From The New York Herald, September 23, 1859, Morning Edition

The Trip Out of the Thames and Arrival in the Nore.



The Voyage Across the Atlantic from Port to Port to be Made in One Week.

All John Bulldom in a Delirium of Excitement,

&c., &c., &c.

Special Correspondence the N.Y. Herald.

Great Eastern, Nore Light, Sept. 8, 1869.

Splendid Performance of the Ship – Her Great Success – Her Great Speed, &c.

The Great Eastern is a success. She left Deptford at 7:80 yesterday, and with the aid of four steamtugs worked round the sharp points of the Thames to Purfleet, below Woolwich, where she lot go a single anchor  one of Trotman’s patent – and swung to her moorings as easily and gracefully as a yacht. At 8 A. M. we weighed anchor, passed Gravesend at 10:30, and at 11 cast off all the tugboats, and steamed up with nine turns of the paddle engines and thirty of the screw engines. She made thirteen knots, exceeding by nearly half a knot the estimate of her builder and engineers, which gives her at full speed nineteen knots an hour. Little doubt is now felt that she will go twenty nautical miles, and keep up long after ordinary ships would have to slow down for bad weather. In every respect the performance of the ship is most satisfactory. She steers as easily as a pilot boat, and parts the water forward as easily as a North river steamboat. Her engines – screw and paddle – work with as much regularity as if they had been at it for months. In short, the ship and machinery seem to be perfect

The ship has been splendidly handled on this short trip – perhaps the most perilous she will ever make – as the Thames from Deptford to Gravesend is narrow and winding, in some places scarcely double the length of the ship.

Captain Harrison, aided by Mr. Atkinson, a river pilot well known to New York packet masters, stood on the paddle boxes, directing all her movements. Scott Russell on the bridge, managed her engines, while the steering of the ship was specially directed by Captain J. J. Comstock (a volunteer for the occasion).

The weather has been lovely, and the excitement at all points on the river Intense.

We start from this to-morrow for Portland roads, and having plenty of room and deep water, those in charge will probably give her a spin at full speed.

We have about sixty passengers, mostly scientific and nautical men, all delighted with the performance of the ship.


[Purfleet (Sept. 7) Correspondence of London Times.]

At length, after having encountered every vicissitude to which a commercial speculation could be exposed, and endured every danger most calculated to test the strength and stability of the ship itself, the Great Eastern for the first time cast off her moorings yesterday morning, and in the course of a few hours was safely towed to Purfleet.

Mr. Atkinson, the pilot, to whose well known care and skills this noble vessel was entrusted, came on board the previous night, and his assistants soon after dawn yesterday. Just as a faint gray light began to break upon the river, the preparations for getting under weigh were made. Several powerful tugs were in attendance, the four principal ones being named, curiously enough, the Victoria, Napoleon, Alliance and True Briton. Moving the Great Eastern, however, was not an affair of casting out a tow rope and going ahead. There was, of course, the usual routine amount of shouting, and inexplicable orders and counter-orders, and fussing about the tugs before all was in readiness. Mooring after mooring was then slipped off. Captain Harrison and the pilot took their places on the starboard paddle box. Mr. Scott Russell remained on the bridge to direct the action of the engines, both of which (screw and paddle) were under steam. Captain Comstock, one of the ablest American navigators, who brought the General Admiral over to this country, stood aft to transmit directions to the men at the wheel, as Mr. Langley’s new steering apparatus was not completely fitted. Mr. Perouse, the chief officer, took charge of the fore part of the ship; and to all the other officers were allotted stations, either to transmit directions or signals to the tugs.

Precisely at a quarter past seven the last moorings were let go, but at at this time the sweep of the tide had turned the great ship’s bows in, so as to point rather in shore of the Seamen’s Hospital ship it was necessary to turn her slowly astern to get sufficient room to round the very sharp curve of the river below Greenwich. The screw engines started first, working beautifully, without noise, heat, or even apparent vibration; and when the paddle machinery came into play, a few revolutions sufficed to get her head round to the point required.

