Copyright by the editor, Hal Morris, Secaucus, NJ 1997. Permission is granted to copy, but not for sale, nor in multiple copies, except by permission.
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Here are two items on transportation in 1830 and 1832, as quoted in America, Great Crises In Our History Told by Its Makers, A Library of Original Sources, vol VI, (1820-45) issued by the Americanization Dept., Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, Chicago, IL copyright 1925.
The first describes the experimental run of the Tom Thumb locomotive on an already functioning (for horse-drawn travel) railroad near Baltimore. It was intended to demonstrate some principals of boiler design, but more particularly, according to the witness, to show that locomotive travel was feasible, not just on the flat, straight railroads of England, but over the hills and curves that could not be avoided in America. There was also a race between the Tom Thumb, and a horse-drawn car or cars, which the locomotive almost won, but lost due to a broken belt.
The second item, quoted from A Journal of a Residence in America (Henry Holt 1835), gives a description by Fanny Kemble, a very young (at the time) English actress, of two trips in 1832; one from New York, by steam boat, stage coach, and horse-drawn railroad car, to Philadelphia; the other by canal boat from Schenectady to Utica. (The introduction calls it one trip, but that makes no sense geographically.)
By John Hazlehurst Boneval Latrobe
LATROBE thus describes Peter Cooper's pioneer steam engine in his
"Personal Recollections of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad,"
of which he was counsel for more than Fifty years. This particular locomotive
was not the first one placed on an American track, that distinction belonging
to an Englishbuilt engine, which, however, was not a success! This was
the first American locomotive to make a successful trip.
Among his diverse activities, Latrobe founded the Maryland Institute; invented the "Baltimore heater", and was long identified with the American Colonization Society to the presidency of which he succeeded Henry Clay in 1853. He also became president of the Maryland Historical Society; and wrote a "History of Mason and Dixon's Line."
IN the beginning, no one dreamed of steam upon the road. Horses were
to do the work; and even after the line was completed to Frederick, relays
of horses trotted the cars from place to place.
. . . To ride in a railroad car in those days was, literally, to go
thundering along, the roll of the wheels on the combined rail of stone
and iron being almost deafening.
When steam made its appearance on the Liverpool and Manchester Railroad
it attracted great attention here. But there was this difficulty about
introducing an English engine on an American road. An English road was
virtually a straight road. An American road had curves sometimes of as
small radius as two hundred feet.... For a brief season it was believed
that this feature of the early American roads would prevent the use of
locomotive engines. The contrary was demonstrated by a gentleman still
living in an active and ripe old age, honored and beloved, distinguished
for his private worth and for his public benefactions; one of those to
whom wealth seems to have been granted by Providence that men might know
how wealth could be used to benefit one's fellowcreatures.
The speaker refers to Mr. Peter Cooper of New York. Mr. Cooper was satisfied
that steam might be adapted to the curved roads which he saw would be built
in the United States; and he came to Baltimore, which then possessed the
only one on which he could experiment, to vindicate his belief. He had
another idea, which was, that the crank could be dispensed with in the
change from a reciprocating to a rotary motion; and he built an engine
to demonstrate both articles of his faith. The machine was not larger than
the hand cars used by workmen to transfer themselves from place to place;
and as the speaker now recalls its appearance, the only wonder is, that
so apparently insignificant a contrivance should ever have been regarded
as competent to the smallest results. But Mr. Cooper was wiser than many
of the wisest around him. His engine could not have weighed a ton; but
he saw in it a principle which the fortyton engines of today
have but served to develop and demonstrate.
The boiler of Mr. Cooper's engine was not as large as the kitchen boiler
attached to many a range in modern mansions. It was of about the same diameter.
But not much more than half as high. It stood upright in the car, and was
filled, above the furnace, which occupied the lower section, with vertical
tubes. The cylinder was but threeandahalf inches in diameter,
and speed was gotten up by gearing. No natural draught could have been
sufficient to keep up steam in so small a boiler; and Mr. Cooper used therefore
a blowingapparatus, driven by a drum attached to one of the car wheels,
over which passed a cord that in its turn worked a pulley on the shaft
of the blower....
Mr. Cooper's success was such as to induce him to try a trip to Ellicott's
Mills; and an open car, the first used upon the road, already mentioned,
having been attached to his engine, and filled with the directors and some
friends, the speaker among the rest, the first journey by steam in America
was commenced. The trip was most interesting. The curves were passed without
difficulty at a speed of fifteen miles an hour; the grades were ascended
with comparative ease; the day was fine, the company in the highest spirits,
and some excited gentlemen of the party pulled out memorandum books, and
when at the highest speed, which was eighteen miles an hour, wrote their
names and some connected sentences to prove that even at that great velocity
it was possible to do so. The return trip from the Mills a distance of
thirteen miles was made in fiftyseven minutes. This was in the
summer of 1830.
