Full Steam Ahead

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.


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.

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