Steamboats Carry Supplies

The cargo carried by steamboats or "steamers" tell a story about the people of Iowa in the 1800s.


You can tell a lot about this region by looking at the cargos carried by the steamers. When steamboats first ventured up the Mississippi River there were only a few military forts and the lead mines at Dubuque. The steamboats, then, carried supplies to the forts and miners and returned down river with furs and lead ore. When Iowa was open for settlement in 1833 the main cargo became people and their possessions. The boats brought the plows that broke the prairie, the oxen that pulled the plows and the settlers that drove the oxen. Today those pioneers are successful farmers. The steamboats carry their surplus of crops downstream to market and bring manufactured goods back up.


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