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Steamboat Montana and the Opening of the West

History, Excavation, and Architecture

Annalies Corbin and Bradley A. Rodgers

Publication Year: 2008

The Montana was a shining example of modern design and technological sophistication when it made its maiden voyage in 1879. But it is remembered for its ironic end: only five years after it was launched, the Montana struck a railroad bridge near Bridgeton, Missouri, and sank.

One of the largest stern-wheel vessels ever to navigate a western river, the Montana was built to compete with railroads. The recent archaeological excavation of its wreckage, combined with a wealth of written and visual material documenting its construction and use, offers fascinating insights into a little-known aspect of Western expansion.

Published by: University Press of Florida


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Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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p. vii

List of Figures

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pp. ix-x

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pp. x-xiv

Water is unquestionably the most important natural feature on earth. By volume the world’s oceans compose 99 percent of the planet’s living space; in fact, the surface of the Pacific Ocean alone is larger than that of the total land bodies. Water is...

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Preface. Understanding a Skeleton in the Sand

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pp. xv-xvi

This book documents the life and times, as well as the scientific excavation and analysis, of the largest mountain river steamer the American Rocky Mountains and High Plains West ever saw. The steamboat Montana was an audacious ship even...

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pp. xvii-xviii

The St. Charles Shipwreck Project was made possible through the combined efforts of Missouri’s State Historic Preservation Office, St. Charles–based SCI Engineering, Inc., the Maritime...

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1. Introduction: Rediscovering a Local Legend

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pp. 1-6

The identification of the steamboat Montana in September 2002 in the Missouri River near St. Charles, Missouri, by an East Carolina University (ECU) research team unlocked a tantalizing opportunity: a chance for researchers...

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2. The Wild West: Historical Setting

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pp. 7-27

There is no chapter in United States history as uniquely American as the settling of the western territories. Unlike eastern states, which developed primarily under European influence, western lands were the first true colonies of the United States. By the end of the...

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3. “A Most Cantankerous River”: Taming the Missouri

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pp. 28-51

A noted Missouri River historian once stated, “there are rivers that exist in time—or in eternity. But the Missouri River quite manifestly exists in space. It is on its way. It moves magnificently over vast distances. It is forever going places. Not only that, it is forever...

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4. Excavating the Montana

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pp. 52-85

Although it has been 120 years since the Montana wrecked, there are few historical records chronicling the great service riverboats performed in America’s westward migration. Even fewer consist of detailed descriptions of nineteenth-century steamboat technology...

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5. Construction and Engineering

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pp. 86-111

In describing ships and nautical engineering, the concept of scale is a difficult one with which to grapple. The size of ships and marine structures is often illusory, seemingly more dependent on individuals’ internal perception and experience than on actual solid...

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6. Epilogue

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pp. 112-118

Archaeologists are trained to look at artifacts for what they can tell us about the cultures that produced them. Combined with history, archaeological analysis helps form and sharpen insights into regions...


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pp. 119-126


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pp. 127-132


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pp. 133-143

Further Reading, About the Author

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E-ISBN-13: 9780813045924
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813032542
Print-ISBN-10: 0813032547

Page Count: 176
Illustrations: 50 b&w illustrations
Publication Year: 2008

OCLC Number: 607931448
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Steamboat Montana and the Opening of the West

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Missouri River -- Antiquities.
  • Underwater archaeology -- Missouri River.
  • Excavations (Archaeology) -- Missouri River.
  • Montana (River steamer).
  • Shipwrecks -- Missouri River -- History -- 19th century.
  • River steamers -- Design and construction -- Case studies.
  • Frontier and pioneer life -- West (U.S.).
  • River steamers -- Missouri River -- History -- 19th century.
  • Steam-navigation -- West (U.S.) -- History -- 19th century.
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