International Steamboat Muster To Commemorate 200 Years of Steamboating

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An International Steamboat Muster will take place at Pawtucket, Rhode Island's waterfront this summer. The event, on August 21-23, will commemorate the bicentennial of the invention and construction of a steamboat by Elijah Ormsbee and David Wilkinson.

The Muster will feature the tenth annual Antique & Classic Boat Show and Meet, sponsored by Beckmann Limited, of Wakefield, R.I., builders of steam launches and tugboats. Steam powered watercraft from all over the Northeast and Canada are expected to participate.

On August 22, steam craft will take part in a flotilla on the Pawtucket River. In the afternoon, the boats will steam by and be reviewed by a panel of judges.

Public viewing will be available throughout the weekend at the site of the former Parents Marina, off School Street, along the city's waterfront. The Pawtucket Jaycees will offer shore dining under tent featuring chowder, clamcakes and watermelon.

The weekend will commemorate a day in 1792 when Ormsbee and Wilkinson first steamed down the Pawtucket River to the Seekonk River and on toward Providence, fifteen years prior to Robert Fulton's operating his steamboat to Clermont on the Branch River in New York's Hudson Valley.

The Pawtucket River is the continuation of the Blackstone River where it flows over the falls south of Slater Mill. South of the city, the river becomes the Seekonk River and flows southward into the Narraganset Bay and the Atlantic Ocean. In 1790, Samuel Slater brought from England the principle of the Arkwright Spinning Jenny and started this nation's first successful water powered cotton spinning mill. The Blackstone River Valley is recognized as the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution and was designated a National Heritage Corridor by Congress in 1986.

Also to be celebrated is the centennial of the passenger vessel Petrel, which was built by the Pawtucket Steamboat Company in 1892 and was the finest of many commercial steamboats to operate on the river. During the weekend, harbor tours will be available aboard a passenger vessel owned and operated by Blount Marine of Warren, R.I. This excursion boat is a prototype of a proposed river craft to be built to navigate the Pawtucket River and sections of the Blackstone River and Canal.

Steam enthusiasts may arrange to participate by writing the Blackstone Valley Tourism Council, P.O. Box 7663, Cumberland, R.I., 02864 or by calling the Tourism Council at (401)334-7773.