Steamboat James Malbon Explosion


James Malbon, a La Crosse steamboat captain, was piloting a new steamboat named for him when a flaw in the boiler caused it to explode on July 30, 1872, near North McGregor, Iowa.  At the time of the accident, the 29 year-old captain was in the pilot house and was killed in the explosion.  According to newspaper accounts, eight people were killed or lost, 13 saved and four were listed as wounded.  The official inspector's report said eight of the crew were killed and five injured. 


The cost of construction of the 120 ton boat was $14,000 and it was built for the Keator Lumber Company.  This explosion caused a stir as raft boats, such as the "James Malbon," were more likely to explode than the more powerful packet boats.  In the end, inspectors determined that the cause of the accident was great recklessness and carelessness on the part of W. Harvey Pierce, second engineer, on watch at the time.  His license was revoked.  The engines were salvaged and later placed in the Robert Ross built in 1873.



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31 July 1872 4 The James Malbon disaster 11" x 17" ledger landscape
31 July 1872 4 The Malbon disaster 11" x 17" ledger landscape
1 Aug 1872 4 More about the steamer Malbon 11" x 17" ledger landscape