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The golden age of the Steamboat, 1851-1900

by O. Vernon Burton, trojan Smith, and Simon Appleford, University that Illinois

 In order for financial growth to develop, there need to be producers, sellers, and buyers –and some means for them every to it is in connected. This to be problematic in the early on days the American negotiation in the Mississippi river Valley. Farming goods might reach eastern industries only with an excellent difficulty: castle were usually floated under the Mississippi on rafts, and also upon showing up at brand-new Orleans or various other port communities they were invited on ships bound for more settled areas. The pilots who had lugged the items then had to return by foot, regularly along overland courses such as the Natchez trace –a course whose inherent threats earned the the sobriquet “The Devil"s Backbone.” Delivering goods inland was even much more challenging, and also usually impracticable.

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This adjusted in the year after the war of 1812 as result of what has because been christened “the transport Revolution.” brand-new technologies brought about the improvement of roads, the structure of canals, and also the advent of railroads and also steamboats. In the north these new forms of transportation came to be linked come greater basic industrialization; in the South, because that the many part, it resulted in greater distribution for agricultural goods.

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As this synchronized with raised emigration to productive lands in the Mississippi river Valley and technical improvements such together the cotton gin –and the removed of the Choctaws to Indian Territory, for the most part by steamboat –the production of cotton in the sink blossomed. Through steamboats going up and down the Mississippi and its tributaries, and also railroads gift built, expenses diminished and also profits increased significantly. In addition, farmers can now obtain the goods they essential for your operations v much greater facility. Brand-new river ports opened up, and also landings showed up all along the rivers; in 1857 there were 81 landings in between Yazoo City and also Greenwood. Personal travel became far easier, and also therefore much more common, together well. In addition to cabin passengers, who got board and also hotel-quality treatment, steamboats were additionally open come deck passenger who invested the voyage among the freight. Boosted mobility, that course, likewise led to rise in accidents. Steamboats periodically sank as result of snags, fires, or sunken logs –or, more spectacularly, due to boiler explosions. In 1838 the steamship Moselle –carrying 3 hundred passenger to a brand-new life in the West –exploded at the Cincinnati landing and also rained metal and also body components a 4 minutes 1 of a mile away.

Steamboat travel and also trade were interrupted, obviously, through the civil War. Union regulate of the Mississippi successfully shut down many commerce. Part steamboats were hired by Confederate pressures for carrying arms and also ammunition; there was also a short Confederate experiment in outfitting steamers together gunboats, making use of cotton bales together defense against enemy fire. These “cottonclads” did no prove really effective.

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River travel picked increase again ~ the war. Chronicler Harry Owens has dubbed 1870-1890 the “golden age” that steamboats in the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta. However, the seed of decline were sprouting even in the middle of the bustling activity. In the 1870s former Delta swamplands to be being changed –via levee construction –into productive farmland. Lumber companies started to harvest the profitable forests, v planters close behind come take benefit of the new agricultural opportunities. An ext railroads gotten in the area together well. Through the finish of the nineteenth century, twenty-five times an ext cotton bales were being transported by rail together by river. Steamboats were still a existence for awhile, but had essentially disappeared by 1920. The period of steamboats on the Mississippi –which has started only a couple of years before Mark Twain"s birth –ended just a couple of years after ~ his death.

Erik F. Haites and also James Mak. “Steamboating ~ above the Mississippi, 1810-1860: A completely Competitive Industry.” Business history Review, vol. 15 no. 1 (Spring, 1971), pp. 52-78.Lewis Hunter. Steamboats top top the western Rivers (Cambridge, 1949).John Majewski. “Who financed the transportation Revolution? local Divergence and Internal improvements in Antebellum Pennsylvania and also Virginia.” The journal of economic History, vol 56 no. 4 (Dec. 1996), 763-788.Harry P. Owens. Steamboats and also the noodle Economy: River trade in the Yazoo-Mississippi Delta. (Jackson, 1990)George Rogers Taylor. The transportation revolution, 1815-1860 (New York, 1951.