Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Saving America’s Wheeled History

I recently noticed that the same folks that found and uncovered the Steamboat Arabia in 1988 (with the Peter Schuttler running gear) now appear to have located another buried steamboat.  From all indications, this time it seems the Hawley family has discovered the “Malta.”  History shows that the Missouri River has claimed at least 400 steamboats, most of them in the 1800’s.  This particular steamer went down in 1841 on its way out West with as much as one hundred tons of trade goods.  It will be extremely interesting to see how the story unfolds.  In the meantime, as the Hawley family prepares to dig this coming winter, they’ve shared a few short videos about this new find.  

Additionally, below is an excerpt from an excellent article published March 2, 2016 by the Marshall Democrat-NewsThere’s also another video at the end of the piece that chronicles the core sampling process.    

“…Drilling at Backes' farm conducted Feb. 27 and 28 further confirmed the presence of the steamboat, buried 37 feet beneath the ground. If it is the Malta, Hawley estimated that parts of the steamboat could be buried as deep as 52 feet beneath the surface. Testing of the drill samples revealed the presence of vivid red and black woven fabric, and wood the museum believes came from boat's deck and paddle wheel…”

The whole ‘search and rescue’ concept is intriguing as, overall, there's a great deal of America’s western history still waiting to be discovered and told.  Again and again, we’ve been fortunate to be a small part of uncovering and sharing our country’s early wheeled history.  Recently, we’ve come across a few additional pieces of our past and are excited to see where the artifacts take us.

Over the last two decades, there have been plenty of other trails we’ve followed.  I’ve stood inside the walls where the famed Kentucky-brand wagons were once made by the hundreds of thousands, walked the historic grounds of the Luedinghaus, Espenschied, and Weber & Damme shops near the mighty Mississippi, followed the trail north to the hallowed remains of Studebaker, searched for the exact locations of M.P. Henderson’s coach factory in Stockton, found the last wagon parts that will ever be recovered from the Gestring Wagon Company site, helped rescue literally thousands of early transportation artifacts, and ran my hands over the lingering fingerprints and ink-filled impressions made by none other than legendary St. Louis wagon maker, Joseph Murphy.  Still, it’s not enough.  There’s too much out there.  Too much to recover and too much to learn.  Most of all – there’s too little time.  What drives me is more than than curiosity; more than the unknown; and more than countless sets of old tracks.  What pushes me forward is the chance to help set records straight while delivering a clearer picture of early western travel.  Every day, we have the opportunity to make a difference; meeting amazing people while finding and giving back to America’s history books something that should never have been left out.

Today, I’ve begun a new chapter in these efforts; a redoubling of our focus - a hunt we hope will bring even more discoveries and greater appreciation for the wheels that built the American frontier.  As we embrace an even stronger resolve to uncover more history, we’ve added some new apparel to our website as well.  Take a look.  If you see something you like, we’d appreciate your support.  If you don’t, please let us know what you’d prefer to see.  If there’s sufficient interest, we’ll do all we can to make it happen.  To those who have encouraged our work in the past, ‘Thank you.’  You’re helping bridge a gap that is saving history and, hopefully, building a stronger future for these incredible wooden machines... wheels that bore more than things – They carried the deepest of dreams for a nation and its people. 

Back to the discovery of the Steamboat Malta… it seems clear that there are strong parallels to the wheeled history so many enthusiasts search for.  For generations, farmers have plowed and walked over the field covering the Malta.  For generations, no one realized what treasures might lay below.  Today, there is a great deal of excitement as many wonder just what will be uncovered.  Similarly, there are volumes of information (and lost vehicle brands) from America’s first transportation industry just waiting to be discovered.  We may have walked by some rare pieces and never even noticed them.  Ultimately, every day is a new opportunity to uncover and share more of what is still out there.  So, if you see something you’ve never seen before, do some homework.  It could be something we’ve all been searching for. 

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