On the Water

The Propeller Indiana’s “Philadelphia Wheel”

Indiana's propeller was manufactured by Spang & Co. of Pittsburgh, PA, as stamped on one of the blades. This firm, a large iron manufacturing company centered in Pittsburgh, PA, was founded in 1828 and was one of the earliest and largest manufacturers of iron products in the United States.

The hub of the propeller is cast iron; the blades are rolled iron. One of the intact blades is chipped and dented, suggesting a collision. Another blade is missing outside the yellow line, which marks where a large section broke loose, probably from hitting an object in the water. This piece struck the Indiana's sternpost, literally “shivered her timbers,” and started the leak that sank the ship. The blade broke off completely when the ship struck the lakebed and was found at the wreck site, buried in the sand under the stern post. It is reproduced here in fiberglass.

The closest design is by Richard Loper of Philadelphia, who registered three propeller-related patents in 1844 and 1845 and licensed his ideas to shipbuilders Reany, Neafie & Co., also of Philadelphia. Contemporary accounts state that Loper’s design was the most popular in the Great Lakes region, and some Lakes propeller manufacturers even advertised his design as the “Philadelphia Wheel.”

ID Number:
Spang & Company
metal, iron, cast iron, rolled iron
4 x 1 x 115 3/4 in.; 10.16 x 2.54 x 294.005 cm
Gift of Michigan Department of State, Michigan History Division (through Bruce J. Andrews)

Other Views

  • The Propeller Indiana’s “Philadelphia Wheel” [1848]
    The Propeller Indiana’s “Philadelphia Wheel”