Wisconsin's Great Lakes Shipwrecks - Explore Shipwrecks - Niagara
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The impressive vessel helped define what historian C. Patrick Labadie has called the "age of the palace steamers." During the 13-year period from 1844 to 1857, 25 lavish sidewheel steamers of greater than 1000 registered tons (old measurement) were built for the booming Great Lakes passenger and cargo trade. These vessels featured luxurious appointments such as stained glass domes, parlors, saloons, fine carpets, and posh furnishings, inspiring one historian to describe the palace steamers as "the most beautifully appointed craft ever built on the lakes." The 245-foot Niagara, the second palace steamer on the lakes, embodied the cutting edge of marine engineering in 1846 and ranked high among the world’s longest steamboats.

The development of Wisconsin and the Midwest owes much to the splendid Niagara and other powerful steamboats like it. Capable of carrying large cargoes and several hundred passengers, these boats brought tens of thousands of immigrants to the Midwest in the 19th century. Steamers brought approximately half of all the European immigrants who came to Wisconsin. These vessels also powered the vital exchanges of flour, furs, package freight, livestock, and other goods between the frontier and the East.

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