The Arabia Steamboat Museum - History and Facts | History Hit

The Arabia Steamboat Museum

Kansas City, Missouri, United States

The Steamboat Arabia Museum exhibits the cargo of a nineteenth century ship, offering an insight into her past and the world in which she operated.

Peta Stamper

14 Jun 2021
Image Credit: Johnmaxmena2, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

About The Arabia Steamboat Museum

The Arabia Steamboat Museum in Missouri, United States, tells the story of a 19th century ship – the Steamboat Arabia – as well as the frontier world in which she operated. The Steamboat Arabia regularly transported people and goods along the Missouri River, a trip she was making in the autumn of 1856 when she sank.

Buried for almost a century, the Arabia was recovered in 1988 and today its excavated cargo is displayed in the Museum.

The Arabia Steamboat Museum history

In September 1856, the 171 foot-long steamboat Arabia hit a tree snag and sank into the Missouri River, a busy but difficult-to-navigate trading route through the southern states. While all 130 passengers survived, around 220 tons of cargo sank with the steamboat and as the river changed course, the Arabia was buried underground.

For 132, the cargo lay buried beneath the cornfield in Wyandotte County, Kansas, until it was discovered by River Salvage Inc. in 1988 – a group of treasure hunters who soon after started excavating.

Although the hunters originally intended to sell the booty, the historical significance of the remains soon became clear. The huge museum opened in November 1991 in Kansas City River Market, displaying objects from fine china to children’s toys, and continues to be run by the Hawley family who were part of the Arabia’s retrieval.

The Arabia Steamboat Museum today

Open daily, from clothes to dishes and farm wares to food, the Arabia Steamboat Museum is a unique time-capsule boasting a wealth of objects found in the well-preserved remains. Along with these artefacts are pieces from the ship’s hull and information about the excavation process that began in 1988.

A visit to the Arabia Steamboat Museum lasts around an hour and a half, and the museum’s highlight is undoubtedly the world’s oldest pickles, retrieved from the Arabia‘s cargo.

The museum collection is also a work in progress: preservationists continue to clean over 60 tons of artefacts in a lab open to public view.

Getting to The Arabia Steamboat Museum

Situated near the banks of the Missouri River, the Arabia Steamboat Museum is just off routes 70 and 35 at exit 2D and 2E. By public transport, buses 77, 85, 201, 238 and the MMAX stop at Grand at 5th, just down the block from the museum. The tram also stops nearby at City Market.