Looking Back – Full Steam Ahead

The start of the new year gives me a chance to sit back and reflect on all the books, magazines, and CDs (including eBooks and captured webinars) I have reviewed over the past year. Covering anywhere from four to eight items a week, I will process well over 200 reviews in a year. While every book, article, or disc cover genealogical pertinent information, the specific nature varies widely. From how-to books and pocket guides to names lists, from local histories and biographies to individual family histories, from photo journals to record extractions, all of these items have a place in a genealogist’s library.

While I see the genealogical value of all I review, my personal favorites are usually the histories. Through the histories I learn not just what events took place, but I can imagine life as my ancestors lived it. I get a glimpse at what was important to them. I can envision the reasons they moved or migrated. Local histories might lead me to specific information about an ancestor, while histories of major events or of broader regional interest help me understand the world in which my ancestors live.

One book, one of many, that came to mind as I reflected on this past year was Full Steam Ahead: Reflections on the Impact of the First Steamboat on the Ohio River, 1811–2011. The book tells the story of the New Orleans (the boat, not the city) and the new age of prosperity it brought to Ohio-Mississippi River Basin. This change, this modernization, had far a reaching effect on entire country. The book not only relays events of a critical historic period, but is simply fun to read.

Here is the review I previously wrote:

Steamboats on the Mississippi and Ohio rivers changed this young country in dramatic ways, transforming the Ohio-Mississippi River Basin almost overnight. The steamboat brought commerce, quickened immigrations, and began a building frenzy as new town sprung up all along the frontier. Growth was rapid and the economy of the area boomed and it all began with one steamboat, the New Orleans. Full Steam Ahead: Reflections on the Impact of the First Steamboat on the Ohio River, 1811–2011tells the story of the New Orleans and the new age of prosperity it brought to Ohio-Mississippi River Basin.

Full Steam Ahead is a collection of essays on the development of the steamboat, river transportation, and their effect on Ohio River cities. The book is part of a larger project led by the Rivers Institute at Hanover College. The study, this book, and other exhibits are meant to help the community at large better understand the impact the New Orleans, and subsequent steam travel, had on the economy, technology, and culture of both the Midwest and the U.S. as a whole.

Chapters in this book look at detail of life aboard the boat with crew and captain. Construction and design are examined with drawings providing interesting details. Additional boats and changes brought over time are discussed. Essay by essay a story unfolds and history examined with exciting details and interesting facts. From the moment the New Orleans left port in Pittsburgh in October 1811, change become unstoppable. Through the years, into the Civil War, and beyond, transport capable of traveling not only down river, but also up river would continue to have a major impact on the entire region.

I hope this new year will bring as many interesting new books, guides, videos, and research tools as we have seen in the past.


Table of Contents





Harbinger of Revolution

Structural Evolution of the Western Rivers Steamboat

A Synoptic History of Towboating and Its Origins

The Era of Town Building Below the Falls: “Whatever will benefit a part—will benefit the whole”

“Omen of Evil”: Steamboats and the Colonization of the Ohio River Valley

The Steamboat and Black Urban Life in the Ohio Valley

Steamboat Music

The Steamboat New Orleans and Its Impact on Navigation on Ohio River Tributaries

The Ohio River: A World-Class Inland Waterway


The River Today and Tomorrow

Appendix 1

Belle of Louisville

Sole Survivor of the Pioneering New Orleans

Appendix 2

The Rivers Institute at Hanover College

A List of Materials on River People, Steamboats and the Ohio-Mississippi River System in the Agnes Brown Duggan Library



To order a copy of Full Steam Ahead: Reflections on the Impact of the First Steamboat on the Ohio River, 1811–2011, visit Family Roots Publishing; Price: $19.55.

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