The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
The Ericsson Propeller
Oswego Palladium (Oswego, NY), 24 Mar 1841

Full Text
The Ericsson Propeller

The progress of the experiments for thee application of steam power in aid of the sails of ships, schooners and other sailing craft, has been observed at this place with great solicitude. From letter addressed by Capt. R.F. Stockton, of the U.S. Navy, to Commodore Stewart. which has recently appeared in the N.Y. papers, we apprehend the experiment on the ship Clarion, has been entirely successful.

The effect of the application of thee propeller is to insure to sailing vessels from five to seven miles of headway, when thew wind is adverse, and, of course, a very high rate of speed (if applied under such circumstances) when it is favorable. There is probably no place in the Union which will derive such immediate and extensive advantages from the invention of Mr. Ericsson as Oswego. It is affirmed by one of the first forwarding merchants, that with the aid of this propeller goods from New York by the Oswego can be delivered at Cleveland, Ohio, at less cost than the actual charges which must be advanced upon freights in their transportation from NewYork to Buffalo. In cheapness of transportation for the Western trade, the Oswego or Ontario rome has always had a great advantage over the inland or Buffalo route.

A very clear admission was made of this by the general combination of forwarders last year, in stating the charges by the Oswego route to be four dollars per ton less than by the inland route. The latter route however, has always had a great advantage over the Oswego in speed, and certainly in reference to time. The freight vessels from Oswego bound to the Upper Lakes will all schooners. From Buffalo a large proportion are steamers.

The prevalent winds upon the lakes are westerly. Perhaps in the season of navigation they are from that quarter more than two thirds of the time. While, therefore, the descending passage from the Upper Lakes to Oswego, was usually as quick as was desirable, the ascending trip was often tedious and dilatory. This was a serious objection to Western Merchants desirous of receiving their goods at early dates. They were desirous of despatch and certainty, and to obtain them submitted to heavy charges beyond those demanded on the Oswego route.

But with the Ericsson propeller applied to our lake vessels, the Welland canal becomes navigable for steam vessels, and freights from New York by the Oswego route can be delivered at Cleveland as soon, or sooner than they can be delivered at Buffalo. Thus, while the Oswego route will continue to enjoy all the advantage of its superior cheapness, it will equal the inland rome in certainty surpass it in speed. For the sake of those not familiar with our localities we would state that the main difference between the routes consists in about 125 miles of canal navigation west of Syracuse, heavily charged with tolls, and the same length of the fire navigation of Lake Ontario.

There is another difference also of growing importance, On one route the demand for freight is from Buffalo West, and the Western carriages of course regulates the charges both Westward and Eastward. This demand, in consequence of the great accumulating produce of the fertile west, with our present tonnage cannot be met. The heft of the charges is therefore thrown on the descending freights, and goods and salt for the Upper Lakes will therefore be transported at a comparatively light rate.

The western produce will always preferably seek this route - for the sake of economy, if from no other consideration. But as the Oswego Mills must always employ a large amount of tonnage in supplying them with wheat from the Upper Lakes, they will at all times be able to carry goods and salt to the West at exceedingly low rates.

Here is a matter for consideration with the advocates of the enlargement of the Erie Canal. The grand object to be gained is the western trade; and yet it is certain that should state realize the full results of the Seward and Ruggles policy in extending our debt to $40 million, yet the channel it will be provided, will not equal that which nature furnishes, and through it the bulk of the Western trade will refuse to pass.

We learn with pleasure that two vessels at this port are about being fitted out with Ericsson propellers, and the necessary machinery. One of them is a new vessel , the keel of which is about being laid at S. Doolittle's shipyard. The other one of our present craft. So that ere long Lake Erie will be visited by steam vessels from Lake Ontario.

Media Type:
Item Type:
Date of Publication:
24 Mar 1841
Personal Name(s):
Doolittle, Sylvester ; Stockton, R. F.
Richard Palmer
Language of Item:
Geographic Coverage:
  • New York, United States
    Latitude: 43.4678097970306 Longitude: -76.513933227539
Creative Commons licence:
by [more details]
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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The Ericsson Propeller