The Steamboat Arabia at KC

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The Steamboat Arabia was built in West Brownsville, Pennsylvania, at the boatyard of John S. Pringle in 1853. At 171 feet long, the Arabia traveled the Missouri river and transported passengers as well as carried up to 222 tons of cargo, including tools for the frontier, merchandise for general stores and federal mail. But navigating the Mighty Missouri was a difficult and dangerous business.

A variety of perils awaited the steamboat pilot as he carefully guided his craft along the river’s uncertain course.



The most treacherous of the many hazards were fallen trees lying hidden from sight just under the river’s surface. These “snags” crippled and sank hundreds of steamboats from the 1820s to the 1870s. On September 5, 1856, just outside of Kansas City, the Arabia hit one of these snags and sank in a matter of minutes. Thankfully, the 150 passengers and crew made it off the boat safely.

But the 200 tons of cargo were lost to the muddy river, not to be seen again for over 130 years.







A Steamboat that sank in the 1850s was dug up and now there is a museum with stuff they found in the cargo.


I never heard of it till today. Now I'm going to have to go see it next time I'm in the area.
 
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I had seen the Arabia details when I was last out visiting my sister north of Kansas City. We didn't make it over on that trip, but we possibly will this next April when I'm out to visit again. Looks like a wonderful museum.
 
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Would love to visit the Arabia museum. I visited the Cairo exhibit years ago and it was amazing back then so I bet it is even better now. This year when the river was so low they found other wrecks but I haven’t heard much about them.
 
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Wife & I made a special trip to visit the Arabia museum. Well worth the trip & a great window into the material culture / goods readily available in the rural 1850s. (Last planned stop for the Arabia cargo was in Nebraska!)
 
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If you guys want to see the Arabia museum, better do it soon.

Currently the owners of the museum and their landlords are at odds regarding another long term lease and they are looking to relocate. By most accounts, it appears it will not relocate in Kansas City. St. Charles, Missouri tendered an offer but it involved downsizing and selling much of the artifacts!

The owners are also looking to dig up another steamboat, The Malta, that sank in 1841.
 
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I heard about it on the radio program called "Our American Stories".


They said there were about 400 steamboats that went down in the Missouri river trading/transport days.
 
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I am very heartily sorry to hear this, jaholder. There are at least a couple of books out there about the Arabia: "Treasures in a Cornfield" and "Treasures of the Steamboat Arabia" among them.
This second boat they're looking to dig up, the Malta, sank in 1841 with trade goods for the AFC trading posts in Montana.

What they find aboard that one should really be interesting.
 
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Some shots from the museum
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If you guys want to see the Arabia museum, better do it soon.

Currently the owners of the museum and their landlords are at odds regarding another long term lease and they are looking to relocate. By most accounts, it appears it will not relocate in Kansas City. St. Charles, Missouri tendered an offer but it involved downsizing and selling much of the artifacts!

The owners are also looking to dig up another steamboat, The Malta, that sank in 1841.St.
I just saw a news article that said the deal to move it to St. Charles had fallen through.
 
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I just saw a news article that said the deal to move it to St. Charles had fallen through.
St. Charles told the Arabia owners they'd build a museum, but it would be a fraction of the existing location and sell off whatever artifacts wouldn't fit in it.
 
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Too bad they threw all of the stenciled crates in dumpsters all over town during the excavation. Said they didn't want insurance companies making a claim. In the process, some of the most valuable information about ARABIA's role in delivering cargo to Western mining towns was lost forever. They were also pretty sloppy on site documentation.
 
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Jaholder, I hope that Malta project succeeds! The pocket knives alone are fascinating. And that sawmill blade!
Their first priority is getting the existing museum relocated SOMEWHERE. Their lease is up in 2026 and the City doesn't seem to be interested in renewing it.
Personally, I'd like to see them lease the entire building they're in and boot the rinky dink kitschy trinket and Asian bootlegged merchandise shops that are collocated with the museum, but that's not going to happen. OR, work a deal with Jackson County and build something out by fort Osage in Sibley next to the River.
 
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Definitely a "must-see" destination. During our visit, one of the guys who started the project was there. Fascinating story (as is Missouri River steamboat history). Average "life" of a steamboat on the Missouri was three years. Most were relatively small, shallow draft jobs - both sternwheel and sidewheel. One chute below Jefferson City had seven documented sinkings where the Osage River enters the Missouri. Boiler explosions, lack of enough power, snags, and sandbars got many in trouble.

Unlike much of the Mississippi River, the Missouri flows faster and, of course, is much shallower. When you visit the Arabia, you'll be amazed at what she carried. There was a mule that was tied up and went down with her ...etc. etc. I'm taking my -year-old grand daughter this spring.
 
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