S.S. Beaver, 1858, painting by Kenn E. Johnson, Washington State Historical Society, Tacoma, Washington
This postcard with a painting of the S.S. Beaver was found while visiting the Washington State History Museum in Tacoma, Washington recently. The card was made by Dexter Press, Inc. of West Nyack, New York and printed by Ellis Post Card Co., Arlington, Washington. It has the number 20419-C at the lower left corner of the reverse side. The painting by Kenn E. Johnson is of the Hudson’s Bay Company’s steamship Beaver as it looked in 1858. This is the first steamship that operated in the Pacific Northwest. She serviced remote parts of the Canadian coastline from the Columbia River up to Alaska and was used for maritime fur trading also playing an important part in maintaining British control of British Columbia during the Fraser Canyon Gold Rush of 1858-1859. The Royal Navy chartered her in 1862 for surveying the coastline of British Columbia. Although the Hudson's Bay Company sold her in 1874 she continued to work these waters for several more years. Her years of work extended from 1836 to 1888 when she ran aground on rocks at Prospect Point in Vancouver’s Stanley Park. The wreck was stripped by locals and finally sank four years later in 1892. In the 1960s divers made attempts at salvage but found she had mostly rotted and disintegrated. A plaque commemorates the site.
The postcard painting shows the Beaver sailing off the coast of Steilacoom City. The ship was built in Blackwall, England and made of oak, elm, greenheart, and teak, copper fastened and sheathed with a Boulton and Watt vacuum engine. Seawater was used with low pressure and blow downs to prevent salt build up on the plates. Even so saltwater would eventually rust out the boiler wall and the boiler would need to be replaced every seven years or so. Note the side paddle-wheel, there were two one on each side. An 1870 photograph shows the placement of the wheels further forward and the ship looks significantly different than it did in 1858. I found it interesting that when the ship left England in 1835 the paddles were not used and she came under sail power only. The paddles were shipped separately and then the boilers and engines were connected after she was anchored off Fort Vancouver, Washington.
What was her size? She was a little more than 101 feet or 31 meters long, had a 33 foot or 10 meter beam, with an 8-foot draft. The sail plan is given as Brigantine.
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