17 September 2011

Sepia Saturday 92: Shield's Steamboats and Locomotives

Boats and trains - what an intriguing combination!  The steamboat illustration above is from James Bard [public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.  The steamboat, America, was built in Cincinnati at Shield's Foundry.  As land-locked as Cincinnati is, it is hard to imagine the major boat-building industry that thrived here in mid-twentieth century.  Cincinnati was a bustling inland port with a diverse, international population.

I've always been intrigued by city directories - especially the older ones that give a little personal information in a time when little survives.  Richard Manchester, uncle of Richard Manchester in Sepia Saturday 89, was listed in the 1840 Cincinnati City Directory as being employed by Shield's Foundry.  Thus began my journey....

Shield's, operating under a variety of names and partnerships, was a steam-engine manufacturer.  Francis Shield was employed at William Green & Company by 1819.  At this time, he was a whitesmith (tinsmith), bell-hanger, cutler and printing press maker.  It was probably about this time when he made one of the first printing presses in Ohio.

In 1825, Francis Shield co-owned Shields & Benton Steam Engine Company with Erasmus Benton.   By 1840, Shield’s Foundry was on the Southwest corner of 5th and Broadway.  The foundry was the 2nd largest in Cincinnati, employing a diverse group of over 60 people from 9 different countries and 7 different states in the United States.  Shield's was one of several foundries who built steam engines for riverboats.

Steamboats in Cincinnati ca 1850 from the Smithsonian Institute (Flickr)
For further information, see Cincinnati Panorama of 1848

Francis Shield also invented and built 2 demonstration railroad steam locomotives.  About 1829, Francis and his son, Edward, built a locomotive engine called Western Star. In 1830, his locomotive, the Cincinnati, was on display locally.

Richard Manchester and my 3rd great grandfather, John, were copper smiths who immigrated to the United States in the early-mid 1800's. Richard Manchester was an engine finisher working on steamboats.   An engine finisher polished the engine to a lustrous sheen as seen in this Flickr photograph.  Imagine my surprise and delight when I discovered Shield’s foundry also made one of the first steam railroad locomotives built in the United States! While it is doubtful that Uncle Richard worked on that locomotive, others employed by Shield may have.

The people listed below all worked at Shield’s in 1840. An asterisk marks those individuals who were in Cincinnati in 1829 when Francis Shield was working on his steam-driven railroad locomotive.  It isn’t known if any of these individuals worked for Shield in 1829 or if they worked on the  railroad locomotive.  They all certainly played a part in the great steam boat era.

Name, position, place of origin
Charles C. Anderson, finisher, Pennsylvania
Wm Beach, Bookkeeper, Ohio
John Bierbaum, laborer, Germany
Peter Bierbaum, laborer, Germany
Joseph Bortonne, laborer, France
John Boyle, engineer, Scotland
Michael Campbell, moulder, New York
William G. Campbell, machinist, Kentucky
Wm Alex Campbell, Engine Finisher, Scotland
Francis S. Carpenter, engine finisher, New York
James Conkling, blacksmith, New Jersey
Dennis Cronin, laborer, Ireland
Patrick Cronin, laborer, Ireland
Ebenezer Davis, engine finisher, North Wales
Alexander Donaldson, engine finisher, Scotland
Cornelius Donnelly, laborer, Ireland
Charles Dudley, engine finisher, New York
John Frelling, laborer, Germany
Lawrence Gardner, blacksmith, Germany
Joseph Griffith, moulder, Pennsylvania*
William Griffith, engineer, New York
John Groves, engine finisher, England
John Henderson, patternmaker, Scotland*
James Hudson, finisher, England
James Johns, blacksmith, South Wales
Valentine Keister, blacksmith, Germany
Frederick Keutham, laborer, Germany
Henry Klaseng, blacksmith, Germany
Ferdinand Kramer, laborer, Germany
John Kuhn, core maker, Germany
John Leonard, blacksmith, Pennsylvania
David Longher, laborer, South Wales
Michael Lor, laborer, Germany
John W. Mackelfresh, moulder, Pennsylvania
Richard Manchester, engine finisher, England
John McNicoll, finisher, Delaware
Francis Moleux, finisher, France
Michael Murphy, machinist, Ireland
Chas Pund, Labr, Germany
Fredk Rehorn, Machinist, Germany
Ernest Reimann, engineer, Germany
Philip Rice, finisher, Germany*
Benjamin Riggles, blacksmith, Ohio
David Roberts, North Wales
Jabez Roberts, blacksmith, South Wales
Frederick Ruff, finisher, England
Michael Schutz, Labr, Germany
John Scott, Engineer, Ireland
Thos Scully, Finisher, Ireland
Joseph Shaddinger, Blacksmith, Ohio
Francis Shield, England*
Geo Shield, Machinist, Ireland
Edward Shield, Machinist, Del
Jacob Strabb, Engine finisher, Germany
Andrew J. Streeter, Moulder, Ia
Philip Urick, Labr, Germany
John Weaver, Screw-Cutter, Bav
Charles H. Weidner, Pattern-maker, Maryland*
Nelson Weythe, Blacksmith, Ohio
Anthony White, Blacksmith, Pennsylvania
J. Williams, Finisher, New York**
John Wilson, England
Frank Wis, Labr, France

