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More J.M.WHITE detail

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    More J.M.WHITE detail

    Ever notice in this familiar picture of the main stairway of the J.M.WHITE that the stairs are not attached to the deck? If they were attached, as the boat vibrated and shuck, they would tare themselves apart. In the old days, when I worked on the BELLE, the stairs from the skylight to the hurricane deck were not bolted to the deck at the bottom for the same reason.
    Attached Files

    *J.M.WHITE stairs ''hanging free"*
    Steamboating colleagues,
    Jim, thanks for the above classic photo of the great "main stairway" of the J.M. WHITE. This photo shot well-known to some of us; possibly new to others. Again writer Will S. Hayes commented on the magnificent staircase in his big 'blow' article when the WHITE was finished. Capt. Fred Way, as mentioned earlier, also picked up the Hayes text in his 'blow' on the WHITE in his WAY'S PACKET DIRECTORY known to many. Though my copy sleeping down in Cincinnati, I recall the description of the staircase as being done in fine black walnut wood. Do you know how expensive $$ that much black walnut wood would command today even if you could get it? I may no doubt be mistaken, but I thought somebody years ago in the know [Fred Way?] made reference to the figure standing at the bottom of the stairs to the right in this field of view. Who out there remembers possibly hearing this and 'was' the male figure possibly one of Howard family members? Yes, the WHITE, and others like her, were one huge pile of lumber for sure. Way and Hayes both extolled in detail the many fine kinds of wood used in her construction from the best pine, oak, walnut, mahogany, rose wood, ebony etc.

    Indeed, as you write, the main staircase was constructed, suspended to hang 'free' of the deck. Those big sidewheelers when 'working ahead' in shallow waters at times often not only "vibrated" but rose and fell in the hull with the working of the wheels. Wasn't this heaving called 'grasshoppering?' I'd assume the staircase no doubt 'suspended' by unseen metal rods. [?] But that just an idle speculation on my part. Fred Way and others commented on this.

    My own late grandmother, born in 1874, rode later many of the sidewheelers on the Ohio River. She commented to me how "the decks rose and fell with a cracking sound in shallow waters." The boat she referred to was the classic MORNING STAR. She never mentioned the same experience on the last KATE ADAMS as the "ever lovin' KATE" had a metal hull. Yet, the big L&C LINE Str. CINCINNATI of 1924 did "rattle, shimmy, shake underway" at times. Well, what do I know? Great photo. This really makes jump. Are there more? Cheers!

    R. Dale Flick
    Summer: northern shores of might Lake Michigan until end of this week.


      Woods Used In Steamboats.........................
      I read an interview that Jim Howard gave a few years before his death in which the interviewer asked what kind of woods went into a steamboat. Jim said:
      Hull....Oak, red & white
      Under the boilers.....Cedar
      (can't you just imagine how wonder that smelled all those fresh woods)
      A boat builder had to be as much a lumber expert as a he was a steamboat expert. They had to know how to buy, store, saw, plane and mill wood. I often wondered how come in the pictures of the shipyard there was never any evidence of having to swell the hulls before launch nor pumping after the launch. In that same interview Capt. Jim said they were very careful about the moisture in the oak they planked the hull with. With just the right amount of moisture they didn't need to swell the hull. I believe that dictated to a great extent when the hull had to be launched and that's why you see boats in various states of completion when launched. They did as much as they could while the boat was on the ways before the hull planking got too dry.
      But what do I know.


        *Different woods on boats for different purposes*
        Steamboating colleagues,
        Jim, again thanks for your latest posting above in tandem with the J.M. WHITE RE: "Woods used in steamboats." Good that you were/are close to the Howard Steamboat Museum, talked with Loretta Howard back when you did, access to the records in the mansion. Jim Howard's interview runs in tandem with what our late Alan Bates wrote/spoke about having known Jim well. And you can bet each and every wood so chosen had its place and purpose--same as sailing vessels and others on our ocean coasts, Great Lakes.

        You and Keith may recall a certain letter of 'complaint' sent to the Howards following completion of a steamboat I can't recall the name now. The owner strident in saying along the lines the "wood for the main deck not the right kind...'laid' the wrong way...prone to splitting." Other Howard records mention the big 'wood buying trips' to Kentucky, West Virginia etc. to find, purchase, mark, fell and haul the logs to the nearest stream for rafting down to Jeffersonville. The records also mention wood growing on the "sunny side and shady side of the hills and mountains...wood that had been 'wind shaken.'" 'First growth' wood preferred over second growth.

        Right on about "moisture in oak." Historical studies, reconstructions of period buildings in England mention using then and now "right amount of moisture" [in oak] so those huge hammer beam ceilings would fit like a glove using wood pegs or now metal bolts--usually iron. Now, what more do you have to share with us? Again, what do I know?

        R. Dale Flick
        Soon to return to Cincinnati from the great green north woods.