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Steamboat Barnet Primary Source List

Additional details about images used in the online exhibits and throughout the Emerging America site are available on the Image Credits page. Links to the letters and other primary sources appear throughout the site, especially under “Story of the Steamboat Barnet.”. Or you may browse an annotated the list of all our primary sources grouped by type. Through the rich set of primary and secondary resources on this site, visitors can follow the voyage of the Steamboat Barnet, the first steam-powered boat to pass the Enfield Rapids of the Connecticut River in 1826 and open up western New England to water-based transport of goods and people. Students and teachers will learn about this significant event in the Transportation Revolution through an examination of a variety of primary sources, including letters, published memoirs, speeches, drawings, paintings and newspaper advertisements. The Cast of Characters, an interactive timeline and interactive map will place these sources and events in the context of this dynamic time in U.S. History.


Henry Clay. Cincinnati, Ohio. August 3, 1830. This speech was delivered by Clay at the mechanics collation in Cincinnati. In these excerpts, he lays out his arguments in support of the American System, which he claims will “diffuse the comforts of civilization throughout our society.” He also addresses some of the concerns raised by Southern opponents of the American System.

Newspaper Advertisements

Springfield Republican 1 May 1827. This ad showcases new products for sale at a dry goods store in Springfield, Massachusetts. From the collections of the Springfield History Library & Archives.
(ad). Springfield Republican 17 April 1827. This ad promotes steamboat travel on the Connecticut River, for passengers and goods. From the collections of the Springfield History Library & Archives.
(ad). Hampshire Gazette. 1845. This ad appeared in the Hampshire Gazette, promoting a steamboat route that connects goods brought in from Albany and Boston by railroad to Cheapside in Northern Franklin County. From the collections of Historic Northampton.
(ad). From the collections of the Greenfield Public Library.
Springfield Republican 1 May 1827. This ad for groceries imported from near and far represents some of the goods brought into the area by river and road. From the collections of the Springfield History Library & Archives.

Railroad Maps and Charts

This map represents the spread of the railroad system in the Northeast by the end of the nineteenth century. It shows the northern United States showing cities and towns and the railroad network with emphasis on the main line. This line was chartered in 1830 and opened in 1835. In 1841 a second track was laid. From the collections of the Library of Congress
Transportation costs are shown for the period between 1784 and 2000.

Population Figures Chart (link to PDF)
Population figures are derived from census records between 1765 and 1860.

This map shows the scale of railroad development throughout New England and Eastern New York. The era of the steamboat on the Connecticut River was significant, but short-lived when the rapid development of railroad transportation supplanted river transport as the dominant method to transport goods and people on the Connecticut. From the collections of the Library of Congress


William describes the arrival of the Steamboat Barnet to Springfield where people were allowed to come aboard and take a short ride to her arrival at Greenfield.
William describes the Barnet’s travel through Northampton to the Greenfield Locks, with the ultimate destination at Barnet, Vermont.
William writes about the Barnet’s early return to Springfield, continuing on to Enfield Falls and New Haven.
In the 1820s, Dr. Timothy Dwight, past president of Yale University, traveled through the area for his health. In his Travels in New-England and New York, Dr. Dwight describes in detail his trip through the South Hadley Canal and the machinery that made it possible. Dwight, Timothy. Travels in New-England and New York. London: William Baynes and Son, 1823. Print. p. 286-288.


