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» Economics » Historical fire » Topics begins with S » Steam ship Lexington

Page modified: Wednesday, July 13, 2011 16:06:35

The steam ship Lexington was one 1835 in the USA built side wheel steamer, which operated 1835 to 1840 as freight and passenger liner from New York along the coast. Admits became the Lexington by the heavy fire disaster 1840, with which the ship sank and 139 of 143 humans died on board.

The ship

The steamer Lexington 1835 of threw "‚Bishop and Simonson Shipyards `in New York built. It was a 63 meter of long side wheel steamers with a water displacement of 495 (metric) tons. Operator of the ship was Cornelius Vanderbilt, a well-known personality in the carrier's business.

The Lexington began its enterprise 1835 as traffic ship between New York and Providence, Rhode Island. 1837 operated it after Stonington, Connecticut. In December 1838 it was sold to new jersey Steamship navigation and Transportation company for approx. 60,000 US$ to those. From 1835 to 1840 the Lexington was the fastest means of transport between New York and Boston.

The fire

On 13 January 1840 around 16:00 clock put the Lexington at the East River in Manhattan off with the goal Stonington, Connecticut. It carried 143 passengers, the crew and an additional charge of 150 bundles of cotton. The ship should arrive on the next morning at Stonington, where a connection type with the course existed after Boston.

Because of an illness the actual captain of the ship, was prevented Jacob Vanderbilt. It was represented by the captain in the retirement George Child.

Around 19:30 clock noticed the first officer that wooden parts and linings at the chimney were on fire. The ship was four miles far away from on the north bank from Long Iceland convenient Eaton's Neck. With buckets and crates as well as a small Handfeuerspritze the crew tried to delete the flames with water. The pilot Stephen Manchester turned the ship toward banks to set in hope, it for the beach. The steering rope of the rudder burned fast and a machine through stopped two miles before the bank. The ship floated now except control northeast away from the country.

When one had recognized the fact that the fire could not be deleted was left the three life rafts to water. An impeller of the ship still turned with full speed, since the crew could not reach the engine room, in order to turn the boilers off. The first boat was sucked into the wheel, whereby its crew was killed. Captain Child was into the life raft pleases and belonged to these first victims. The rope, which should let down the two other boats, were wrongly cut, so that the boats tail in front struck in's water and immediately sank.

The cotton charge of the ship caught fire fast, whereby the fire from the chimney spread on entire superstructures. Passengers and crew threw empty luggage crates and cotton bales in the water, in order to use it as raft. The center of the Hauptdecks collapsed briefly after 20:00 clock.

The fire spread so fast that the most passengers and crew members were forced around midnight to jump in under zero degree the cold water. Those, which did not find anything, on which they could climb, died fast at undercooling. The ship always still burned, when it sank in the morning around 03:00 clock.


From 143 humans on board the Lexington only four survived:

  • Chester Hilliard, 24, the only survivor passenger, helped the crew to throw humans in the water cotton bale. It climbed around 20:00 clock on the last bundles, together with the heater Benjamin Cox. About eight hours later the Cox of the bundle, weakened by hypothermia, fell and drowned. Hilliard was saved in the morning around 11:00 clock of the Slup Merchant.
  • Stephen Manchester, which pilot left, as one the last Lexington. With approximately 30 other kauerte it at the Schiffsbug to approximately midnight, when the flames reached it. Briefly after it rose to an improvised raft with several passengers, this sank. It climbed then with a passenger named Peter McKenna on a cotton bale. Three hours later McKenna at undercooling died. Manchester was saved at the following noon of the Merchant.
  • Charles Smith, one the heater, descended the tail of the ship and clasped themselves with four other people at the rudder blade firmly. The five jumped into the sea briefly before the ship sank and climbed on a driving piece of an impeller. The four of other men died during the night at undercooling, and Smith was saved in the afternoon of the Slup Merchant around 14:00 clock of the following.
  • David Crowley, the second officer, drove 43 hours long on a cotton bale and came 50 miles east with Baiting Hollow, Long Iceland ashore. Weakened, and at undercooling suffering, tumbled he dehydrogenates a mile to the house of Matthias and Mary Hutchinson and broke down, after he knocked on the door. A physician was called for immediately, and as it well enough, he went to Crowley to River Head was brought, where he recovered.


A Untersuchungskommision found a serious error in the construction of the ship as main cause of the fire. The steam boilers of the ship were appropriate, however to 1839 for burning coal were originally reequipped for the burn of wood. The conversion had not been professionally locked. On the one hand coal with higher temperature than wood burns, on the other hand at the night of the fire because of rauer lake more coal than was usually fired. A spark from the overheated chimney ignited the lining of the chimney on the freight deck. The fire spread then rapidly to the cotton bales, which were stored at the chimney inappropriately near.

Preceding ones smaller fires, which broke out because of the constructional defect, were deleted; however nothing was undertaken to eliminate the cause.

The commission accused also errors and injuries of safety regulations to the crew. Hilliard testified that members of the crew went immediately to noticing the fire under deck, in order to examine the machines, before they tried to delete the flames. The commission believed that the fire could have been deleted, if the crew had acted immediately. Also not all delete buckets of the ship could be found during the fire. Only about 20 of the passengers was able to find rescue means. The crew was also careless when discharging the life rafts, which everything sank.

The Slup Improvement, which was distant five miles from the burning ship for less than, did not come the Lexington to assistance. The captain of the Improvement, William Tirrell, explained that he drove to a timetable and had undertaken no rescue attempt, because he did not want to miss the tide. The public was very enraged about this excuse and Tirrell was suspended in the following days attacks by the press.

In the long run of the US Government no legal measures were issued as consequence of the tragedy. Only as the steamers Henry Clay twelve years later on the Hudson River in fire turned out, new safety regulations were issued.

The fire of the Lexington remained the heaviest steamer disaster of the Long Iceland sound. 139 of 143 humans on board died.

Salvage attempts

An attempt to lift the Lexington took place 1842. The ship was brought short time to the water surface, and 30 Pound (14 kilograms) of melted silver from the trunk were saved. The chains, which held the trunk, broke, the ship apart fallow and sank on the reason of the Sunds back.

Today the Lexington lies into three segments broken in a depth of 140 foot. Allegedly are still gold and not saved silver on board. Adolphus S. Harnden of the Boston and New York express Package Car Office had carried allegedly 18,000 US$ in gold and silver coins and 80,000 US$ in paper money. The silver, which was saved 1842, is everything that was so far found.

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