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illustration of the steamboat Barnet
1826 - 1829

Built between 1824 and 1826 by Brown and Bell shipbuilders of New York, the steamboat Barnet was seventy-five feet long and displaced only twenty-two inches of water. This extremely shallow draft allowed the vessel to navigate the rapids at Enfield Falls.

At Warehouse Point the combination of unfavorable wind and insufficient power prevented Barnet from completing the trip up the falls in Enfield.

Companies

illustration of a train
1833 - 1841
steamboat barnet
1824

Hartford business leaders founded the company in response to commercial rivals in New Haven, and in 1824 the company commissioned Brown and Bell, a New York shipbuilder, to build a steamboat that could navigate the rapids between Hartford and Springfield. The steamboat Barnet made its successful maiden voyage to Springfield in 1826, thereby assuring the continued commercial viability of Springfield and Hartford.

People

illustration of John Fitch
1743 - 1798

John Fitch was an American inventor and entrepreneur most famous for operating the first commercial steamboat in the United States. On August 22, 1787, with delegates from the Constitutional Convention meeting in Philadelphia observing, Fitch’s steamboat navigated the waters of the Delaware River. Fitch operated the vessel, which had a capacity of thirty passengers, between Philadelphia and Burlington, New Jersey and hoped to make the venture profitable, but shortcomings with both his patent (1791) and his business skills led investors to pull out of his company and the business failed.

portrait of Robert Fulton
1765 - 1815

Robert Fulton was an American inventor and engineer of the first commercially successful U.S. steamboat, the Clermont (1807). The Clermont was based on the ideas of John Fitch. In 1807, Fulton successfully tested his vessel on the Hudson River; thereafter he won the right to operate steamboats on Hudson and on other rivers in New York State, as well as on the lower Mississippi.

1772 - 1846
  • The Lathrop Letters between Samual and his son document the Barnet’s first voyage

Samuel Lathrop was an important political leader in the early 1800s, both at the state and federal level. He served in the Massachusetts Senate before serving four successive terms in Congress. He then returned to his home state to serve in the State Senate for another two years, serving in 1829 and 1830 as President of the State Senate. Samuel Lathrop was serving in Congress at the time of the Barnet’s maiden voyage.

1806-1876

William Lathrop was born in Springfield to a prominent Connecticut River Valley family. His grandfather, the Rev. Joseph Lathrop, served as minister of the First Congregational Church of West Springfield for sixty-three years and dedicated the first bridge to span the Connecticut River. His father, Samuel Lathrop, was an important political figure. William Lathrop’s correspondence to his father, who was serving in Congress at the time, provides a record of the steamboat Barnet’s maiden voyage in 1826.

portrait of James Madison
1751 - 1836

The fourth president of the United States, Monroe proposed the American System to develop the national economy. His successor, James Madison, took steps to launch the program.

portrait of James Monroe
1817 - 1825

The fifth president of the United States, Monroe backed the American System, which included the investment of federal dollars in the construction of new roads and canals and the improvement of harbors.

Samuel Morey
1762 - 1843

An Orford, New Hampshire inventor and engineer, Morey launched the first steamboat on The Connecticut River. From 1780 to 1830, Morey experimented with steam to propel boats, taking out various patents for steam machinery. In his lifetime, he registered over 20 patents relating to combustion engines and steamboat transportation. In 1792, he and a friend used the vessel to travel up the Connecticut River from Orford, New Hampshire to Fairlee, Vermont at four miles per hour, and returned.

A widely known river boatman from West Springfield, Captain Palmer was in command of Barnet when the steamboat embarked on her maiden voyage in 1826.

portrait of John Quincy Adams
1825 - 1829

Sixth president of the U.S. from Massachusetts.

portrait of John C Calhoun
1782 - 1850
Senator from South Carolina during the 1800’s, who supported the American system.
portrait of Henry Clay
1777 - 1852

Henry Clay was an American politician from Kentucky, who served in the Kentucky State Legislative, the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate. Clay was an advocate of the “American System”. In addition to his support for the American System, Clay was well known as a skilled politician, orator and one of the men behind the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and the Compromise of 1850.

Places

map of greenfield
1820 - 1860

An area along the banks of the Connecticut River Greenfield was called cheapside by locals.

illustration of Connecticut River

The Connecticut River is the largest river in New England, flowing 407 miles from its source near the Canadian border in the Connecticut Lakes to its mouth at Long Island Sound. The river forms most of the border between New Hampshire and Vermont, and flows through western Massachusetts and central Connecticut.

map of hartford
Est. 1635

Established in 1635 on the banks of the Connecticut River in Connecticut, by the first quarter of the nineteenth century, Hartford had become an important commercial center linked to Springfield, Massachusetts and through New York City, to the markets of the world. Hartford benefited from the development of canals and improvements in river transport such as steamboats.

map of New Haven
Est. 1638
Established in 1638 on the banks of the Connecticut River in Connecticut, New Haven grew as a center of learning with the establishment of Yale College (1701), and in the late eighteenth century with the manufacture of guns, clocks, and hardware, and . Early in the nineteenth century the city’s commercial leaders, hoping to steal some of the river traffic from Hartford, built the short-lived and commercially unsuccessful Farmington Canal (1834) to link their city with Northampton in Massachusetts.
Map of Northampton
Est. 1654
Established in 1654, the Pocumtuc natives called the area that became Northampton, Massachusetts “Norwottuck,” or “Nonotuck,” which means “the midst of the river.” The Connecticut River linked Northampton to Springfield and Hartford, and trade among the three cities grew rapidly. In 1835, seeking a bigger slice of the river trade, New Haven merchants backed the construction of a canal linking their city with Northampton. However, the canal was shortlived and rail lines replaced it.
Map of Springfield
Est. 1636
Founded in 1636, Springfield, Massachusetts is located in the center of the Pioneer Valley on the Connecticut River; less than five years later the city’s founder (William Pynchon) was in the business of exporting barrels of salt pork to England. George Washington chose one of Springfield’s bluffs as the site of the new nation’s armory. The choice was strategic—the city’s location was far enough upriver to halt all but the most ambitious assaults from the sea—and the Springfield Armory grew into a major manufacturer and employer. In the nineteenth century, with the Industrial Revolution Springfield became a hive of precision manufacturing and invention, and a hub of river and rail transport.
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1765 - 1815
The West Indies, a region located to the southeast of the United States, consists of thousands of islands in the Caribbean Sea. The West Indies rapidly became a major trading partner to the American colonies and in the nineteenth century, cities in the Pioneer Valley shipped products such as fish and distilled liquors to the West Indies in exchange for spices, sugar, and other goods. The Connecticut River was a major artery linking the two locations.

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