This drawing shows the complicated workings of the South Hadley canal system — the first of its kind built in the United States. It became the model for other canal systems, but when the canal needed to be deepened, it was replaced with a lock system.
This image of a flatboat is typical of the type of boats used to carry goods along this section of the Connecticut River.
This small black and white drawing was used to illustrate a publication celebrating the 100th Anniversary of the Connecticut River Banking Company in 1925.
Having never visited the United States, French artist Victor de Grailly based this painting of the Connecticut River on an engraving by William Henry Bartlett. de Grailly created a number of paintings of this same view and sold them throughout Europe and the United States.
Painting. Thomas Cole. 1836. The Hudson River School landscape artist, Thomas Cole, painted this view of the Oxbow of the Connecticut River in Northampton, following his trip to the area in 1833. Cole later wrote of the Connecticut River, “…the imagination can scarcely conceive Arcadian vales more lovely or more peaceful than the valley of the Connecticut…” (“Essay on American Scenery”, American Monthly Magazine 1: January 1836). From the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art

Original in the John Hill Print Collection of the New York Historical Society

This 1831 political cartoon ridicules Henry Clay’s position on the American System. Monkeys, labeled as different parts of the nation’s economy, are depicted stealing each other’s resources. Two commentators are pictured at right, one speaking in support, the other against.
From Project Gutenberg (online). Download a printable PDF with explanation

Photographs from the Lyman & Merrie Wood Museum of Springfield History exhibit, Made in the Valley, are used to represent the wide variety of products that were made in the Connecticut River Valley. In many ways, the Transportation Revolution sparked by the voyage of the Steamboat Barnet made the development of these industries possible.

Explanation of Sources

Details the significance of the primary and secondary sources and why we included what we did.

Primary Sources

The Stetson Letters and Other Evidence from the 19th Century Typically, an account of life inside a community like the Northampton Association depends upon clues offered in newspaper articles and the papers of prominent members. Pictures, maps, organizational and public records often add useful evidence. Photographs, drawings, and artifacts can often give a face to people and places. Yet it is more rare for historians to have documents such as a diary or letters that reveal the daily life and family relationships of ordinary people. Thus scholars rejoiced in 1998 when a trove of seventy-five letters–written by members of the Stetson family during their stay at the Northampton Association–turned up among family memorabilia in a house in Brooklyn, Connecticut. The family donated the letters to Historic Northampton. Matched with existing sources such as those mentioned above, and supported by the work of scholars, the Stetson letters enable unique new insights into the Northampton Association of Education and Industry. This site features these letters, along with a wealth of other richly complementary materials. In their day, James and Dolly Stetson and their children were never famous. They were not key players in the abolitionist movement or in the rise of industry in 19th century America. Instead, their story reveals how larger national narratives of social reform, political debate, and economic transformation wove together with the many stories of America’s ordinary, and often unremarked individuals. During the Stetson family’s stay at the Northampton Association, James spent most of his time on the road selling the Association’s silk. His wife and children wrote him letters, filling him in on their activities at the Association. Thus these letters provide a personal window into the daily life and experiences of life in a utopian, abolitionist community. Links to the letters and other primary sources appear throughout the site, especially under “Story of the NAEI.” Or you may browse an annotated the list of all our primary sources grouped by type of document.

Secondary Sources: Scholarly Works

To understand and place primary source evidence in context, it is essential to study thoughtful and insightful secondary sources. We are fortunate again in that veteran scholars created excellent studies that aid immeasurably in interpreting the significance of the Association. Anyone wishing to know more about this unique community and its impact should access these fascinating works. You can buy any of the works listed below from the Historic Northampton Museum. Letters from an American Utopia: The Stetson Family and the Northampton Association, 1843-1847. Edited by Christopher Clark and Kerry W. Buckley. University of Massachusetts Press. Amherst and Boston. (2004). The Communitarian Moment: The Radical Challenge of the Northampton Association. Christopher Clark. Cornell University Press. (1995). Northampton’s Century of Silk. Marjorie Senechal. The 350th Anniversary Committee, City of Northampton, Massachusetts. (2004). (Printed by Collective Copies, Florence, Massachusetts.) Thanks to the collections and stewardship of the Historic Northampton Museum and Education Center, we are able to tell the important local story of the Northampton Association of Education and Industry through a rich mix of more than 70 primary and secondary sources, grounded in scholarly research and tied to essential themes of traditional American history.

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