Steamboats of the Great Lakes


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Copyright © Patricia Hamp 2001

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Ninety thousand square miles of the Great Lakes, stretch­ing 1,555 miles in length, remained a transportation waste until 1797 when the first American schooner was launched, and with no outlet to the South or Atlantic coast the number of craft increased slowly. A steamboat was built on Lake Ontario in 1816, and in 1819 Walk-in-the-Water, 340 tons, was launched at Buffalo. Trinkets and supplies were carried westward, the steamers returning with furs and peltries, being mostly trade with Indians. A new order was created with the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825. Western New York threw off its frontier aspect and became an exporter of nature''s products, a receiver of manufactured goods, and the base from which adventurous pioneers set out for the new West.