Frank J. Cantelas
AN ARCHAEOLOGICAL INVESTIGATION OF THE STEAMBOAT MAPLE LEAF.
(Under the direction of Lawrence E. Babits) Department of History, October 1995.
The purpose of this thesis is to analyze the hull construction and propulsion system of the steamboat Maple Leaf in the context of mid-nineteenth century Great Lakes steamboat construction. Research utilizes contemporary historical sources to create a series of hypotheses pertaining to nineteenth century steamboat construction on the Great Lakes and site formation processes affecting the vessel after it sank.
Archaeological data were collected over three years to examine ship construction and the site's condition. In service, the vessel experienced many changes due to use, breakdowns, and modifications. After sinking, salvage, demolition, and natural deterioration impacted the wreck. The result is a complex archaeological site hampered by poor working conditions.
The guiding hypotheses are tested against the archaeological data. Known ship building techniques are compared against those observed on the Maple Leaf to identify previously unknown techniques. The well-preserved wreck is intact from the main deck to the lower hull. Deck arrangements and space utilization in the lower hull are typical of steamboats from the 1850's. However, the hull's longitudinal reinforcing system and several engineering features are not found in historical sources. Comparing historical and archaeological data on the Maple Leaf revealed several unknown construction details and provides a model for future steamboat investigations.