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It has been 200 years since steam came to the Great Lakes. Both the American Ontario and the Upper Canadian Frontenac were launched in the summer of 1816. We still are not sure of the date of the launch of the Ontario but it was probably the last week of July or the beginning of August, as the event was noticed in a Buffalo paper on August 6. The Frontenac followed on 7 September 1816 at Ernesttown (modern Bath, Ontario), with a full report appearing on September 14th in the Kingston Gazette.

Both hulls were launched before their engines could be delivered. The Ontario's was built in Elizabethtown, New Jersey, and had to be brought to Sackets Harbor in the era before the Erie and Oswego Canals. Frontenac's engines came all the way from the Birmingham works of Boulton & Watts and had to be dragged up the rapids of the St. Lawrence river before its canals (or those of the Rideau Canal) were available.

It would be after the ice went out the following spring that the two steamboats made their first trial trips, in April and May respectively. Full service on both steamboats was available by June 1817.

In celebration on these anniversaries and the many stories associated with the Great Lakes both before and after that date, I am launching a new blog at http://stories.MaritimeHistoryOfTheGreatLakes.ca/. Each of the stories draws to some extent on the raw resources of this site, combines it with other information drawn from across the 'net ... along with my non-digital files and traditional archives.

This site is an ongoing experiment in the design of a "digital library", a collection of documents intended to be of value to those researching Great Lakes History.

A number of people have combined their efforts to bring you this collection: Dick Palmer, Dave Swayze, Peter Warwick, Ken Macpherson, Bill McNeil, Rick Neilson, Gerry Ouderkirk and Ron Beaupre not to mention the talented and creative people at a number of linked sites.

Steamboat Frontenac

Feedback is welcomed. Please send to Walter Lewis.