On the Water

Propeller Indiana’s Capstan

The capstan, most commonly found on the decks of early steamboats, was used as a vertical winch for raising or lowering anchors, hoisting sails and cargo, hauling heavy lines, or other jobs where individual manpower was not enough.

It was operated manually, by putting timbers into the holes and using the resulting leverage to wind a line wrapped around the center of the device more easily. Sea chanties, or rhythmic songs, were often employed by ship crews to ensure that everyone hauled at the same time. Later in the 19th century, steam capstans and donkey engines replaced human muscle on the larger vessels.

ID Number:
1984.0359.02
Date:
mid-1800s
Dimensions:
34 in x 28 in dia
Source:
John Steele and William Cohrs