But the triumph of this Tom Thumb engine was not altogether without
a drawback. The great stage proprietors of the day were Stockton &
Stokes; and on this occasion a gallant gray of great beauty and power was
driven by them from town, attached to another car on the second track-for
the Company had begun by making two tracks to the Mills and met the engine
at the Relay House on its way back. From this point it was determined to
have a race home; and, the start being even, away went horse and engine,
the snort of the one and the puff of the other keeping time and tune. At
first the gray had the best of it, for his steam would be applied to the
greatest advantage on the instant, while the engine had to wait until the
rotation of the wheels set the blower to work. The horse was perhaps a
quarter of a mile ahead when the safety valve of the engine lifted and
the thin blue vapor issuing from it showed an excess of steam. The blower
whistled, the steam blew off in vapory clouds, the pace increased, the
passengers shouted, the engine gained on the horse, soon it lapped him-the
silk was plied-the race was neck and neck, nose and nose then the engine
passed the horse, and a great hurrah hailed the victory.
But it was not repeated; for just at this time, when the gray's master
was about giving up, the band which drove the pulley, which drove the blower,
slipped from the drum, the safety valve ceased to scream, and the engine
for want of breath began to wheeze and pant. In vain Mr. Cooper, who was
his own engineman and fireman, lacerated his hands in attempting to replace
the band upon the wheel: in vain he tried to urge the fire with light wood;
the horse gained on the machine, and passed it; and although the band was
presently replaced, and steam again did its best, the horse was too far
ahead to be overtaken, and came in the winner of the race. But the real
victory was with Mr. Cooper, notwithstanding. He had held fast to the faith
that was in him, and had demonstrated its truth beyond peradventure. All
honor to his name.
In the Musee d'Artillerie at Paris there are preserved old cannon, contemporary
almost with Crecy and Poictiers. In some great museum of internal improvement,
and some such will at some future day be gotten up, Mr. Peter Cooper's
boiler should hold an equally prominent and far more honored place; for
while the old weapons of destruction were ministers of man's wrath, the
contrivance we have described was one of the most potential instruments
in making available, in America, that vast system which unites remote peoples
and promotes that peace on earth and good will to men which angels have
By Frances (Fanny) Anne Kemble
IN 1832 Fanny Kemble, celebrated in a former generation as an English
actressauthor, toured this country with her father, Charles Kemble,
and met with an enthusiastic reception. She recorded her impressions in
"A Journal of a Residence in America" (Henry Holt), first published
in 1835. From it is taken the accompanying account of her journey by boat
and stage from New York City to Utica via the Delaware. Her writing is
spirited and clever, though somewhat deficient in maturity of judgment.
Married and divorced in this country, she retained her maiden name and
for many years was a stage favorite. Her grandson, Owen Wister, is a wellknown
was very large and commodious as all these conveyances are.... These steamboats
have three stories; the upper one is, as it were, a roofing or terrace
on the leads of the second, a very desirable station when the weather is
neither too foul, nor too fair; a burning sun being, I should think, as
little desirable there, as a shower of rain. The second floor or deck,
has the advantage of the ceiling above, and yet, the sides being completely
open, it is airy, and allows free sight of the shores on either hand. Chairs,
stools and benches are the furniture of these two decks. The one below,
or third floor, downwards, in fact, the ground floor, being the one near
the water, is a spacious room completely roofed and walled in, where the
passengers take their meals, and resort if the weather is unfavorable.
At the end of this room, is a smaller cabin for the use of the ladies,
with beds and sofa, and all the conveniences necessary, if they should
like to be sick; whither I came and slept till breakfast time. Vigne's
account of the pushing, thrusting, rushing, and devouring on board a western
steamboat at meal times, had prepared me for rather an awful spectacle;
butthis, I find, is by no means the case in these civilized parts,
and everything was conducted with perfect order, propriety and civility.
The breakfast was good, and was served and eaten with decency enough.
At about half past ten,
we reached the place where we leave the river, to proceed across a part
of the State of New Jersey, to the Delaware.... Oh, these coaches! English
eye hath not seen, English ear hath not heard, nor hath it entered into
the heart of Englishmen to conceive the surpassing clumsiness and wretchedness
of these leathern inconveniences. They are shaped something like boats,
the sides being merely leathern pieces, removable at pleasure, but which
in bad weather are buttoned down to protect the inmates from the wet. There
are three seats in this machine, the middle one having a movable leathern
strap, by way of a dossier, runs between the carriage doors, and lifts
away, to permit the egress and ingress of the occupants of the other seats....
