Mississippi steamboat

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On the Mississippi many years steamboat hazards. They are worldwide known for their distinctive wheels. These were used as the Mississippi River, although a very long river, but also a fairly shallow river. The ships could therefore make little depth. The boats have radar in many more dangers but are still mostly associated with the Mississippi River.


The river takes its name from the Indians of northern Minnesota. They called the river messippi, which means Great River. Also called Mee-sea-see-bee was sometimes used. This means Father of Waters. Probably the current name a combination of these two. Mississippi is a shallow river with many sandbars. It is 6210 km long and its banks are ten different states.

The first paddle steamer on the Mississippi

In 1811 New Orleans was built in Pittsburgh. She was brought to New Orleans by Nicholas Roosevelt. Her first trip was not a success. The New Madrid earthquake, the largest earthquakes ever felt was east of the Rocky Mountains caused much discomfort during the trip. There were three violent shocks which caused major waves on the Mississippi and landslides. The first New Orleans has sailed only two years. Then she ran on a sandbank after which she sank.
The number of steamers with wheels quickly took to the Mississippi River. There were only 14 in 1817, in 1819 there were 31 active paddle boats, good for 1,200 charges. They were used for the shipping of coal, cotton, wood, sugar, cereals, cattle and passengers. They could just as quickly sail upstream and downstream areas, which explained their popularity.

Specifications paddle boats

The boats were powered by a steam engine and made entirely of wood. They were on average about 43 meters long and six meters wide. Their draft was not much larger than that of a canoe. The boats had internal poles or iron trusses to prevent sagging of the hull. There were two rudders present to steer the ship. There were two versions of the paddle boats: one with two paddle wheels left and right and one with a paddle wheel on the back. The passenger was conducted with two decks. They were lavishly decorated with woodwork and velvet. There were stairs, kitchens and elegant cabins with living rooms available. In the living room, ladies lounge and smoking room were plush chairs and huts were decorated with gilding. The ships were poorly maintained and only went five years. In addition to the normal wear characterized the ships themselves by frequent fires and boiler explosions. Between 1840 and 1860 found about 4000 people died were thus destroyed because of a boiler explosion and 500 ships.
Between 1920 and 1940 the diesel tugboats were on the rise and slowly supplanted this the paddle boats. On the diesel tugs were fewer staff needed, moreover they were much safer.

Mark Twain

A name inextricably linked with the Mississippi is Mark Twain. He wrote two books largely on the Mississippi happened viz. Huckleberry Finn and Life on the Mississippi. Mark Twain himself several years worked as a mate on a paddle boat, like his brother Henry Clemens. Henry died after an accident on board the steamer Pennsylvania where the boiler exploded. Excerpts from letters from Henry Clemens to his brother Mark are used in the book Life on the Mississippi.
Learn more about the construction of paddle boats? See this page model: Boat West