Painted wood model of the “New Orleans,” the celebrated riverboat that launched the era of the Ohio River and Mississippi River steamboat. The model has forward and aft cabins painted pink with simulated black painted doors and windows. The cabins are surmounted by flat black roofs with smokestacks and masts. The deck is natural wood with simulated painted planks. A red-painted iron paddle stern wheel turns in the back.
This model, previously in the collection of the Carnegie Museum, was made by C.R. Luscombe, a preparator and model maker at the U.S. National Museum of the Smithsonian Institution. The Carnegie Museum’s annual report of March 1900 reports that during the previous year they had purchased it from Luscombe, along with other models related to boats and shipping, for its Transportation Exhibit. According to a paper label affixed to the bottom of the model, it later was exhibited at the City of Pittsburgh Exhibit at the Philadelphia Sesqui-Centennial Exhibition in 1926.
The steamer New Orleans was built in Pittsburgh in 1810 at the initiative of Nicholas Roosevelt, in partnership with Robert Fulton and Robert Livingston. It was the first steamer to travel down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, in a celebrated voyage in 1811 undertaken by Roosevelt and his pregnant wife to prove to skeptics that steamboat navigation was viable on these rivers. The voyage was more eventful than the Roosevelts expected — encountering earthquakes, Indians in war canoes and even a rare Louisiana snowfall. Nevertheless, they successfully reached New Orleans thereby launching the era of the Ohio and Mississippi River steamboat. Extensive historical documentation can be found at a web site devoted to Nicholas Roosevelt’s 1811 Steamboat New Orleans (see References below).
C.R. Luscombe was an American model maker and museum preparator. He worked in the Anthropological Laboratory of the U.S. National Museum of the Smithsonian Institution from at least 1890 to at least 1903. By 1907, he was working in the Central Museum of the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences, forerunner of the Brooklyn Museum, and is credited with having made the models for various exhibits at its museums until at least 1911. Luscombe made models, principally in wood, of a variety of subjects, from Native American villages and historic architectural settings to miniature recreations of mechanical objects such as fire engines, railroad cars and Civil War ships. He contributed models to the anthropological exhibit forming part of the Smithsonian Institution’s display at the Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo in 1901. He also made models for exhibitions at other museums and institutions, including the Carnegie Museum.
Condition: Generally very good with the usual overall wear, handling, abrasions.
Dobyns, Kenneth. “Nicholas Roosevelt’s 1811 Steamboat New Orleans.” MyOutbox.net. http://www.myoutbox.net/nrhome.htm (5 June 2015).
Evans, Nelson W. “The First Steamboat on the Ohio.” Portsmouth, Ohio: Ohio Archaeological and Historical Quarterly. July 1907. Vol. 16, No. 3, pp. 310-315.
Online at: http://www.myoutbox.net/nrevans.htm (5 June 2015).
Holland, W.J. Annual Report Upon the Condition and Progress of the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh. 31 March 1900. pp. 21 and 45. Online at Google Books: https://books.google.com/books?id=RAfLAAAAMAAJ&pg=RA1-PA49 (5 June 2015).