Yes, all of our events for the steamboat book are cancelled. You can still buy it from the publisher or bookstores.
From the Introduction of Steamboat Disasters of the Lower Missouri River, whose co-author is my wife Vicki Berger Erwin:
In the mid-1990s, Jim and I took a weekend trip to Hannibal, Missouri where we stumbled upon an exhibit of artifacts from an old steamboat that had been uncovered on a farm along the Missouri River that were to be displayed in a new museum in Kansas City. We were fascinated! Jim bought a map showing steamboat wrecks along one small section of the river and it was hard to believe there were so many. We discussed writing a book about steamboat wrecks, but it wasn’t the right time.
When the museum opened, we visited it and learned even more about what we now knew was the steamboat Arabia. We were still intrigued and filed it away under “books to write someday.”
The day has finally come! And it was every bit as interesting to research steamboats and their disasters as we hoped it would be. So, thank you Arabia for setting us on this path. You might be interested to know that the first thing people ask us when we talk about writing a book about steamboat disasters is, “Do you know about the Arabia?”
We did expand the definition of “disaster” beyond wrecks. We include disease, fire, explosions, crimes, war and even ice! Our definition of the Lower Missouri River is somewhat expansive, too. St. Louis, a major Mississippi port had to be included because it was the home for nearly all the steamboats plying the Missouri. We set the northern limit at DeSoto, Nebraska, because we wanted to bring in the Bertrand, the other Missouri River steamboat that was the subject of extensive excavation and archeological study.
There were more than 300 steamboat wrecks on the Missouri River in the period covered by this book. The stretch between the river’s mouth and Kansas City was considered a steamboat graveyard. Of course, we could not write about every wreck. We tried to pick the most interesting and important stories.
One of the problems we encountered in writing this book is that the early steamboat era doesn’t have many photos of the boats. Today if a boat sank on the river, we would have professional news photos, amateur photos, photos on Facebook, on Twitter. We would be drowning in disaster photos. It wasn’t as easy to snap a picture in the mid-1800s and cameras were not nearly so prolific. We hope you do enjoy the photos we managed to find.
And a brief description of the contents of the book – soon to be available from fine bookstores everywhere (or at least a lot of places):
During the nineteenth century, more than 300 boats met their end in the steamboat graveyard that was the Lower Missouri River – from Omaha to its mouth. Although derided as little more than an “orderly pile of kindling,” steamboats were in fact technological marvels superbly adapted to the river’s conditions. Their light superstructure and long, wide, flat hulls powered by high-pressure engines drew so little water that they could cruise on “a heavy dew” even when fully loaded. But these same characteristics made them susceptible to fires, explosions, and snags (tree trunks ripped from the banks, hiding under the water’s surface). And the river held other dangers – disease, crime and (in time of war) guerrillas.
This is the story of the perils steamboats, their passengers and crews faced on every voyage.
Available now from www.arcadiapublishing.com and fine bookstores everywhere.
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