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The burning of the Erie (1841)

A Compilation of Newspaper Articles Relevant to the Burning of the Steamboat Erie on August 9th, 1841, at 8:10 p.m.

The links below will take you to transcriptions of newspaper articles that report the burning and sinking of the steamboat Erie. This disaster is thought to provide some of the inspiration for Fontane's "John Maynard" ballad.

(Please be patient when clicking on these links. The PDF documents are large and may take some time to download.)

Articles printed in or reprinted from the BUFFALO COMMERCIAL ADVERTISER

10th of August (Tuesday):

THE NIAGARA COURIER--EXTRA, Lockport, NY, Thursday Morning, August 12, 1841 (with German translation)

THE JAMESTOWN JOURNAL, Jamestown, Chautauqua County, New-York, Thursday morning, August 12, 1841

ALBANY EVENING JOURNAL, Thursday evening, August 12, 1841, Vol. 12, No. 3559, Page 2, Column 5

11th of August (Wednesday):

COMMERCIAL ADVERTISER AND JOURNAL, Official Paper of the City of Buffalo, Wednesday Evening, Aug. 11, 1841, an image of the original newspaper, Norman Barry's transcript of the article.

12th of August (Thursday):

THE JAMESTOWN JOURNAL, Jamestown, Chautauqua County, New-York, Thursday morning, August 19, 1841

THE MILWAUKEE SENTINEL, Wisconsin Territory, Tuesday, August 24, 1841

13th of August (Friday):

COMMERCIAL ADVERTISER AND JOURNAL, Official Paper of the City of Buffalo, Friday Evening, Aug. 13, 1841

DER WELTBÜRGER, Published in Buffalo in German (with English translation given here), Friday, Aug. 13, 1841 and following. Scroll down to find the items on the Erie disaster. Thank you to Susan Kriegbaum-Hanks for making this available.

14th of August (Saturday):

COMMERCIAL ADVERTISER AND JOURNAL, Official Paper of the City of Buffalo, Saturday Evening, Aug. 14, 1841

16th of August (Monday):

COMMERCIAL ADVERTISER AND JOURNAL, Official Paper of the City of Buffalo, Monday Evening, Aug. 16, 1841

17th of August (Tuesday):

COMMERCIAL ADVERTISER AND JOURNAL, Official Paper of the City of Buffalo, Tuesday Evening, Aug. 17, 1841

THE MILWAUKEE SENTINEL, Wisconsin Territory, Tuesday, August 17, 1841

National and international coverage of the event

An amazing find contrbuted by Lutz Weide: A news report of the Erie disaster published in a German newspaper, GEWERBE-BLATT FÜR SACHSEN, Nr. 79, VI. Jahrgang, 1841, Ausgegeben den 8.Oktbr. First page, second page, Transcription by Lutz Weide. Could Theodor Fontane have seen this?

An investigation of American source material used by the GEWERBE-BLATT FÜR SACHSEN in Leipzig, Germany, on October 8th, 1841, under the heading "Loss of the Steamboat Erie" and Schlussfolgerung der Untersuchung des Artikels „Der Untergang des Dampfbootes Erie” in dem GEWERBE-BLATT FÜR SACHSEN vom 8. Oktober 1841.

THE NORTH AMERICAN & DAILY ADVERTISER, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Wednesday morning, September 22, 1841, emphasizing the importance of New York's newspapers for Europe

THE WEEKLY HERALD, New York, August 14 & 21, 1841

Eyewitness Accounts of the Fateful Night of August 9th, 1841

A boy and three men provide four eyewitness accounts -- all of which contain information not provided in the Coroner's Inquest. Levi T. Beebee, Mr. Clemens, Mr. Tann, and Mr. Parmelee (the barkeeper) relate how they escaped and what they saw and heard. Mr. Clemens also provided testimony during the Inquest. Other versions of eyewitness accounts are found in Lloyd's Steamboat Directory published fifteen years later. Norman Barry has written a review of the directory report. Still other versions of eyewitness accounts are contained in Norman Barry's article about the 1841 German account of the disaster and its American sources.

