The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Rochester Union & Advertiser (Rochester, NY), March 29, 1859

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Lake Steamers - Paddle Wheels
Giving Place to Screws - A New Enterprise

It will be but reiterating to say that we have often expressed in these columns, to say that the days of side-wheel steamers on the Lakes are drawing to an end, and that so fast as these now afloat are disposed of, their places will be abandoned or filled with less expensive craft. We are not aware that more than three or four paddle-wheel steamers are now being constructed on the Lakes, and such as we know of, two at Buffalo, are designed for a peculiar trade, which none in use are adapted to. We refer to the railroad boats across Lake Michigan, to connect the Detroit and Milwaukee Railroad with the city of Milwaukee. They are to be without guards - a sort of steamship, for winter as well as summer service. The great steam palaces of Lake Erie, which did not come out last season at all, may be used at times while they last, to accomplish the ends of certain railroad companies, but never to be a source of revenue to owners.

The truth is, there is not business enough on Lake Ontario to support a daily of good side-wheel steamers between any two or more ports. It is barely possible that the Canada line of small or medium class steamers, by running through to Montreal and Quebec from Hamilton, as they will this season, may pay running expenses and bring a few crumbs for the owners, but even this is doubtful. The American Steamboat Company are trying to sell their best boats to go to the Atlantic, and propose with the others to make a living along shore, if they can. We hope they may, but do not see how it can be done.

The cause in this general falling off in the patronage of Lake Steamers is attributable to the railroads, which follow the lakes on either side, and by greater speed and low rates of fare and freight, divert enough trade to ruin the steamboat business. The owners of the boats have only to withdraw from the field or reduce their capital and expenses to suit the patronage they receive. Experience has demonstrated on ocean and lake that the screw is a far more economical method of propulsion than the paddle wheel, and the former are taking the place of the latter on both salt and fresh waters.

The best lines of screw vessels on the lakes are more comfortable to travellers than were the side-wheel boats 10 or 15 years since, and are actually faster. Indeed, we do not know but they are as comfortable as the modern paddle-wheel craft, taking all things into account. That they can be constructed and operated at far less cost, of course no one will deny. Then we think the sooner the paddle wheels are abandoned the better for a - better for the owners, if they do not want to lose money running them, - better for the public who are to be taxed for what they receive.

We of Rochester have the most interest in the trade on Lake Ontario, and desire, of course, to see profitable steam communication maintained on this water between our own and other ports, on both sides of the Lake and the St. Lawrence. We do not believe that such trade can be carried on any longer by paddle-wheel steamers, and therefore look with hope to the substitution of such craft as will prove profitable as well as useful.

We understand that Capt. H. N. Throop, a man of great experience in the trade of this Lake, takes the view we have expressed, and has applied himself to the task of effecting a change. Capt. Throop was a sailor in his youth, and has for 20 years been in command of a steamer on Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence. More than 20 years ago he modeled and constructed, at Pultneyville a little steamer called the "Express," and commanded her till she gave place to a larger and better boat, and that in turn gave room to the "Ontario," which was one of the best boats the American Company ever owned, taking all things into account.

He planned the "Ontario" and was entirely successful. We are informed that Capt. T. has been engaged the past winter in making the models and drawings of a new craft for lake trade, as well as experimenting with various wheels used for propulsion. The new craft to which we refer is a propeller for Lake Ontario and the Upper St. Lawrence, designed for freight and passengers, to take the place of the side-wheel boats when they shall be worn out or disposed of otherwise. We have nothing very definite as to the plan or style of the boats to be constructed, if the idea of Capt. Throop is carried out, though it is said they are to be 400 tons burthen, capable of taking in 300 tons of freight, and are to have a nice upper saloon and state rooms for passengers.

They will not cost more than $30,000 each, will be fast enough to make 12 or 15 miles per hour, and can be operated at about half the expense now attending a steamer. It is contemplated to form a company to construct four of these boats for a line between Ogdensburgh and Toronto or Lewiston, calling at way ports. The enterprise of Capt. T. looks feasible, and we hope will be carried into operation. No man is more competent than he to lay the plans for such an undertaking.

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March 29, 1859
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Richard Palmer
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Rochester Union & Advertiser (Rochester, NY), March 29, 1859