SS Savannah Maiden Voyage Was 200 Years Ago Today

Today, March 22, 2019, marks the 200 year anniversary of the maiden voyage of the Steamship Savannah.

We first learned about the SS Savannah thanks to two presentations that were made to the ISA New Orleans Section by author and historian, John Laurence Busch.

In our March 2018 Section Meeting, Mr. Busch provided a lecture on the building of the first steamship, the SS Savannah. Mr. Busch made a second presentation at our October 2018 Section Meeting, which gave insight in the transition from sail to steam-powered vessels.

To mark this special occasion, Mr. Busch released the following statement.

I take the liberty of informing you that 200 years ago today, on the 22nd of May 1819, the steamship Savannah, under the command of her creator, Captain Moses Rogers, departed Savannah, Georgia on an epochal voyage across the Atlantic Ocean.  Never before in history had the human race attempted to cross an ocean–arguably the most powerful form of Nature in our world–using a man-made, artificial power.

As the Mercantile Advertiser of New York had noted before the departure, “who would have had the courage, twenty years ago, to hazard a prediction, that in the year 1819, a ship of 300 tons burden, would be built…to navigate the Atlantic, propelled by steam?”

On this very day in 1819, no one could know what would happen to this first steamship and her crew.  All that family, friends, shareholders and interested observers could do was wait, and hope.

John Laurence Busch , Author
Smithsonian Institution, Timelines of History, New York: Dorling Kindersley, 2011, 275

About Steam Coffin and its author John Laurence Busch:

John Laurence Busch is an independent historian who focuses upon the interaction between humanity and technology, with a particular specialization in the first generation of steam-powered vessels.  He has devoted years of research to discovering the true story of Captain Moses Rogers and the steamship Savannah.

This led him to scour archives and libraries from Portland, Maine to Savannah, Georgia, and many locales in between, to piece together the life and career of Moses Rogers, as well as the actors and events that resulted in the formation of the Savannah Steam Ship Company, and the construction of the steamship Savannah.

This research inevitably continued across the Atlantic Ocean, where John searched the archives of the United Kingdom, and with the assistance of others, the archives of other European countries which experienced this “Wonder of the Age” called the steamship Savannah.

The result is STEAM COFFIN, the most descriptive account of the saga of Captain Moses Rogers and the steamship Savannah ever written.  The foundation for such a story rests upon the contents of never-before-published manuscripts and newspaper articles, which provide an abundance of new details illuminating the actions and attitudes of those who participated in, and witnessed, the creation and voyage of the Savannah.

John’s careful weaving together of many disparate sources results in a narrative that recalls both the fabric and style used in storytellings of old.  It also shows just what Captain Moses Rogers and the steamship Savannah accomplished for posterity.

Visit for more reviews and background…

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