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The Moselle was a brand new boat, built in Cincinnati it was only a couple of months old. It was, in 1838, regarded as the very best steamboat of its day. Its Captain and owner, Captain Perrin, was young and had great ambition. He was determined that the Moselle maintain the reputation as being "the swiftest steamboat in America." The Moselle's reputation was well deserved for her "quick trips" have rarely been beaten since.

Moselle Steamboat

"It seems that the Moselle was racing with another steamboat, as was the common practice in those days, and had stopped at Hillsboro to pick up a family-along with goats and chickens-to transport them to Cincinnati. The Captain was determined that the stop was not going to cause him to lose the race, so he opened throttle and put full steam ahead. Passengers who survived reported later that they felt the floorboards of the deck grow hot under their feet, and many of the men tried to get the Captain to cut back on his steam as they were afraid of what might happen. But he refused, and even when he pulled into port in Cincinnati, he refused to shut down the steam that he had built up, with an eye toward catching up to the other boat that was using the opportunity to take the lead. As he pulled out, the boilers let loose and a horrible holocaust ensued."

Moselle Steamboat

The Moselle left Cincinnati on the afternoon of April 25, 1838, between four and five o'clock bound for St. Louis. There were an unusually large number of passengers on board, between 280 and 300. A large crowd was there to see the Moselle off because her renown as the finest and swiftest boat on the river were great attractions to the public. About a mile up the Ohio from Cincinnati the Moselle stopped to take on some German immigrants. An experienced engineer on board noticed that steam had been raised to an unusual height. One man even left the boat, in fear, as the immigrants were brought onboard. It was when the boat was shoved off from the shore that the explosion took place. The whole vessel forward of the wheel disintegrated, the remainder floated down stream for about a hundred yards and sank, leaving the upper part of the cabin out of the water.

Moselle Steamboat Explosion

The explosion was reported to be unprecedented in the history of steam, it's effect was that of a mine full of gunpowder. All four boilers blew simultaneously, the people on deck stood no chance of surviving. The Captain was standing directly over the boilers and was blown across the river onto the Kentucky shore, which was about 1/4 of a mile distant. Another person was thrown a hundred yards with such force a part of his body (his head) penetrated the roof of a house. Of the 60 or 70 uninjured people who jumped into the river, less than a dozen made it to shore. Of the estimated 280-300 people on board 81 were known to have died, 55 were missing, and 13 were injured.