William Schaw Lindsay and the Oceangoing Auxiliary Steamer

By William Stewart Lindsay, published February 2020


The adoption of steam engines for oceangoing vessels in the mid nineteenth century revolutionized shipping. On the face of it shipbuilders were presented with two choices. They could either strive to improve the sailing ship, or they could design a vessel that employed steam as the primary source of power. In fact, the choice was not that straightforward. There was another alternative; to design (or fit) sailing ships with an auxiliary steam engine. The significance and commercial importance of auxiliary steamers has been largely overlooked. This article reviews the role of these vessels and assesses their financial and logistical advantages in comparison with sailing ships or fully steam powered ships using the business of William Schaw Lindsay as a case study.

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Filed under: Nineteenth Century
Subjects include: Merchant Marines | Shipbuilding & Design

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