Then was the order given to go ahead slowly, and for the first time, the Great Eastern started into motion, and with the slow majestic beat of her huge paddles moved grandly down the river. The general public had evidently put but little faith in the announcement that she would leave the river yesterday, so that until the preparations were made for actually leaving there was little stir upon the river. Gradually, however, as the steamtugs began to move about, and get their tow ropes in, it seemed suddenly to break upon the amphibious population at both sides of the stream that they were at last about to lose a vessel whose presence has made Deptford and the Isle of Dogs famous throughout the world.

Then ensued an extraordinary scene. Thousands upon thousands of people were seen rushing to the river side from all points. Boats of every kind and size were launched crowded to the water’s edge, and the stream and its banks seemed suddenly instinct with life. There were not so much cheers as continuous shouting – a genuine outburst of enthusiasm and delight. Even the wan and sickly inmates of the Seamen’s Hospital ship turned out upon the deck or crowded the ports with their worn faces to give one shout or wave a cap to the vessel which swept so grandly by. The very first turn at Greenwich showed Captain Harrison and all the officers of the vessel that the great ship was as thoroughly under command as a river steamboat, and that the only difficulty to be overcome, or rather to contend against, was her length in turning the sharp curves of the river at Greenwich, Blackwall and Woolwich.

The vessel’s draught was 21 feet 10 inches aft and 22 feet 3 inches forward – about the very worst trim in which she could have left her moorings, being down by the head 5 inches instead of some 6 feet down by the stern. 23 or 24 feet may appear no great depth of water, but when it is recollected that this was the minimum required at the turnings, and over a length of 800 feet, which is more than the breadth of the Thames at Westminster, it will no seen at once that those angles were at first regarded with a certain amount of anxiety and distrust. A few moves of the vessel, however, showed that she was perfectly in hand. She steered as easily as a wager-boat, and her engines were found capable of starting her into motion or arresting her progress literally almost by a single movement of the hand.

At Greenwich, on both sides of the river, an immense multitude had collected, but it was at Blackwall that the first really great ovation was made. The news of her depuraure had spread far and fast, and from the dock of the great ship the shores could he seen at Blackwall Point literally darkened by people. Every house was crowded, and the roofs covered with spectators; the mast house was occupied, the pier swarmed, the tops and yards of the vessels in the docks seemed alive. As the great ship approached the enthusiasm seemed to pass the bounds which ordinarily mark such displays with Englishmen. The dense mass cheered, shouted, waved hats, shawls, handkerchiefs, with an abandon of gratification that was heart-stirring. It was really almost a national reception, and all seemed to have, as Englishmen, a share in the finest, swiftest, strongest and handsomest ship which the world has yet seen.

There was but one drawback on the enthusiasm and happiness of those who were on board, which was caused by the absence of the eminent man to whom the conception of the ship was duo – Mr. Brunel. A severe illness prevented his being present at the first triumph of the grandest idea which has ever been originated in naval architecture.

Blackwall Point was, Indeed, the turning point in the fortunes of the Great Eastern. The river at this place forms an acute angle, round which the tide sweeps with strong but most unequal force. The admirable manner in which Captain Harrison and the pilot, Mr. Atkinson, managed the ship, the power and regularity with which the engines worked, would, If left unobstructed, have soon got the vessel round this place. But, or course, right in the centre of the river, a bark (the Kingfisher) was moored while a little beyond her lay a schooner in such a manner as effectually to block the “fairway” down the stream. The tugs were signalled [sic] to get the Great Eastern‘s head round, and tried to do so, but the strain was too much; at the most critical moment two of the hawsers parted, and for a few minutes the noble vessel was. beyond a doubt, in a perilous position, as the sweep of the tide was strong and in an instant drove her towards shore. Nothing but the great power of her own engines saved her here, though it was a difficult matter to use them properly, it was necessary instantly to counteract the influence of the tide and get her head off shore; but, at the same time, to do so in such a manner as would not give way enough to take her on shore on the opposite side of the river. Fortunately this was effected, fresh hawsers were passed to the tugs, the bark, the cause of all the peril, shipped her anchor, and after an anxious delay of some ten or fifteen minutes, the Great Eastern worked slowly round and turned the point of danger. This was a great relief to all on board, and to none more so than Messrs. Campbell and Jackson, the managing directors, both of whom had been incessantly occupied the previous day and night in looking to all the arrangements for the first departure. The moment the point was safely passed carrier pigeons were sent up from the vessel and the shore to spread the welcome news.

