"Sketch of a Flat bottom Boat," A Journey in North America, Georges Henri Victor Collot, 1826

Traveling by Flatboat

Many foreign travelers visited North America and reported on frontier life during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. An 1826 publication recounted the late eighteenth-century travels of Victor Collot, a French military officer who surveyed counties around the Ohio, Mississippi, and Missouri rivers. Collot included this flatboat image along with “exact observations” of the rivers, towns, and farms that he saw. English traveler and civil engineer Elias Pym Fordham described in detail how to construct a flatboat and keel boat.

Lincoln built a flatboat like this one for his journey to New Orleans in 1828, a few years before steamships revolutionized water travel.