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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
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ICE BOAT. Following attempts to construct STEAM SLEIGHS or ICE TRAINS, Nonnan Wiard, an inventor from Janesville, Wisconsin, announced in 1859 the creation of an ice boat.

Wiard's creation was reportedly given a trial run in January 1860, between Prairie du Chien and Lafayette with the round trip taking four hours and ten minutes. Six months later, the dubious editor of the Dubuque Herald was given a sketch of the boat. As described by Wiard, the craft combined a boat on runners and skates driven by steam power. Movement over the ice was accomplished by a hollow corrugated wheel which, driven by steam power, bit into the ice as it turned and pushed the boat along. The boat was steered with a pilot wheel linked to the front runners. Wiard believed that his ice boat could carry passengers and tow cars filled with freight.

Wiard visited Dubuque to advertise his invention and exhibited a model at the Julien Theater. While the audience remained dubious about the inventor (who referred to himself as "professor"), the model won grudging respect from those in attendance.

Anticipation for the success of this craft, like the steam sleigh and ice train, again sank into disappointment on January 24, 1861. In moving the boat from storage to the ice, one of the runners struck an object and broke.

The ice boat, a target of ridicule by the winter of 1861-1862, remained in storage in Prairie du Chien. Its display to the curious brought in some money. Regular winter transportation to cities of the north remained a dream until the introduction of the railroad.

In 1876 a different form of ice boat was manufactured in Dubuque. Operated by a Mr. Woods, this vehicle was propelled by wind caught in a sail. (1)



1. "Caught on the Fly," Dubuque Herald, February 6, 1876, p. 4. Online: https://news.google.com/newspapers?nid=uh8FjILnQOkC&dat=18760206&printsec=frontpage&hl=en