At Woolwich there was of course a tremendous concourse of spectators. Every spot which could, and doubtless many which could not command a view of the ship, were thronged. The dockyard, the arsenal, every place was covered. The Fisgard had her men in the shrouds, who welcomed the safe arrival of the vessel with a regular “three times three,” which was echoed back from both sides of the river by an almost countless multitude. It is very probable that another such ship may pass down the Thames, but it seems not possible that the same amount of interest con be manifested in any other vessel again, no matter what her size.

Once past Woolwich, all the difficulties were over. The tugs continued their assistance, but the vessel was so
perfectly under control that while the tide was against her their assistance might have been easily dispensed with. But for the delay at Blackwall, Gravesend would have been reached by eleven o’clock. As it was, however, the tide turned and set with the ship before that hour, when the vessel was at the Long Reach, off Purfleet. An immediate halt was therefore necessary, as in turning a few sharp corners with the tide the vessel’s whole broadside would become exposed to the full force of the stream, and not all the tugs in the river would prevent her going ashore at once. It was therefore determined to anchor off Purfleet till to-morrow (Thursday) morning. A single one of Trotman’s anchors was let go at the bows, and the course of the ship, which it was said no anchors could ever hold, was at once checked, and the Great Eastern actually began to swing round in the Thames as much under command as a cutter. For the single instant during which she swung and remained broadside to the stream she seemed literally to bridge across the river. There was room enough for her to swing, but not a foot to spare. The vessel came round to the full force of the tide, and her chain cable taughtened [sic] up out of the water for a moment like an iron bar, but the single anchor never yielded an inch from the spot where it was first dropped.

This day (Thursday) the Great Eastern will resume her course, and arrive off the Nore soon after twelve o’clock. Our readers may be interested to know that there was not a single seaman on board the Great Eastern during this river trip, none of the crew having joined when she left, and the men on board, with the exception of stokers and officers, being all riggers from Mr. Westhorp’s yard.

[Nore Light (Sept. 8) Correspondence of London Times.]

After her first short run the Great Eastern remained at her anchor off Purfleet for the rest of the night, and slowly resumed her progress down the river at a quarter to nine o’clock this morning. Her stoppage at Purfleet was a sad disappointment to many thousands who had been collecting at Gravesend all day in the firm belief that she could or would stop nowhere else. Her slight detention at Blackwall point, however, prevented this, and it became absolutely necessary from the state of the tide to bring up at once at Long Reach. The distinguished arrival threw Purfleet into a state of uncommon excitement. Every one within moderate reach of it by road or rail hurried to the little village till It was thronged to the water’s edge. Gravesend, also, seemed most unwilling to yield up its share in the great occasion without an effort, and before long crowded boats steered round and round the ship, the passengers cheering themselves till they were hoarse again, while the hands played “See the Conquering Hero Comes,” “Rule Britannia,” and all sorts of musical welcomes. For the rest of the evening there was a constant repetition of such visits. Not a vessel passed that did not turn up hands to cheer, while many, as they came down tho river, dressed in flags from stem to stern. It was not till night had fallen that the great ship was fairly left alone, and began swinging round to her anchor with the rising tide. The night was a little puffy, and seemed Inclined to become more so, but the wind fell as the moon rose, and the weather eventually settled down into a dead calm. It took upwards of an hour for the tide to turn the ship fully round, and at low water, as she lay across the river for a short time in turning, she might almost be said to have stopped the navigation with her colossal bulk. During the night she swung twice again, and by daylight was lying with her head fair for the resumption of her course down the river. It seems almost incredible that a ship of such a size could have swung in any part of the Thames, but only nautical men can appreciate the facl of her doing so in a strong tide way with a single six ton anchor, which was crossed and recrossed no less than three times with out the chain fouling it or the anchor being disturbed in its bold.

