Friday, October 25, 2013

The Treasure of Steamboat Arabia, Post II

Eds note: The tour of the Arabia Steamboat Museum was such a popular and inspiring part of the recent Women Writing the West Conference in Kansas City (MO), that two members wrote about it for the blog. Here's Past-President Pamela Tartaglio's look at the tour. (Author/Member Mary E. Trimble wrote Post I.)

Detail of pitcher from first barrel (Photo by Pamela Tartaglio)
In the film at the Arabia Steamboat Museum, two family members recall their excitement when they unearthed the first barrel, buried for 132 years. Not only did the heavy cask deep below a corn field suggest they had found the steamboat, but the contents dazzled them. It was packed full of china, including Wedgewood, which the Arabia had been known to carry that day.

The cargo included gold-rimmed china as well as everyday items for family kitchens. (Photo by Pamela Tartaglio)
One discoverer recounted in the film how the family went home and stayed up late into the night, thrilled with their find and the promise of the 200 tons of cargo to be retrieved. On that night they decided that they would not sell any of the items because they were a record of life at the edge of the frontier. According to the museum, this is the largest single collection of pre-Civil War artifacts in the world.

The ship carried keys (foreground), hinges, drawer pulls and other hardware. (Photo by Pamela Tartaglio)
More than two tons of metal tools and hardware were recovered. A filled toolbox suggests a skilled worker lost the means of his livelihood when the Arabia sank. The more than 4,000 boots and shoes found on the steamship, lost in 1856, may have created a shortage and hardship at that time.

Bed keys tightened ropes that supported mattresses. (Photo by Pamela Tartaglio)
Some of the items are obsolete.
Trays to hold calling cards. (Photo by Pamela Tartaglio) 
After lunch, the WWW tour bus left the Steamboat Arabia Museum and passed the Central Library’s parking structure, which resembles a shelf of famous books.
A giant bookshelf conceals parking for cars. (Photo by Pamela Tartaglio)
WWW Conference Chair LaDene Morton channels Willa Cather. (Photo by Pamela Tartaglio)
Many thanks to those responsible for the 2013 Women Writing the West Conference!

2013 Past-President Pam Tartaglio served as chair of the WILLA Literary Awards and enjoyed presenting trophies and plaques to the authors of the 2013 Winners and Finalists. She writes about the arts, history and places on her blog.


Mary E. Trimble said...

Thank you for the nice article on the Arabia, Pam. I agree--it was a wonderful tour, a treasure in itself.

Arletta Dawdy said...

Thank you both for your stories of the Arabia. I especially love the Wedgewood pitcher and the artful displays of so many tools.

Anonymous said...

On Sunday one of the discoverers, the "diggers," as he called himself, spoke to museum visitors. It all started when he repaired the refrigerator in a home where three walls were covered with photos and/or clippings: one wall with UFOs, the other with Bigfoot, and the other with steamboats. The repairman said he believed only one, that sunken steamboat treasures might be possible.

Heidiwriter said...

Great article! Fascinating!

bluejayln said...

I loved the exhibit so much I went back on Monday. My second cousins picked me up and I went grave hunting for my GGGrandfather's marker in a local Confederate cemetery. After we found him, they wanted to know what else there was to do around KC. I said there was an awesome little museum and so we went!! It was just as amazing the second time!!

Anonymous said...

I went a second time, too! Glad to know I am not the only one who could not get enough. After I came home, I told people about it. Both the collection and the story of the discovery are amazing.

Anonymous said...

Pam -- I love your story and the others about the Arabia, and also, your wonderful photos! This was a top notch museum, and a real asset to our wonderful conference in Kansas City. So great to share it with WWW friends! -- Joyce Lohse