ABOUT RIVERBOAT
BUILDING IN
PITTSBURGH, PA


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Some years ago a site visitor submitted photos of these pages to me.
I honestly do not know from what publication they came.
Due to computer changes over the years, and e-mail changes, I do not even know the name of the good person who submitted them.

If anybody knows where these pages were originally printed, in what publication, please let me know


Allegheny County's
Boat Building

102

(Cont from page 101)

the legislature for the exclusive privilege. This was granted on condition that he should propel a vessel by steam, within a year, three miles an hour; but Livingston, unable to comply with this condition, dropped his project for a time. He afterwards associated himself with Stevens, and aided by Nicholas Roosevelt, carried on the experiments until he (Livingston) was sent to France as minister. Mr. Stevens continued his experiments for several years, when Mr. Livingston having attained a renewal of the exclusive grant from the State of New York, he, with the assistance of his son, applied himself with greater attention to the project, and in 1807, only a few days after Fulton's convincing experiment, succeeded in propelling a steamboat at the required velocity of three miles an hour. Fulton, it is said, had in 1803 made a successful trial on the Seine with a boat that moved at the rate of four miles an hour.

About 1802-3, Oliver Evans, of Philadelphia, built on the Mississippi a boat to ply between New Orleans and Natchez. When the boat was ready it was left high and dry by the falling water, and the engine was placed temporarily in a saw "mill. The mill was burned by some incendiaries, whom it was likely to deprive of a profitable job of sawing lumber, and thus an attempt to establish steamboats on the Mississippi was defeated some four years before Fulton's experiment.

All these efforts seem to have been preliminary experiments; to Fulton and Roosevelt really belongs the credit of bringing to practical results the steamboat, in the construction in 1810-11, by himself, Livingston and Roosevelt, of the "New Orleans" at Pittsburgh.

This sketch of the gradual growth of the idea of a boat to be propelled by machinery worked by steam, while not of the actual history of Allegheny County, is so intimate in its connection with the history of boat building therein that it is interestingly preliminary thereto. The position that Pittsburgh occupies as the point where was constructed, and whence departed the first steamboat that navigated the western waters, giving her an historical prominence in connection with the invention of steamboats.

The 23d of February 1777, is the date at which, it may fairly be said, commenced that important branch of the business of Pittsburgh-boat building. On that day "fourteen carpenters and sawyers arrived at Fort Pitt from Philadelphia,, and were set at work on the Monongahela, fourteen miles above the fort, near a saw mill. They built thirty large batteaux, forty feet long, nine feet wide and thirty-two inches deep, which were intended to transport troops."

For a quarter of a century from this time the navigation of the western rivers was by the use of flat boats, keel boats and "broad horns," as they were called. These boats were all propelled by pole-, or by sweeps, and the labor of the crews on the upward passage, somewhat relieved by aid of ropes, carried out the head,, and attached to trees, by which the boats were "cordelled," or warped up stream where the current was very swift. The trips were long and tedious, and, for years, dangerous from the Indians, even as late as 1794, as the following extract from an advertisement of that date shows, which gives as well a glimpse of the method of travelling at that date:

103

The advertisement states: " Two boats for the present will start from Cincinnati for Pittsburgh, and return to Cincinnati in the fallowing manner, viz: First boat will leave Cincinnati this morning at eight o'clock; and return to Cincinnati, so as to be ready to sail again in four weeks. The second boat will leave Cincinnati on Saturday, the 30th inst., and return to Cincinnati in four weeks as above. And so regularly, each boat performing the voyage to and from Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, once in every four weeks.

"No danger need be apprehended from the enemy, as every person on board will be under cover, made proof against rifle or musket balls, and convenient port holes for firing out of. Each of the boats is armed with six pieces, carrying a pound ball; also a number of good muskets, and amply supplied with plenty of ammunition, strongly manned with choice hands, and the masters of approved knowledge.

"A separate cabin from that designed for the men is partitioned on in each boat for accommodating ladies on their passage. Conveniences are constructed on board each boat so as to render landing unnecessary, as it might at times be attended with danger."

In July of the year 1794, on the 22d of April of which year Pittsburgh was incorporated as a borough, a line of mail boats was established to run from Wheeling to Limetown, and back, once in every two weeks, the mails being carried from Wheeling to Pittsburgh, and back, on horseback. These boats were twenty-four feet long, built like a whale-boat, and steered with, a rudder. They were manned by a steersman and four oarsmen to each boat. The men had each a musket and a supply of ammunition, all of which were snugly secured from the weather in boxes alongside their seats.

The building of the armed galleys, "President Adams" and "Senator Ross," in 1798, at Pittsburgh, is the next progressive fact in boat-building in Allegheny county. They were intended for service against the Spaniards on the lower Mississippi, and are mentioned in letters of that date as fine specimens of naval architecture. Of their subsequent service, or their final disposition, nothing is recorded. These national vessels, and a brig of 120 tons, built at Marietta by Commodore Preble in 1708-9, one of the first sea-going vessels constructed on the Ohio. From 1801 to 1805 the building of sea-going craft was active at Pittsburgh.

The building of sea-going vessels was established at Pittsburgh by a French gentleman, Louis Anastasius Tarascon, who emigrated from France in 1794, established himself in Philadelphia as a merchant. In 1799 he sent two of his clerks, Charles Brugiere and James Berthoud, to examine the course of the Ohio and Mississippi from Pittsburgh to New Orleans, and ascertain the practicability of sending ships, and clearing them ready rigged, from Pittsburgh to Europe and the West Indies. The two gentlemen reported favorably, and Mr.Tarascon associated them, and his brother, John Anthony, with himself, under the firm of "John A. Tarascon Brothers, James Berthoud & Co.," and immediately established at Pittsburgh a large wholesale and retail store and warehouse, a ship yard, a rigging and sail loft, and anchor smithshop, block manufactory, and all other things necessary to complete sea-going vessels. The first year, 1801, they built the schooner Amity, of 120 tons, and the ship Pittsburgh of 250 tons, and sent the former, loaded with

(Cont. on pg. 104)

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