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    Even MORE research help

    This forum has been SO helpful, that I can't help but keep asking for your help. So here goes: On an old sidewheeler (1850's) where were the steps located going from the cabin deck down to the main deck, and from the cabin deck to the hurricane deck? Were they narrow or wide? Was there someone stationed at the steps going from the main deck to the cabin deck to keep the 'riff raff' from going to the cabin deck? Thank you!

    #2
    Alice,
    The forward steps came up on the exterior, forward of the cabin. The stairway was USUALLY broad. There was a landing at the 'tween decks, where the baggage room was located. From that landing USUALLY the stairs divided into two stairways that ran crosswise to the deck forward of the cabin circle. I say USUALLY because there were many variations: Some stairs ended inside the cabin circle. Some did not divide. Some boats did not have a 'tween deck.
    Custom dictated that deck passengers remained on the main deck and simply DARED NOT go upstairs. Roustabouts, firemen and deckhands were not allowed upstairs, either.
    I never heard of a posted guard. Custom ruled the riff-raff!
    The stairs to the hurricane roof were on the sides in the open. USUALLY there was a set on each side near the forward end of the cabin and another set on each side forward of the paddlewheels. SOMETIMES there was another set on each side aft of the paddlewheels. All of these stairs were narrow, about three to four feet wide.
    Jim Reising gave you good advice. Buy The Western Rivers Steamboat Cyclopoedium from:
    The Howard Steamboat Museum
    1101 E. Market Street
    Jeffersonville, IN 47130.
    Also: Find an old S&D Reflector, the house organ of the Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen. Almost every issue (and there are more than 160 of them) has pictures of steamboat cabins ans other details.
    Life on the River, by Wayman has many photographs. There are others.
    Photographs are available from:
    The Murphy Library
    University of Wisconsin - La Crosse
    La Crosse, WI 54601 and are very expensive, especially iof you intend to publish them.
    Photographs are also available from:
    The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County
    800 Vine Street
    Cincinnati, OH 45202 and cost even more - much much more!

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      #3
      The main stairway from the main deck to the boiler (cabin) deck usually ran from the foredeck up to the front of the cabin. They ranged over every possible configuration from not much more than a ladder to elaborate curving grand staircases. Some were enclosed, some were open. There would have also been other service stairs, but their location and number seems to have varied from boat to boat, depending on the layout and size of the vessel. Width also varied with the use and size of the boat, access and service stairs often being as steep and narrow as a ladder. Look up photos of the Island Queen and Island Princess- they have stairs all over. (But then, they were maily excursion boats) The current Natchez, Julia Belle Swain and Belle of Louisville are probably pretty typical even though they are modern stern wheelers.

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        #4
        "Custom ruled the riff-raff"

        As you probably know, custom, manners and class distinctions were a lot more rigid in that era, even if the English did consider us all anarchists. Also, men were often quick to take physical action at something they considered an offense. Putting someone off the boat on an isolated towhead was not uncommon.

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          #5
          After 1853 it was against the law to abandon persons where they could not reach help (on an island or towhead, for example).
          This is not to say it never happened. Deck passengers and disobedient roustabouts had few rights and the boats' masters were all-powerful. But IF they got caught doing such a thing a whole lot of law came into play against the captain.

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            #6
            [QUOTE=Alan Bates;11735]After 1853 it was against the law to abandon persons where they could not reach help (on an island or towhead, for example).

            Heck, the DQ Co. almost pulled that in 1982. as one of our board members could attest

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              #7
              Of course, the fact that a strong law against abandonment was thought to be needed tells us something about the attitudes and practices of the time. But even if it didn't come to being put off, I've read that the mates of the day tended to rule the main deck with a length of cord wood, deck crew and passengers alike. I've also read that while a missing negro fireman could cause a lot of trouble, who was going to miss an Irishman or German immigrant.

              Comment


                #8
                You are dead right about that, Hank. Right up to the end of packet days a mate's reputation depended on whether he had killed a rouster. All packet mates carried weapons as well as a cane or some other such bludgeon. I used to watch the Greene Line boats load out for Cincinnati when I was in high school. The rousters RAN all day long and carried (toted) unbelievable loads while a mate with a cane ran the show.
                They were paid off at the end of each day and the wharfboat captain immediately started a craps game to take their pay away from them. They worked ten to twelve hours for about $1`.50 to $2.00. A big shipper was the Standard-Sanitary Company, which made plumbing fixtures. A load was one cast-iron bathtub to one rouster and he carried it on the run.
                Conditions were just as bad at the railroads' freight houses and factories. Mines were worse.

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                  #9
                  Considering that this was the main entry to the boat for passengers and that the stair could be pretty elaborate, at least on the big packets, I'm surprised that I have come across very few photographs of this area. Maybe it's just a difficult area to photograph, or have I just missed what is out there?

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