At about half past eight this morning tho vessel was again under way. The Marquis of Stafford had joined during tho night, having travelled all the way from Scotland to witness the great ship’s first efforts. Lord Alfred Paget also came on board before starting. One turn a little below Long Reach required to be carefully rounded, but with the depth of the water and greater breadth of the river this was accomplished with comparative ease. Just after passing it a little brig, which was quite safe when she was sailing up, appeared frightened at the sight of the huge vessel, and altering her course stood almost across the path of the Great Eastern, and was within an ace of being run down. As the vessel approached Gravesend multitudes of people could be distinguished along the shore. Gradually, as she came nearer and nearer, the air rung with their cheers, and the river was covered with boats of every shape and size crowded with people, all shouting or waving hats and handkerchiefs.

There was something almost affecting in the spontaneous enthusiasm and delight with which all seemed to hail the release of the noble ship from her long thraldom In the river. No matter whether it was a Hamburg or Rotterdam steamer with half foreigners on board, or a fishing smack with a couple of men in tho bows, none seemed too high or too low to do her honor, and her voyage down the river was one continued scene of vociferous welcome. Off Gravesend and in front of the thronging piers and terraces were several large troopships with detachments on board for India. The crews were in the shrouds of these; the soldiers, grouped In picturesque masses, stood on dock. From all, the great ship got a welcome which was worth a long journey to see, and which, triumphant as may be her reception in the States, is never likely to be surpassed, nor often equalled. With the parting cheers still floating across the water, Gravesend was left
behind, and the two tugs ahead began to go at greater sliced as the Lower Hope was passed. Soon the water began to change its tint from dirty black to muddy green, the cool air came fresher across the reaches, and those on board rejoiced at last at tho long wished for approach of sea water.

The transaction was marked in the usual disagreeable manner, by the boilers “priming,” as it is termed, and throwing showers of muddy water from the steam pipes over all the deck. This unpleasant inauguration, however, was soon over as sea water was fairly gained, and preparations were made for casting off the tugs and leaving the Great Eastern for once and for all upon her own resources.

The change, as may be readily imagined, made no difference, the wanderer thus cast adrift being better able to take care of herself than any vessel that has ever yet floated or the world seen. Still, as the event marked the commencement of what we believe will be a long and triumphant career, and one which will inaugurate a new era in ocean steamships and ocean navigation, it deserved to be marked. The tugs were cast off the Chapman’s Head, at the top of Sea Reach, the passenger’s with the ship’s band being assembled aft, and the crew forward. The national anthem was played as the smoky auxiliaries left her head to her own control, the passengers cheering from one end of the vessel, while the crew swarmed into the shrouds forward to return the compliment. Thus the tugs were lot go, after having performed their arduous duty, under the most difficult circumstances, in a way that commanded the admiration of the most experienced pilots on board. As soon as the vessel was left to herself an increased amount of speed was got on her. This was done, not in the least with a view of testing her power, but literally only to give her good steerage way, and move her engines easily.

Throughout the whole course down the river the paddle engines had never been moved at a greater speed than from four to six revolutions per minute, and the screw at from 12 to 18. In fact, neither engine was moved till it became actually necessary to assist the tugs. Yesterday, however, when our valuable little aids, which had realized the fable of the Mouse and the Lion, and freed the Great Eastern from all her river toils, were cast adrift at Chapman’s head, more speed was put upon the vessel, and in 10 minutes she set at rest forever all doubt as to her being the fastest vessel beyond comparison in the world. It has already been stated that the proper seagoing trim of the Great Eastern is a little over four feet down by the stern. Instead of this she is at present six inches down by the head, while her whole draught of water is too light to allow the proper immersion to her paddle floats, and no less than four feet of her screw blades are out of water.

