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Canoe to Steamboat: St. John River Travel
Fredericton Region Museum
Fredericton , New Brunswick


   For more than 10
centuries, the Saint John
River has been a central
pathway through the land now
known as the province of New
Brunswick. First Nations
people rode its currents in
hand-carved canoes over
thousands of years. Then,
with the 17th-century arrival

of European settlers, who
used sail-powered craft such
as woodboats, travel on the
St. John drastically changed
form. It was further
revolutionized in 1816, when
the General Smythe became the
first steamboat to maneuver
the river and travelers could
finally make regularly

scheduled journeys.
   It took the earliest
riverboats a full day to make
the trip up and down the
Saint John, but by the 1860s
larger steamers, such as the
Fawn and the Rothesay, had
cut that time down to under
six hours. This was partly
due to Fredericton native

Benjamin Tibbets' invention
of an early compound engine,
which was far more efficient
at raising steam than its
   The SS Victoria, built in
1897 and able to carry up to
1,000 passengers, was the
largest steamer ever to
travel the Saint John. After

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