The first Cape-and-Islands steamboat service was inaugurated by the Eagle in 1818, and more than a dozen paddlewheel steamers ran to Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket over the next four decades, most for only a year or two. The early steamers suffered from frequent mechanical breakdowns, occasional fires, and underpowered engines that often  left them struggling to make headway against the wind, waves, and current.

Island Home, designed specifically for the Nantucket service and launched in 1855, was the first Cape-and-Islands steamer powerful and reliable enough to keep to a published schedule in anything but the worst weather. The Monohansett, launched in 1862, brought the same reliability to the Martha’s Vineyard run, and quickly became Vineyarders’ favorite steamer. Every steamer built for the Cape-and-Islands service for the next forty years was modeled on her design.

Designed primarily to carry passengers and their luggage, Monohansett’s capacity was immense. She carried 1,400 worshippers to the Island for the closing Sunday of the Wesleyan Grove Camp Meeting in August 1863, and 1,800 back to the Cape that evening. After serving the Vineyard for forty years, she was sold in 1902 to make way for the new steamer Uncatena — the last paddlewheel steamer built for Island service.


Artist J. P. Winegar
Title Steamer Monohansett
Date 1882
Type Painting
Medium Oil on Canvas
Credit Gift of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Martha’s Vineyard Chapter
Ref No 1955.003.216
Thematic Collection 100 Years, 100 Stories: Getting Here
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