Any one at all acquainted with steamships will see that an attempt at the real speed under such circumstances was out of the question. Yet even in this trim, enough was done to show the marvellous [sic] power which this vessel will possess when fully ready for sea. At sea the Great Eastern is intended to work at 25 lb. of steam, the paddles going 14 revolutions and the screw 53. To-day the pressure of steam was under 17 lb., the paddles never actually reached nine revolutions, and the screw only 27. Yet, even when not employing two-thirds of her power, and in the worst trim against a strong tide, she ran from the Lower Hope point to the Nore light ship, a distance of 15 statute miles, in two minutes under the hour. Calculating from this data, it will be found that working to her ordinary sea going power will give her, even in her present trim, an average of from 18 to 19 miles an hour. During the time that the vessel was going at this speed of 13 knots, or 15 miles, the engines worked with an ease that, when their size and power are considered, was perfectly astounding. There was scarcely any vibration on the vessel, and, as far as could be gathered from outward objects, one might much easier have imagined one’s self writing in a Parisian salon than in the state cabin of the Great Eastern flying down to the Nore. One thing connected with the vessel is as remarkable as her other characteristics. Even when going 13 knots an hour, there was an utter absence of “swell” in her wake—even less, as far as could be judged from the deck, than is made by the ordinary penny steamers, and not one-half as much as was thrown up by our own tugs.

The Nore Light was reached at half past 12 o’clock to-day, and the anchor let go in 8 fathoms, with 45 fathoms from the horse-hole. Before anchoring the vessel was put about, and went completely round under steam in less than three quarters of a mile. In a few minutes afterwards Admiral Harvey came alongside in his yacht, dipping his ensign as he approached, as every single vessel, man of war or merchantman, which has yet met met the Great Eastern has hitherto done. In an hour afterwards the ship was surrounded with yachts and sailing boats of all kinds. During the run down from Gravesend, the fixing of Mr. Langley’s steering apparatus was completed, and worked to perfection. Captain Comstock was on the previous day, at his post on the bridge, directing the steering by the signal indicator. Capt. Harrison and the pilot were on the starboard paddlebox, and Mr. Scott Russell directed the engines. Mr. Campbell, the indefatigable managing director, as usual, was everywhere.

Among the passengers who started with the vessel were Mr. Penn, jr., Mr. H. Ingram, M. P., Sir R. W. Carden, Mr. Appold, Mr. Oakford, Mr. Hobbs, Mr. Ayrton, M. P., Mr. Smith (the originator of the screw propeller), Mr. John Dilion, Sir John Burke, and two of the ablest of the company’s officers, Mr. Leverson the solicitor, and Mr. John Yates, the secretary.

It is arranged that the Great Eastern is to leave her present moorings at 7 o’clock to-morrow and steam away easily to sea. It is probable, if the weather permits, that she may swing at the Foreland to adjust compasses, but Mr. Gray, has already effected so much towards rectifying their slight deviation that it is scarcely necessary for the run to Portland. As matters are arranged at present, it is expected that the Great Eastern will enter Portland harbor between seven and eight o’clock on Saturday morning.

[Purfleet (Sept. 7) correspondence of London Post]

It would be impossible to do justice to the shout that rent the air as the Great Eastern, as it were, contemptuously cast off the little tugs, and prepared with a slight tremor of her colossal frame to put forth her own strength and show the world what she could do unassisted on her native element. All the boats, all the steamers, everything about and around became vocal with cheering, and, as a fitting climax, the efficient band of the ship, by direction of the chairman, Mr. Campbell, struck up the ever stirring strains of the national anthem. Three cheers were then given by the numerous population of the ship’s decks, and every one crowded round the chairman to offer their heartiest congratulations. ” God save the Queen” was duly followed by “Rule Britannia;” after which the band volunteered ” The Campbell’s are Coming,” the happy application of which was recognized by another round of cheering. The joy that brightened up every one’s face was so intense as to assume a character of solemnity; and Mr. Scott Russell now came in for his
share of the general acclamations. The noble vessel now seemed to be instinct with life. She had cast off her
little incumbrances [sic], and was gradually putting forth her own powers in cleaving the water. The screw now worked thirty revolutions a minute and the paddles nine and a half, the force used being about two thirds of her maximum power. Under these, circumstances she gave, thirteen and a half knots, so that, taking into consideration her insufficient immersion, and the consequent imperfect working of the paddle and screw, her maximum speed may be calculated at nineteen knots or twenty three measured miles an hour, being double, the average of any of the subsidized steamers.

