Full Steam Ahead: Reflections on the Impact of the First Steamboat on the Ohio River, 1811-2011, edited by Rita Kohn 
submitted by Luke

Two hundred years ago, citizens of Louisville awoke to the shrill blasts of the New Orleans, the first steamship to sail the Ohio River. At the time, many waterfront dwellers thought that the great comet of 1811 had fallen to earth and landed in the river. Instead it was the beginning of a brand new way of life for the people of Louisville and the Ohio Valley, one that was driven by steam. This story has been documented in the new book, Full Steam Ahead, edited by Rita Kohn and published by the Indiana Historical Society Press, with support from the Rivers Institute at Hanover College.

It can be argued that the steamboat has had the greatest impact upon the development of Louisville and the greater Ohio Valley than any other innovation of the past two hundred years. This collection chronicles this impact, exploring the rise and development of river boats, river life, and river culture over the past two centuries. Several local authors have contributed to this book, including Rick Bell, who wrote “The Era of Town Building Below the Falls,” a history of the development of Portland, Shippingport, and the Louisville-Portland Canal. Two Portland residents are included in this volume, Jack E. Custer, who wrote the article “A Synoptic History of Towboating and Its Origins,” and Susan M. Custer, who wrote “Steamboat Music.” Other articles include a discussion of the impact of the steam ship on black urban life in the Ohio Valley. Another article focuses on the effects that paddle boats had on the colonization of the area, as it opened up the lower Ohio Valley and the western territories to a far greater number of settlers and immigrants.


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