Vintage History: 215-year-old steamboat berth bed

In our Vintage History blog feature, a Community Forklift pricing team member tells us about something in the reuse warehouse, with particular attention paid to its style, history, and function.

If your surroundings dictate your dreams, then get ready to take a trip back to 1807 when you sleep in this antique steamboat berth bed! Whether you use it as a bed, daybed, or sofa, it has some fantastic features both in its history and in its design.

One of only 25 berth beds from the first ocean-going steamboat The Phoenix New Orleans, the bed is crafted of solid wood in the Federalist design style. Three drawers at the front of the bed provide storage beneath the berth platform and feature fine brass inlay and hardware. The drawer design of this front platform is repeated on the sides and back with five faux drawer fronts with the same hardware and inlay.

The side and back panels to the seating portion of the berth bed coordinate with the drawer fronts in the same wood grain and brass detail. The four brass corner posts have a banded design reminiscent of bamboo. Rounding out the brass accents is the cartouche plaque above the center-front drawer reading “The Phoenix New Orleans 1807”.

Built in 1807 by John Stevens in Hoboken, NJ, The Phoenix New Orleans was launched in 1809 just shortly after Robert Fulton’s Clermont, the first steam-powered boat. The Phoenix made nautical history as the first steamship to navigate ocean waterways and was part of the first U.S. steamship ferry service based in Philadelphia.

John Stevens was born in 1749 in New York City and died March 6, 1838, in Hoboken, N.J. He served to the rank of Colonel in the Continental Army during the Revolutionary War and was a prominent American lawyer, inventor, and promoter of the development of steam power for transportation. His petition to the U.S. Congress resulted in the Patent Law of 1790, which is the foundation of the present U.S. patent system. In 1815, he received the first charter in the U.S. ever granted for a railroad and went on to found the Camden and Amboy Railroad and Transportation Company in 1830.

As one of the fittings for Stevens’ notable vessel, this berth bed is both a functional piece of furniture and a reminder of past events and accomplishments in our always-changing modern world. Check out the listing in our Community Forklift Marketplace for more photos and information and a chance to own a piece of nautical history!


RELATED POSTS

December 2021: Vintage History: Mid Century Paul McCobb Desk
September 2021: Vintage History: Carved China Cabinet & Sideboard
March 2021: Vintage History: A Beautiful Arts and Crafts Sideboard


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Every time you donate or shop at Community Forklift, you’re helping us lift up local communities through reuse.  We turn the construction waste stream into a resource stream for communities in the DC region – by keeping perfectly good items out of the landfill, preserving historical materials, providing low-cost building supplies, and creating local green jobs.