[From the London Post, Sept. 9 ]

With regard to the arrangements for the accommodation of the passengers, they are, it must be owned, of a first rate character, and life on board most agreeable, notwithstanding that still the decks are cumbered with lumber of every kind – here barrels of Guinness’ stout or Allsopp’e Burton ale; there a crate of china from the
Royal Porcelain Works at Worcester, and labelled saloon stores; in another place an extra funnel or a heap of forge refuse; and the decks far from wearing that clean and neat appearance which is the first thing which strikes the attention of a visiter on board one of the Queen’s ships. On the lower decks, too, all still seems confusion, not withstanding a very observable progress in the process of setting things to right. All these drawbacks are, however, amply atoned for by the comfort observable in the finished saloons, where the gentlemen read and chat, and the ladies sing and play, and each one strives with the other in making the whole thing wear an appearance of home. The good spirits, too, which the success of the trip, so far, has diffused among all are not without their own moral weight in adding to the personal comfort which they experience. It may be well to mention that the Conservancy and Trinity steamboats and Lord Alfred Paget’s beautiful yacht, the Resolute, accompanied the Great Eastern to the Nore, and that as soon as she let go her anchors her Majesty’s ship Wildfire, tender to the flag ship, came alongside from Sheerness, when Captain Harvey, R. N., and Lieutenant Newport, R. N., came on board to bid the good ship a hearty welcome to the sea.


Whitstable, Friday, Sept. 9 – 9:30 A. M.

The Great Eastern got underweigh at 9:15 A. M . and proceeded under steam for Portland. S. W., fresh, with rain.

Margate, Friday, Sept. 9 – 11 A. M.

The Great Eastern is steaming grandly past Margate. Distance eight miles from shore.

Deal, Friday, Sept. 9, 1859.

The Great Eastern passed through the Downs at 1:30 P. M. Wind WSW, strong, thick, with rain.

Dover, Friday, Sept 9 – 3:6 P. M.

Great Eastern passed at 2:46 P. M. Wind WSW, strong, thick rain.


The crew of the Great Eastern consists of 60 able bodied seamen, 90 seamen riggers, 200 engineers and firemen; Steward’s staff, 100; making, with officers, about 600.


[From the Manchester Guardian, Sept. 8.]

We cannot, indeed, conceal from ourselves that, although the Groat Eastern is now safe at sea, she has still many dangers to encounter, and that the question whether it will be advisable to build more vessels on the same plan is yet far from being satisfactorily answered. To all the perils of the ocean, excepting only the risk of collision, this gigantic vessel is as liable as any small ship of a thousand tons or so. The short trip round the island from the Nore to Portland, and from Portland to Holyhead, will show with tolerable accuracy whether her swiftness and handiness fulfil [sic] expectation. But It will require the voyage to America to determine the value of the scientific principle on which she is built. The voyage across the Atlantic will, indeed, afford as interesting results, one way or the other, to the man of science as the laying of the cable last year. It is now asserted that, the length of the Great Eastern being only equal to the shortest line between the crests of two waves, and a ship’s course being usually in an oblique line from one wave to another, she will not glide through the water as quietly as has been calculated, but will often roll in an exceedingly disagreeable manner. The demonstration by experience who is right and who wrong in this matter will be looked for with eagerness, not only on account of the principle involved, but because on it probably depends the future passenger traffic of the Great Eastern. A ship carrying 10,000 people will hardly be able to fill up her berths, unless it should turn out that her projectors were justified in promising that she would bid defiance to all competition by offering to passengers the extraordinary attraction of a voyage without
sea sickness. And this brings us to what shareholders at least consider the main question, will the Great Eastern pay? All that can be said just now is that, with the enormous and ever increasing commerce of this country, the speculation ought to be a profitable one to all concerned. But all this depends on the result of the American trip; and the vessel, we must remember, is not yet past the Nore on her preliminary excursion. For the present it were well to forbear prophesying; let us simply hope for the best, and offer the Great Eastern the good wishes of the whole nation for a safe and prosperous voyage.

