Flatboat and keelboat

   The flatboat and keelboat were two kinds of boats used extensively on American rivers, particularly on the Mississippi and its tributaries, in the first half of the 19th century.
   The flatboat, also called a Kentucky boat or ark, was used for downstream travel. Built at the headwaters of streams and floated down the river, it carried cargo and passengers. At its destination it was taken apart and sold for lumber.
   The keelboat was used for up-stream travel and for swift, down-stream travel. It was long and nar-row, had a long cargo box amid-ships, and, as its name indicates, was built on a keel. It was propelled by oars or poles or towed by a team of mules along the bank and occasionally was fitted with sails.
   Flatboats and keelboats were a principal means of transportation on both eastern and midwestern rivers until about 1820, when they were replaced on the larger rivers by steamboats. They continued in use on the shallow rivers until after the Civil War. Both flatboats and keelboats carried large numbers of settlers and supplies to the developing land west of the Appalachians and were of great importance in the development of that region.
   The crews of flatboats and keelboats were ordinarily made up of farmers and laborers in search of free trips and a little money. After one trip they would return to their homes or settle down wherever the trip ended. There was an intense rivalry between keelboatmen and flatboatmen, which often resulted in fights in river towns and made the crew members very unpopular.
   Occasionally, flatboats were fitted out with shelves and counters and stocked with groceries, liquor, hardware, and dry goods. Flying bright calico flags, these store boats floated downstream in the spring and sold their wares at plantations and at towns too small to have stores of their own. Some enterprising traders made such trips every year, and often settlers financed the trip to their new homes in this manner.