|Raftsmen playing Cards 1847|
George Caleb Bingham: Born 1811 in Virginia. His family moved to Missouri when George was eight due to financial misfortune. Bingham died in 1879 in Missouri.
|Jolly Flatboatman in Port 1857|
There are very few images of the boats that hauled freight on rivers in the period between 1800 and when steamboats took over in the 1860 time-frame.
There were probably multiple, basic designs that local craftsmen bent to fit local conditions and the availability of materials.
The square boats made completely of caulked dimension-lumber as seen in Disney movies either didn't exist or were rare.
Far more common were rafts where logs were framed-in using roughsawn-lumber and held together with pegs. Freight was carried on the deck. On reaching the lower river the rafts were broken apart for timber and construction materials.
Eyeballing the dimensions from these pictures and others by Bingham, they appeared to be twelve-to-fifteen feet in width and perhaps four times as long.
Assuming a small raft of 12'X40' and 50% of the volume being voids between logs, every additional foot of draft indicated 15,000 pounds of cargo.
Stated another way, a raft with three feet of freeboard when unloaded would have a foot of freeboard after taking aboard 30,000 pounds of cargo. 30,000 pounds is 500 bushels of wheat or about twice as many bushels of oats. 500 bushels of wheat would take up a volume of 625 cubic feet or a box 8' wide, 20' long and 4' high.
Based on an estimated population of 102,000 in 1840, New Orleans would have required over 1200 flatboats a year carrying grain to meet its minimum caloric requirements.