Owned by Robert Fulton and Robert Livingston and constructed by Nicholas Roosevelt, the “New Orleans” steamboat was the first to successfully navigate and travel the Ohio River and the Mississippi. As this year marks the 200th anniversary of the voyage, communities all along the river will commemorate the event.
The Point Pleasant River Museum, 28 Main Street, will feature a presentation by Gerald “Jerry” Sutphin of Huntington, WV. The presentation is entitled “Steamboats on the Ohio River 1811-2011.”
Sutphin is an artist, author, audio visual producer, exhibit designer and river/steamboat historian. Sutphin currently has an exhibit at the Huntington Museum of Art called, “Steamboats and the Ohio River 1811-2011,” which will be open from September 10 to November 6. Additionally, he has written and co-produced a series of short films about modern river operations for the Smithsonian Institution that remain permanently in the Maritime section in the Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.
Jack Fowler, director of the River Museum, said that Sutphin’s background and extensive steamboat and river photo collection made him a good choice to present.
“He has a fantastic collection. You could mention a boat and he could give you a presentation on it,” Fowler said. “With his background and knowledge, he’s excellent to present a program.”
Sutphin said his interest in steamboats and the river began 40 to 45 years ago after he came across some photographs of steamboats that caught his attention. Through his interest and study of the subject, he met many people, including Captain Charles Henry Stone who he said greatly influenced his life by sharing knowledge and photographs.
Sutphin, a member of the Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen Ohio and Kanawha, worked with Hanover College to create a video on the history of steam boats. The video, he said, celebrates steamboats on western rivers — rivers that drain from the Appalachian basin, through middle America and down the foothills of the Rocky mountains.
As part of the presentation, Sutphin will show his video. He is hopeful that his presentation will give a better understanding on the subject.
“I’m very much hopeful that people will walk away thinking that they have gained some knowledge and understanding about steam boats, our rivers and the impact they’ve had on our nation and what they have contributed to our nation through transportation, entertainment and all the things that people don’t normally associate with our rivers today,” Sutphin said. “So I’m hoping people understand that our rivers were very important and still are today. Their children need to learn this to understand our rivers and the importance of them today.”
“Steamboats on the Ohio River 1811-2011” will be showcased at the River Museum on October 2 at 2 p.m. and is free to the public.