1813 - A Trip Down the Patapsco on the Steamboat Chesapeake
Photo courtesy of Maryland Historical Society
An announcement that ran in the Baltimore Sunday Sun on June 12, 1815, read:
This advertisement was for the first trip aboard the steamboat Chesapeake.
The very first steamboat had been invented less than 10 years before. Steam power was a new and exciting invention. The steam engine turned two gigantic paddle wheels on either side of the boat. The people who paid two dollars for the trip to Annapolis and back were excited to see these wheels work. Approximately 100 people could go on the boat at one time.
About seven men were responsible for keeping the boat moving. If you had been a passenger on the ship, you would have heard the pilot, who was stationed in the bow (front) of the boat, calling directions to a crew member who was standing amidships (in the middle of the boat). He would relay instructions to the helmsman who steered the ship using a tiller. The pilot received his orders from the captain or the first mate. The captain also told the engineer, who was stationed in the engine room below decks, how much power to use. The engineer had a helper called the fireman, who kept the fire going that heated the water to make the steam that turned the paddle wheels. It must have been exciting to hear the calls of the people handling the boat as she pulled away from the dock.