A steamboat is any watercraft that is propelled mainly by steam power, usually driving paddle wheels or propellers. Steamboats can either use the suffix term SS, S, or S/S; but these names are most commonly used for steamboats. Steamboat racing was very popular in the USA during the late 1800s and the term steamboat became a synonymous term to the sport of speed racing. Many people believe that the origin of the word steamboat actually came from “steaming” and could also come from “pilot”. Regardless, steamboat was used as an early form of transportation long before automobiles were invented and became the more common method of travel during those time.
The first steamboat was built by a man named Meriwether Lewis Clark, which is better known as Lewis Clark Chance. The construction of the steamboat was done mainly on the lower part of the United States east coast, mostly around New Orleans, Texas and Oregon. Early models of steamboats used sails made out of manmade materials such as cotton that were weighted down to create the necessary velocity with the wind. The speed of the boat would be increased by adding a wheel to the paddle wheels, hence the name steamboat. The boats built during this time were a novelty and they were not manufactured in large numbers, as they were expensive to manufacture.
In the late 1800s, after the nation had become disenchanted with the inefficient and dangerous practice of west coast steaming, a group of people in the western part of the country wanted to improve upon the steamboat technology. These individuals were known as the “Gentlemen steamboat pioneers” and their design ideas included several new features, which helped the steamboat to become a much more efficient and popular means of traveling. These innovative steamboat designers, although they received little credit for their contributions, nonetheless deserve all of the credit that can be attributed to them, for the development of the popular and efficient steam engines that are used today.