Engraving Of Steam Snag Boat A. H. Sevier

Snags—submerged or partially submerged trees and roots—were one of the main obstructions to navigation, particularly in the Mississippi River below St. Louis and in its larger western tributaries. A majority of the steamboat accidents up to 1849 were the result of collisions with snags. In 1828, steamboat builder Henry M. Shreve was appointed Superintendent of the Western Rivers, and the next year he completed the first steam snag boat, specially built to dislodge river debris. This mid-19th-century engraving taken from the Taylor & Crooks sketch book, St. Louis, 1858, provides an image of the 1840s generation of snag boats.
These double-hulled craft incorporated an iron-sheathed snag beam at the bow, joining the two hulls. During operations, the boat was run full speed at the projecting snag, forcing it up and out of the water. The snag was then hauled onto the boat deck and cut into pieces. Snag boats were capable of removing snags weighing up to 75 tons.
The A. H. Sevier, Snag Boat No 4, worked under the direction of the Superintendent of Western River Improvements, within the War Department. Built during the 1840s, each hull of the Sevier was about 150 feet long and 22 feet wide, with 12 feet between the twin hulls.
In July 1855, the Sevier was auctioned off with all equipment and furnishings at St. Louis for $6,050. It was then chartered by the government in November for $50 per day, with the government responsible for repairs and damage above and beyond ordinary wear and tear. The Sevier continued to work on the Mississippi between the mouth of the Missouri to a point about 18 miles south of Vicksburg—almost 900 miles of operations.
Object Name
Physical Description
paper (overall material)
overall: 10 3/8 in x 8 in; 26.3525 cm x 20.32 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Government, Politics, and Reform
Natural Resources
Expansion and Reform
See more items in
Work and Industry: Maritime
On the Water
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Publication title
On the Water online exhibition
Publication URL

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