What is a steamboat “Bill of Lading”?[i] A steamboat Bill of Lading was a two-piece receipt torn from a bound book, usually kept at the Wharfboat office that listed the goods received by a steamboat agent one copy of which was given to the carrier of the goods and one copy was given to the person shipping the goods.  With a copy of this “Bill of Lading”, this being a paid receipt, and the goods placed on-board the steamboat, the shipment was considered “Freight On Board”.

Wheeling Manufacturing Businesses quoting prices of their goods to “out of towners” quoted the price with the words “Freight on Board” or sometimes to assure the buyer of no further fees they would see; “Free on Board” meaning the cost of shipping the goods was borne by the shipper. Sometimes, one would merely see “FOB”, and here you needed careful reading to ascertain which.

Frederick Way, Jr. in his research for “Way’s Packet Directory” derived much steamboat history from ‘Bills of Lading’.  Frederick Way’s book, “Way’s Packet Directory” is essential to the study of steamboats.


1832 Keelboat ‘Bill of Lading’ from the Doug Lehman Collection

1832 Keelboat ‘Bill of Lading’ Knox & McKee, wholesale grocers and commission merchants, Wheeling, Va.  McKee, Clarke & Co., commission merchants Pittsburgh, Pa.  Bill of Lading: The keelboat called the Nullifier, Master Roades, bearing sundries bound for Louisville, to George White at Jeffersonville, Indiana.  J.D. Shryer, Jeffersonville, 100 boxes dry goods, 3 bales dry goods, at 50¢ per 100 pounds 2,665 pounds $1,332.50, Sep. 22, 1832, Knox & McKee, Wheeling, Va., Isaac Greathouse.

1834 Flatboat ‘Bill of Lading’ from the Wayne Farley Collection

1834 Flatboat ‘Bill of Lading’ Wilson & Hadden, commission and forwarding merchants, Wheeling, Va.  Bill of Lading: to the good flatboat called the Glide, Master Edw. Booth, bound for Louisville via Cincinnati.  10 packages weighing 120 pounds, rate 12¢ per 100 pounds and 10 boxes weighing 1,205 pounds.  Oct. 3, 1834, Wilson & Hadden, Wheeling, Va., Edw. Booth

1870 Courier U.S. Mail Bill of Lading photo courtesy Wayne Farley

1870 Courier ‘Bill of Lading’ This comprehensive “Wheeling, Parkersburg and Cincinnati Transportation Company” Feb 9, 1878 “Bill of Lading” has Capt. Jack Henderson and Martin F. Noll clerk and later Courier was running with Capt. Jack Henderson and J. Mack Gamble clerk.  Capt. Henderson was replaced with Capt. John K. Booth who ran Courier into 1884.

Crockard & Booth Steamboat Agents September 24, 1906 Bill of Lading from the John Bowman collection

1906 Crockard & Booth Steamboat Agents September 24, 1906 ‘Bill of Lading’ a very elaborate ‘Bill of Lading’ listing the articles from H.J. Mendel to be shipped on the Steamer Bessie Smith WHEELING WHARF BOAT “CROCKARD & BOOTH STEAMBOAT AGENTS” John Crockard and Captain John Booth. I used this Bill of Lading photo on my book cover.

BOOK COVER Bills of Lading Freight on Board Wheeling, West Virginia by John Bowman with photo of a 1906 Crockard & Booth General Steamboat Agents “Bill of Lading”

John’s book, “Bills of Lading Freight on Board Wheeling, W. Va.” The only Wheeling history reference book you will ever need.  This book documents over 750 products manufactured and shipped from Wheeling’s major businesses between 1790 and 1915.  Wheeling’s famous products such as Marsh Wheeling Stogies, Mail Pouch Tobacco and La belle Nails.  The book has 500 plus pictures that includes business letterheads and steamboat and railroad Bills of Lading.  The book has a well-documented history of early Wheeling, listing many Wheeling firsts and it includes Wheeling’s cigar manufacturing history (for the first time).  Soft Cover, 8 ½ x 11”, 376 pages and an index of over 4,000 names.  Publishing date 2012, ISBN: 978-0-615-69138-1


[i]Bill of Lading”?[i] “Bill of Lading. A printed form used in connection with a shipment of freight usually naming the shipper, the consignee, proper addresses, date and place of origin pertinent data for the information of rate clerks, shipping clerks and others concerned.” From Way, Frederick, Jr. “PILOTIN’ COMES NATURAL” Way, Frederick Jr. 1943 New York Farrar & Rinehart, Inc. Pg. 252

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