Packet Boats on the Ohio River
For the better part of seven decades in the 1800s, they churned up and down the Ohio River. They carried passengers, mail and freight between the river cities. They were the packet boats and provided a vital link among the cities. Packets were boats, usually steamers, that operated regularly scheduled passenger service among the cities.
Among the companies operating steamers on the Ohio River was the Cincinnati and Maysville Packet Co. An advertisement in the April 19, 1845 Licking Valley Register said the company ran two boats on a regular schedule between Maysville and Cincinnati-Newport.
The Simon Kenton left for Maysville at 10 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and made the return trip every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday at 10 a.m. The Daniel Boone operated on exactly the opposite schedule. By the 1850s an estimated 3 million passengers annually were using packets on the Ohio River. One company listed prices for a ride from Pittsburgh to Newport, ranging from $5 a person in a cabin to $1 for a ride on the open deck. Riders on the open deck not only braved the weather but also shared space with the animals from time to time.
Cabin travel offered the advantage of safety because most companies gave cabin customers first priority in the event of a fire or wreck. Two girls from the Redstone explosion near Carrollton Kentucky in April 1852 were saved in part because the ladies cabins were the first place rescuers searched.