A Brief History of the Steamboat Arabia
by Gabrielle Person.

The steamboat Arabia was built in Brownsville, PA in 1853. She ran for a few years on the Ohio and Mississippi before she moved to the Missouri. The Missouri River was a tough river to navigate and many boats sank during the steam boating age. The current was often shallow with shifting sandbars and thousands of snags. Steamboats were so lucrative, though, that one successful trip could make up the cost of the boat. In fact, during the golden age for steam boating, a boat would leave St. Louis every hour and head up the river. Today, upwards of 400 boats still lay beneath the river or the farm fields that now occupy the old river channel.

The Arabia was quite well known for being able to navigate the shallow waters of the Missouri. She could float, fully-loaded with 220 tons of cargo, in 4 feet of water. She was often the first boat out in the spring and the last boat in in the fall.

Her last trip was in September of 1856. On the 6th of the month, she passed the Town of Kansas, as Kansas City was known then. She was carrying a full load, including 400 barrels of Kentucky's finest whiskey, a fact which would make her somewhat famous. That evening, just one mile down river from Parkville, MO, she hit a tree snag. Snags are not floating lots, but nearly whole trees, with roots holding them into the mud. They could be completely submerged, and yet, when a boat hit, they had no where to go except through the boat. The Arabia could make about 6 miles an hour upstream. Even then the inertia and force was enough to snap the snag in two. She sank fifteen feet to the bottom of the river in less than 10 minutes. Thereafter, she settled into the mud at about a foot an hour.

Source:  www.associatedcontent.com/article/2226607/a_brief_history_of_the_steamboat_arabia.html?cat=8


"The Big Dig". The digging was easy....keeping the Missouri River at bay was another issue.


The only causality.  A mule complete with saddle, saddle bags filled with supplies, and a bridle still tied to the deck.


Really massive timbers to support the paddlewheel axle. Note how they are interlocked.


The only portion of the boat that was brought to the surface.  A section of the stern complete with a rudder.


Boat building was indeed an art in the 1800s.


Boilers and drive pistons...probably still in working condition.


Colored glass beads by the millions, perfume bottles some complete with perfume, hair pins, thimbles, toothbrushes, yarn & jewelry.


Needles, pins, ink pen nibs, glasses, thimbles, and a powder flask cap.


A Home Depot of the 1850s.


Keys, key hole covers and cabinet hasps....all good as new.


Lots of hardware for the home including the all important barrel tap.


More hardware for the home including a case of window glass.


Saws....big and little for every job.  Including a miter saw.


One would think that after 150 years someone would come up with a better design for an axe handle....but, not to be.


Keys, keys, and more keys.


Insulators for lighting rods with either strap, spike, or screw fittings.


An axe head for every propose.


Shoes and boots.  Only the men's came in left and right.  You could have any color you want...as long as it is black.


Clothes, hats, fabric, and yarn.


Sure looks like Home Depot to me. 


A tool for every occasion.....and none required batteries or electricity.  What will they think of next?


Nice set of tools for the home.  The saw, however, has seen better days.


Planes and levels.  I wonder if the levels are still true?


Pistols, powder flasks, caps, and shot. 


I wonder what these pistols were used for?  Dueling, I suppose.


Pocket knives by the hundreds.  Even 150 years ago the selection was never ending.


Cast iron pots, china, candles, and a huge collection of kitchen knives.


Clay pipes and match boxes.


Two styles of clothes pins.  Today's generation probably would not know what they were used for.


Ink pen staffs and nib holders.  They appear to be gold filled.


Ink wells and bottles.  The one in the middle is a traveling ink well.


Bells perhaps for school.


Whale oil lamps of all types and sizes.


China by the barrel full.


Kitchen knives, cast iron pots, coffee mills, and wooden buckets.


China and colored flasks. I don't know if the bottles were full of empty when they were shipped.


Whale oil lamps.  The one on the far left has an unusual gold iridescent color.


Whale oil lamps and what appears to be open salts.


Really unusual traveling ink wells.


Colored scroll flasks and tin ware for the home.


Lots of tin ware for the home.


More tine ware.


Knives, forks, and spoons....all with wooden handles.


Jewelry for the lady of the house


Ear rings of all kinds.

Visit the Arabia Steamboat Museum
Kansas City, MO