1) Levi T. Beebee's account: SALEM GAZETTE, Salem, Massachusetts, Friday, August 26, 1841

2) Mr. Clemens' account: NEW-HAMPSHIRE PATRIOT AND STATE GAZETTE, Concord, every Thursday August 26, 1841

3) Mr. Parmelee's account: THE NEW-HAMPSHIRE SENTINEL, Keene, New Hampshire, Wednesday evening, August 18, 1841

4) Mr. Tann's account: THE NEW-HAMPSHIRE SENTINEL, Keene, New Hampshire, Wednesday evening, September 8, 1841

Lloyd's Steamboat Directory, 1856, reports on eyewitness accounts.Title page. Page 121. Page 122. Page 123. Page 124. Page 125. Page 126.

Norman Barry's "A Review of the Burning of the Erie as Reported 15 Years Later in Lloyd's Steamboat Directory"

Other reports are contained in this essay.

The personal tragedy of the only woman survivor, Mrs. Lynde

THE PORTSMOUTH JOURNAL OF LITERATURE AND POLITICS, weekly, Vol. LII, No. 34, August 26, 1841

THE WEEKLY HERALD, New York, August 21st, 1841

The Aftermath and Obituaries

Norman Barry's research article dedicated to the 170th Anniversary of the Erie Tragedy: "A Question of Figures: New Material on Calculating the Erie's Lost and Saved."

Norman Barry has found sixteen articles from various newspapers of the time that give body counts.

"More of the Dead" from the NEW-YORK SPECTATOR of September 8, 1841.

"The Sea Giving up Its Dead" from the DAILY NATIONAL INTELLIGENCER of Washington, September 16, 1841.

David S. Sloan obituary in NEW-HAMPSHIRE PATRIOT & STATE GAZETTE, Concord, New Hampshire, September 23, 1841

Charles J. Lynde obituary in THE MILWAUKEE SENTINEL, Wisconsin Territory, Tuesday, August 24, 1841

In 1854, four American newspapers take a critical approach to the 1845 prose sketch "The Helmsman of Lake Erie" and to whether the Fuller Legend was based on fact or fantasy. - From The Portage County Advocate, Wednesday, September 13, 1854, Ravenna, Ohio, New Series: Vol. I, No. 24, p. 2, c. 6.

Was there a Fuller Legend?

NEW! The Genesis of the 1845 "Helmsman of Lake Erie" in a Nutshell An essay by Norman Barry that provides quick access to the creation of the 1845 sketch.

"Why Luther?" An essay by Norman Barry on the historical confusion about the name of the helmsman of the Erie.

A Martyr Pilot. ALEXANDRIA GAZETTE, August 24, 1841.

Contenders for the Role of Wheelsman: McBride and Lafferty.
"Three Decades and More after the Burning of the Erie:" a) Hiram DeGraff recalls how he was saved and rebuts the notion that McBride was at the wheel. b) Lafferty is alleged to have been on duty together with Fuller. c) Lafferty's obituary claiming he was the last survivor of the Erie.

BERKSHIRE COUNTY WHIG, Pittsfield, MA, Thursday, August 19, 1841

THE SOUTHERN PATRIOT, Charleston, South Carolina, Friday afternoon, August 20, 1841, reprinted from the ALBANY DAILY ADVERTISER

"The Flowering of a Lake Erie Legend in the German Press" by Norman Barry -- a look at the source material of GEWERBE-BLATT FÜR SACHSEN of Leipzig, Germany, on October 8th, 1841

CAYUGA CHIEF, Auburn, N. Y., Tuesday Morning, December 25th, 1855

WEEKLY SAN JOAQUIN REPUBLICAN, Stockton, California, Saturday Morning, March 15, 1856


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