The Steamboat Arabia
The Steamboat Arabia was built in West Brownsville, PA at the boat-yard of John S. Pringle in 1853. At 171 feet long and capable of carrying 222 tons of cargo, she was considered an average-sized packet boat. The 28-foot-tall paddlewheels could push the steamboat upstream at a speed of over 5 miles per hour. Being a side-wheeler (having one paddlewheel on each side, rather than just one on the back) made it easier to maneuver around hazards like sandbars and snags, although this would not save her in the end. In her heyday, though, the Arabia was considered a dependable vessel and soon gained a reputation for speed, safety and comfort.
The Arabia traveled the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers for about two years until she was purchased for $20,000 by Captain John Shaw of St. Charles, Missouri in February of 1855. Her first trip on the Missouri River took her to Ft. Pierre, South Dakota with 109 soldiers from Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas. The Muddy Missouri was notoriously difficult to navigate, hiding many hazards like sandbars and tree snags.
In the spring of 1856, the Arabia was sold to Captain William Terrill and George Boyd, both of St. Louis. During the 1856 season, the Arabia made at least 14 trips on the Missouri River, including a journey of over 700 miles to the Yellowstone River in western North Dakota, which took nearly three months to complete. The poster shown here advertises her last trip, leaving St. Louis on August 30th, bound for “Kansas, Weston, St. Joseph, Council Bluffs and Sioux City,” as well as other towns along the way.