This Sepia Saturday post is but one of many explorations on the theme of suitcases, travel, ships, railways, holidays, shops, Ireland, hand-carts or some other interesting journey.  You'll find them all at Sepia Saturday 92.


  1. Another fascinating post. The steamboat images are magical. What a time that must have been. I also love City directories. When I studied urban planning, we would use them to trace neighborhood development.
    I like to look through the list of names and find a surname I might like. I'm picking Macklefresh from this list. Can't beat that.

  2. How interesting this is. I have a postcard from the Tall Stacks event in Cincinnati. It makes more sense now.

  3. Fabulous steamboat pictures. When I saw Shields in the heading I immediately thought of North and South Shields in NE England. At one time I was works manager of a steel foundry in the area. Tell me though what does an engine finisher do?

  4. @Sheila
    I loved the Tall Stacks event. It was fabulous! Unfortunately the one planned for 2012 was cancelled for economic reasons. I am glad I was able to attend in prior years.

  5. @Bob
    An engine finisher polishes the engine. Great idea to add the occupation descriptions. I'll have to go back and do that!

  6. @Christine
    You definitely picked the winner out of the list. Valentine Keister also has a bit of a ring! ;)

  7. That Cincinatti steamboats daguerreotype is famous - thanks for including it in your post. Having grown up reading tales of the exploits of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn, the whole steamboat thing is fascinating to me. I read the new Mark Twain biography recently which intrigued me even more, but left me not finding the great SLC a very likeable chap.

    My great-grandfather and his brother were, at one time, carriage finishers. The brother was employed by the Pullman works in Chicago, and I always understood that, as carpenters, they "finished" the fine detailed surfaces and trim on the carriages.

  8. Who needs a suitcase or a railway office to go travelling? All we need to do is to visit your blog for a Sepia Saturday post : you do take us on the most fascinating journeys. Thank you.

  9. That first picture, softly coloured, is wonderful. You can almost hear that steamboat whistle blowing!

  10. Liz, this is great! So much info, with the list of names too. I enjoyed the photos very much. Thanks for stopping by to say hi.

    Kathy M.

  11. Would love to spend an evening back in time going down the river on one of these as the sun set and the lights came on on board.

  12. My mother took a couple of trips on the Delta Queen. I never got around to taking a trip on it or any other steamboat.

  13. I love the old steamboats and try to catch a ride whenever I can.

    Brett, the steamboat daguerreotype is fabulous! I've been to several talks on it - on the steamboat industry, photo preservation, even one on city sanitation - oh my! Thinking back to Sepia Saturday 91, it is truly a picture worth a thousand words. You can even zoom in a see people standing inside the buildings!

  14. Closest I can claim to a steamboat like this, is a trip on an ancient paddle boat called The Waverley which chugged around the coast of England - or did still manage it a year or so back!

  15. What's missing from wonderful photos like these is the disagreeable quality of the air caused by so many coal fired steam boilers. The haze is almost visible in the last photo, but imagine all the smoke from train engines, steamboats, factories and foundries. Wearing a hat in this era was partly for protection from soot and cinders.

  16. Mike, no doubt! I've had a small taste of what it must have been like attending fireworks on the serpentine wall. The fireworks are amazing but sitting that close, you really wish for a hat. :) Cinders, smoke and lots and lots of noise.

  17. what a striking start with that first picture. i enjoyed the history. it looks like the train industry was influential for many families. in mine, on both sides as both my granfathers worked for Canadian National [CN].

  18. What a great picture of the Cincinnati skyline!


Comments welcome!