For the first few minutes, I thought I must have fainted from the intolerable
sensation of smothering which I experienced. However, the leathers having
been removed, and a little more air obtained, I took heart of grace, and
resigned myself to my fate. Away wallopped the four horses, trotting with
their front, and galloping with their hind legs: and away went we after
them, bumping, thumping, jumping, jolting, shaking, tossing and tumbling,
over the wickedest road, I do think, the cruellest, hardheartedest
road that ever wheel rumbled upon. Through bog and marsh and ruts, wider
and deeper than any Christian ruts I ever saw, with the roots of trees
protruding across our path, their boughs every now and then giving us an
affectionate scratch through the windows; and, more than once, a halfdemolished
trunk or stump lying in the middle of the road lifting us up, and letting
us down again, with most awful variations of our poor coach body from its
natural position. Bones of me! what a road! Even my father's solid proportions
could not keep their level, but were jerked up to the roof and down again
every three minutes. Our companions seemed nothing dismayed by these wondrous
performances of a coach and four, but laughed and talked incessantly, the
young ladies, at the very top of their voices, and with the national nasal
The few cottages and farmhouses which we passed reminded me of
similar dwellings in France and Ireland; yet the peasantry here have not
the same excuse for disorder and dilapidation, as either the Irish or French.
The farms had the same desolate, untidy, untended look; the gates broken,
the fences carelessly put up, or ill repaired; the farming utensils sluttishly
scattered about a littered yard, where the pigs seemed to preside by undisputed
right; housewindows broken, and stuffed with paper or clothes; dishevelled
women, and barefooted, anomalous looking human young things. None of the
stirring life and activity which such places present in England and Scotland;
above all, none of the enchanting mixture of neatness, order, and rustic
elegance and comfort, which render so picturesque the surroundings of a
farm, and the various belongings of agricultural labor in my own dear country.
The fences struck me as peculiar; I never saw any such in England. They
are made of rails of wood placed horizontally, and meeting at obtuse angles,
so forming a zigzag wall of wood, which runs over the country like the
herringbone seams of a flannel petticoat. At each of the angles, two slanting
stakes, considerably higher than the rest of the fence, were driven into
the ground, crossing each other at the top, so as to secure the horizontal
rails in their position....
At the end of fourteen
miles we turned into a swampy field, the whole fourteen coachfuls of us,
and by the help of heaven, bag and baggage were packed into the coaches
which stood on the railway ready to receive us. The carriages were not
drawn by steam, like those on the Liverpool railway, but by horses, with
the mere advantage in speed afforded by iron ledges, which, to be sure,
compared with our previous progress through the ruts, was considerable.
Our coachful got into the first carriage of the train, escaping, by way
of especial grace, the dust which one's predecessors occasion. This vehicle
had but two seats, in the usual fashion; each of which held four of us.
The whole inside was lined with blazing scarlet leather, and the windows
shaded with stuff curtains of the same refreshing color; which with full
complement of passengers, on a fine, sunny, American summer's day, must
make as pretty a little miniature held as may be, I should think.... This
railroad is an infinite blessing; 'tis not yet finished, but shortly will
be so, and then the whole of that horrible fourteen miles will be performed
in comfort and decency, in less than half the time. In about an hour and
a half, we reached the end of our railroad part of the journey, and found
another steamboat waiting for us, when we all embarked on the Delaware....
At about four o'clock, we reached Philadelphia, having performed the journey
between that and New York (a distance of a hundred miles,) in less than
ten hours, in spite of bogs, ruts and all other impediments.
We proceeded by canal to
Utica, which distance we performed in a day and a night, starting at two
from Schenectady, and reaching Utica the next day at about noon. I like
traveling by the canal boats very much. Ours was not crowded, and the country
through which we passed being delightful, the placid moderate gliding through
it, at about four miles and a half an hour, seemed to me infinitely preferable
to the noise of wheels, the rumble of a coach, and the jerking of bad roads,
for the gain of a mile an hour. The only nuisances are the bridges over
the canal, which are so very low, that one is obliged to prostrate oneself
on the deck of the boat, to avoid being scraped off it; and this humiliation
occurs, upon an average, once every quarter of an hour....
The valley of the Mohawk, through which we crept the whole sunshining
day, is beautiful from beginning to end; fertile, soft, rich, and occasionally
approaching sublimity and grandeur, in its rocks and hanging woods. We
had a lovely day, and a soft blessed sunset, which, just as we came to
a point where the canal crosses the river, and where the curved and wooded
shores on either side recede, leaving a broad smooth basin, threw one of
the most exquisite effects of light and color, I ever remember to have
seen, over the water, and through the sky.... We sat in the men's cabin
until they began making preparations for bed, and then withdrew into a
room about twelve feet square, where a whole tribe of women were getting
to their beds. Some half undressed, some brushing, some curling, some washing,
some already asleep in their narrow cribs, but all within a quarter of
an inch of each other; it made one shudder....
. . . At Utica we dined; and after dinner I slept profoundly. The gentlemen,
I believe, went out to view the town, which, twenty years ago, was not,
and now is a flourishing place, with finelooking shops, two or three
hotels, good broad streets, and a body of lawyers, who had a supper at
the house where we were staying, and kept the night awake with champagne,
shouting, toasts, and clapping of hands: so much for the strides of civilization
through the savage lands of this new world....