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American Steamers The Hudson River Steamer The New World.

The Illustrated London News, vol. 39, no. 1100, p. 82.

July 27, 1861

Before the introduction of railways facility of communication, upon which the prosperity of America depended, rendered the perfection of lake and river steamers a matter of such vital importance that all the natural mechanical ingenuity peculiar to the Anglo-Saxon race became taxed to the utmost to construct the most perfect class of steam-vessels adapted to the peculiar traffic of the locality they were to be employed in. High speed, sleeping and feeding accommodation for the passengers, and shallow draught of water—requisites common to nearly all American vessels—have given the present form and character to the steamers used throughout the United States and the British provinces.

An examination of the construction of these vessels, and the innumerable details and contrivances necessary in them, give one a very high idea of the mechanical skill and inventive powers of the American people: from the colossal beam-engine which propels her down to the minutest fittings-up of the bed-cabins, the barber's shop, or the lavatories, everything that ingenuity can devise for making things perfect has been done. We cannot say that we have observed the same attention to those details upon which the comforts of the passengers so much depend on board English ships. It arises from this cause—that in America the building and fitting of the cabins is done by a class of people who devote themselves entirely to such work and study to attain perfection at it. In England the shipbuilder who designs the ship applies his whole ability to perfecting the hull, rigging, and fittings of the deck, and doubtless builds a vessel better adapted to bear the rude handling of stormy, winter seas than is produced in any other part of the world; but cabin comforts he despises, and thinks lubbers only require them, so leaves it pretty much to ship-joiners and inferior people, who do them all after one plan, whether the vessel be intended to navigate the Baltic in winter or the Red Sea and Indian Ocean in winter.

There is also another reason why a difference should exist in the general characteristics of American and English steamers. The latter [sic] vessels are nearly always running long passages on an even keel and in comparatively smooth water, their rivers, lakes, and great sounds and estuaries being of that character; while in England we have scarcely any long journeys to make by water unless we cross either of the Channels or the North Sea, in which case the vessel, though she start from London-bridge, must be in every respect such a sufficient sea-boat that she could cross the great Atlantic itself, for none can tell but that, in her little voyage to Boulogne, Calais, Rotterdam, or Hull, she may have to encounter weather as bad as, if not worse than, any she might fall in with in a passage to New York.

Steam navigation in America commenced upon the Hudson. It is about fifty years since that Fulton placed his first steamer, the Clerimont [sic], upon that river; and only one little steam-vessel was then running in England—that was the Charlotte Dundas—Symington's boat—upon the Forth of Clyde Canal. Now all the seas, rivers, and great lakes in the world are navigated by steamers. In the important point of speed the Hudson River boats have always maintained the lead. The fastest steam-vessel in the world is now running there, the Daniel Drew. This vessel has attained the extraordinary speed of twenty-five miles an hour without assistance from either wind or tide.

Our Illustration of American river-steamers, the New World, is chosen as showing in the fullest manner the peculiarities of this class of craft, the immense stack of sleeping-cabins, the projecting sponsons, or guards, the remarkable manner in which the rigidity of the hull is maintained by trussing with wooden beams, braces, iron tie-rods, &c., without which the vibration of the mass would be terrific, while with it the whole is so steady that a passenger cannot feel in the slightest degree either the beat of the engine or the revolution of the paddles.

The boilers of this vessel are placed outside on the guards, a singular position for such great weights, but tending much to keep the vessel cool, as well as adding to her safety. This class of vessel, with more or less of top hamper in the way of cabins, is used on all the waters of the northern and eastern States. They navigate, also, Long Island Sound and the Bay of Fundy; but they must not be confounded with the class of high-pressure boats that navigate the rivers of the southern and western States. It is these latter that have earned such notoriety for exploding and getting in collision, although some terrible accidents have happened in the northern States and on the lakes, the most recent on Lake Michigan. The Lady Elgin was a vessel of precisely the class we have been describing.

Between Boston and New York are lines of magnificent steamers. They run in connection with the railway at Allan Point, their course being about 146 miles by the East River and Long Island Sound. This distance they generally accomplish in about seven hours and a half, including the delay in calling at New London to discharge and take in both passengers and cargo. They regularly maintain this high speed; and it is a fine sight to witness the departure of quite a fleet of these vessels every evening from their docks at New York.

The dimensions of the Hudson River steamer the New World are as follow:-

Length over all .. .. ... .. 380 ft.
Breadth over all .. .. .. 85 ft.
Breadth of beam .. .. .. 50 ft.
Diameter of cylinder .. .. .. 76 in.
Length of stroke .. .. .. 15 ft.
Diameter of paddle-wheel .. .. 46 ft.

It has 347 state rooms or cabins, and 680 berths.

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