Life On The Mississippi Steamboat Essay

783 Words 4 Pages
 Many books, songs, and stories have idealized the Mississippi River steamboats of the 1800’s and early 1900’s. One classic portrayal of life on the steamboats can be found in Mark Twain's book Life on the Mississippi, published in 1883. In this work, Twain describes the professional gamblers, the jolly captains, the sly confidence men, and the traveling workers that contributed to the lasting image of life on steamboats. This image has carried on into the modern world, despite the fact that steamboats are rarely used for travel anymore.

 Although the word usually describes the shallow, paddle wheel–driven boat commonly found on the Mississippi River during the 19th and early 20th centuries, a steamboat is technically any watercraft fueled
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Steamboats were steered by manipulating rudders and; and on side-wheel boats–by varying the speed and direction of the paddle wheels. The whole operation was controlled by the pilot from a pilot-house on the roof of the cabin. At first, wood was the primary fuel used for generating steam, but by the 1880’s, most boats used mostly coal. After 1900, oil was burned as well as coal. Moreover, there were many different individual forms and purposes that steamboats took on. Perhaps the three best known were packets, which carried freight and passengers between cities; towboats, which pushed cargo barges up and down a river; showboats, used to entertain the …show more content…
Only the upper deck for first-class passengers was considered luxurious. The rest of the boat was the realm of discomfort and hard work.  All freight was handled by roustabouts, freed slaves hired to do the work, under the most brutal conditions imaginable.  Before the American Civil War, loading and unloading was done by poor immigrants, some of whom worked to pay their fare; slaves were too valuable for such dangerous work.  Spontaneous races between the captains of two steamboats were also not uncommon, often leading to disasters, in which many lives were lost.  The emergence of the railroad as the major mode of transportation in the mid-1800’s was the beginning of the end for the packets, which could not compete with this faster mode of

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