Food and Culture

Steam Boats – The Early Days

When asked what a steamboat does many will say that it is nothing more than a large boat with steam working through the hull. While this is true, it is certainly not the only function a steamboat can perform. It can be used to sail, take water on and off, and perform a variety of other tasks including fishing. Many people do not realize that these versatile boats have a number of other uses and are often the perfect vessels for a wide variety of activities.

A steamboat is usually a single-person craft, driven primarily by steam power. Steamboats at one time were powered by wood-burning stoves, but after the invention of the first steamboat the use of wood was limited as the wood would burn up and smoke making navigation difficult and dangerous. In the late th century a new type of steamboat was designed using a single engine instead of the usual two or more engines. This new steamboat, the pressure vessel, was designed with a flat bottom and powerful drive system. The steam engine was a scaled down version of the modern diesel engine.

Over the years steamboats throughout the United States have used a variety of different engines. In the early years these engines were mostly made from copper, but as the technology advanced so did the engines used on steamboats. Newer steam engines are made from a variety of materials including brass, nickel, steel and other metals. The engines on today’s steamboat range from those that are powered by wood, coal, diesel, and natural gas to those powered by electricity, magnetron and alternative energy sources.