Monday, March 30, 2015

Shipbuilding on the Ohio River 1798-1816


Most people who live in the states bordering the Ohio River think of themselves as living in a landlocked part of the country. However, this isn't true. The industrial centers along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers have a tradition of shipbuilding going back as far as European settlement. Even as Lewis and Clark stopped at Fort Fayette in Pittsburgh to have a keel boat built in the boatyards there, the town was turning out a large number of seagoing craft. Here's a list from the endnotes to Leland D. Baldwin, The Keelboat Age on Western Waters (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1980) pp. 224-226 n. 11 and 18. 

As you can see, the numbers fell off sharply after 1807, when the Embargo Act was passed forbidding all exports of American goods. The Act was repealed in 1809, but the succeeding Non-Intercourse Act and the subsequent War of 1812-15 dealt harsh blows to the American merchant fleet. After 1816, shipbuilding resumed, but now the yards were busy turning out a new kind of craft, the river steamboat (the first of which plied the waters of the Ohio in 1811).

By comparison, the two war brigs built at Erie in 1813 were 300 tons each. East Indiamen, the "bulk carriers" of the time, were generally 1100-1400 tons. Most of these ships spent their careers on the high seas, since the shallow Falls of the Ohio at Louisville Kentucky made upstream traffic the domain of nimble keelboats and shallow drafted steamboats. However, the USS Senator Ross was a galley assigned to the rivers: her service history seems to have been forgotten.

Seagoing Vessels Built in Pittsburgh:
Name
Class
Tonnage
Date
President Adams
Gunboat

1798
Senator Ross
Ditto

1799
Dean
Brig

1803
Amity
Schooner
103-120
Pittsburgh
Ship
250-270
?
Schooner
120
?
Brig or Schooner
120
1804
Nanina
Brig
132-200
Louisiana
Brig or Ship
169-300
Conquest
Schooner
126
Allegheny
Schooner or Brig
150
General Butler
Ship or Brig
400
1805
Fayette
Brig

Western Trader
Ship
400
1806
Black Walnut
Brig

Betsy O’Hara
Brig

 ?
Brig
160
1810

Seagoing Vessels Built in Marietta, Ohio:
Name
Class
Tonnage
Year
St. Clair
Brig
110
1801
Muskingum
Ship
230
Eliza Green
Brig
126
Dominic
Brig
100-140
1802
Indiana
Schooner
75
Marietta
Brig
150
Mary Avery
Brig
150
Whitney
Schooner
75
1803
McGrath
Schooner
75
Orlando
Brig
150
Galett
Brig
185
Minerva
Brig

Temperance
Ship
230
1804
Ohio
Brig
150
Nonpareil
Schooner
70
Perseverance
Brig
160
1805
Rufus King
Ship
300
1806
John Atkinson
Ship
320
Tuscarora
Ship
320
Sophia Green
Brig
100-144
?
Gunboat

?
Gunboat

Francis
Ship
350
1807
Robert Hall
Ship
300
Rufus Putnam
Brig
300
Collatta
Brig
140
Belle
Schooner
100-144
1808
Adventurer
Schooner
60
1809
Maria
Schooner
75
1812
Maria
Schooner
50
1816