[From the London Herald, Sept. 8.]

The trial trip will occupy three or four days. On returning from this the vessel will go to Holyhead, where she will remain until she sails for Portland, in the State of Maine. This port forms the Atlantic terminus of the Grand Trunk Railway of Canada, and is connected with the whole network of railways both in the United States and Canada. There is a direct railway from it to the great bridge over tho St. Lawrence at Montreal, to Boston and to New York. The harbor of Portland, being in the Atlantic, is open to ships all the year round; and when the Victoria Bridge is completed across the St. Lawrence, it will form the great outlet of a large portion
of the commerce of Canada and of the Northwestern States, which at present is conveyed by the Erie canal and railway on the one hand, and by the St. Lawrence on the other. It was by the famous “Ashburton capitulation” that the State of Maine was ceded to the United States. Its geographical position marked it out as peculiarly belonging to British territory, but the importance of securing an excellent Atlantic seaport for Canada and British North America did not appear, in the days when the boundary question was agitated, to be a matter of so much importance to this country as amicable relations with the government of the adjoining States.

[From the Liverpool Journal, Sept. 10.]

The great event of the week has been the sailing of the Great Eastern. Our readers perhaps may remember hearing of the sailing of the first steamboat. It was constructed in New York by an Irishman. Being Irish, it was at once taken for granted that he was only slightly removed from a lunatic. Everybody laughed at him: many thought him mad. Ultimately, however, he got his boat into the Hudson, and he got the machinery into the vessel. That machinery was the model for all the marine machinery that has followed. In point of fact the improvement has been in the power, not in the principle. At a given day he invited his friends to come on board, as he intended to take a trip up to Albany. They jokingly went on board, and during the time of preparation each said to the other, “She’ll never stir a peg.” The steam being got up, she did stir, and then they confessed, as Galileo asserted, totto voce, of the earth, “She does move.” They were all surprised, and not a little vexed with themselves for their incredulity; but when half way up the river the machinery went wrong. The intimation from one to the other was, “I told you so; it’s a failure.” We all know it was not a failure, but we can hardly appreciate the immense influence on society of the adventure of what was considered a reckless, and in the end an ill requited Irishman. The builders of the Great Eastern have passed through a similar process; and in Liverpool, on Wednesday morning last, betting men were easily found to take an even wager that she would never reach the Nore. She has reached the Nore; she is in the Downs; and by the time we go to press she will be at Portland. Her speed can hardly yet be estimated, for against wind and tide, with half power on, she steamed at the rate of between fourteen and fifteen miles an hour. Supposing her successful – and It hardly now admits of doubt – the science of navigation is to undergo a speedy revolution. They were not, perhaps, the wisest men in the world who projected this vast ship, and perhaps a doubt may exist as to the prudence of those who ultimately completed her; but, apart from their interests, their intentions and their speculations, the world has to reap a vast advantage.


Saunder’s News Letter, of Dublin, says that the ship nearest in size to the Great Eastern arrived in England from America about thirty years ago. She was called the Baron of Renfrew, was 600 feet long, and was composed of large logs of timber clamped together in the roughest manner. It was predicted that she never would steer, never would cross the Atlantic; but she did. and Immediately upon her arrival was broken up. Indeed, she was nothing more than imported timber, having been patched together to avoid the timber duty, which was then exceedingly heavy. She fulfilled her mission in every way. but the government was down upon the new dodge, and prevented any repetition of the experiment.

Source: The New York herald. [volume] (New York [N.Y.]), 23 Sept. 1859. Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers. Lib. of Congress. <>