anxious to read John Fryant's report as soon as it appears here. The more thought I give to the question [paint/no paint] I suspect no "paint" due to the fact that it would take time to apply and dry before handling the wheel arms and bucket planks, time even then being money plus the, I am supposing, rather short life of bucket planks due to drift.

Judy Patsch 07-05-2017 12:07 PM

Thanks for that detailed account of the Howard's lumber works!

Frank X. Prudent 07-07-2017 11:49 AM

[QUOTE=R. Dale Flick;36586] Frank Prudent remembered his dad, Bill, commenting I 'think' that the sidewheels on the last ISLAND QUEEN were not painted. Am I right on this Frank? I have color photos here of the last OMAR, ORCO, VERITY, SEBALD etc. running but with rather dirty, dark sternwheels.

You got me, Dale. I don't remember Dad mentioning about the IQ's wheels being painted or not. Honestly, I would be surprised if they were painted. I remember watching the PRESIDENT make a landing at the Canal Street Wharf back in 1978 and watching her port wheel roll. It was unpainted.

Dad would tell the story of Chief Engineer Frank Heath on the GORDON C. GREENE standing back on the hurricane roof looking at the wheel while it wasn't rolling. Two ladies walked up to him and commented what a nice looking wheel it was. The Chief agreed, but told them that he was after Captain Tom Greene to build a shed over it as it keeps getting wet!

R. Dale Flick 07-08-2017 09:26 AM

Morning, Steamboating colleagues:
Thanks, Bob, for help on clicking in here when the thread shows blank and I hope this message appears after composition.

Jim Reising spot on RE: the Howard Yards use of wood in steamboat construction with it then a lot more detailed than many think today. The Howard papers also contain a detailed account of how the yards sent "wood expeditions" up to the hills and mountains of West Virginia, Kentucky to locate, purchase, mark, fell and drag desired trees to the rivers for rafting down to Louisville/Jeffersonville. These 'expeditions' done with horses, chuck wagons etc. The Howards mention also purchase of good wood from the "sunny side of the slopes...avoid wood that has been wind shaken." Our own late Alan Bates also discussed all of this in detail years back with Jim Howard.

Jim also correct RE: the eventual depletion of forests for wood; shipment by rail from the south, Michigan, Wisconsin etc. Even by 1890 or so leading journals to the trade on ship/boat building commented on the "lack of modernization, failure to use iron/steel in hulls, primitive work practices by more than a few yards" on our inland rivers they visited. Yet they often didn't understand the needs/economy of inland river steamboating on then still shallow rivers part of the year before channel work, locks and dams were built.

Tom Dunn read this thread but didn't post directly here. He E=Mailed me privately mentioning that "sidewheels on the ADMIRAL were never painted with the buckets repaired each year by 1/4th." Hope John Fryant is able to write and post here. I'll click 'Submit Reply' on mine and see what happens. Again, what do I know?

Summer: R. Dale Flick on the northern shores of mighty Lake Michigan.

Bob Reynolds 07-08-2017 11:23 AM

Thanks for chiming in for Tom Dunn, Dale. I knew someone had to know for sure, but was just staying quiet for some reason.

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