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Strange Ships from Yesterday


If man has failed to conquer the sea around him it is not because he has lacked imagination, as the exotic boats on these pages attest. Each was built during the 19th century, an era when the mechanical mind boiled with schemes to harness steam energy. Some succeeded. The Livadia, modeled after the Admiral Popov (below, right), served for 46 years. Others were not as lucky. But, lest there be memories of Edward Lear's delightful Jumblies, who went to sea in a sieve, let it be noted that modern boating benefited measurably from developments shown here.

Steam Canoe "Nina," advertised in 1879 as the world's smallest steamboat, cost $250, was 14 feet long and 28 inches wide. Steered by pedals, it burned fine coal.

The "Connector," jointed steamship designed to detach and pick up sections on freight-train principle, was developed in 1863. It was never heard of after first trial runs.

Cigar Steamer, invented by brilliant Ross Winans in 1858, was driven by giant wheel at midships. Complex machinery broke down but hull foretold modern liner.

Twin-Hulled Castalia, drearily slow but largest of kind ever built, carried 1,000.

Suspended Saloon, by Bessemer of converter fame, rocked badly on only trip.

Flat-Bottomed Admiral Popov, built in Russia in 1875, preceded the Livadia.

Hemi-Plunger of 1877 was combination submarine and raft, supposedly stable.

Whaleback Steamer, sensation of 1892 World's Columbian Exposition, looked like submarine with liner superimposed. Similar Great Lakes ships served as freighters.

Marine Train, invented for travel on canals and rivers by Dutch Engineer M. A. Huet in 1873, used cylinders belted with paddle wheels, was propelled by locomotive.

Water Velocipede was the invention of a Belgian mechanic in 1883. The ingenious contraption fortunately was barred by police from planned crossing of the Atlantic.