S.S. Traveler, first American steamship on Puget Sound, sinks on March 2, 1858.

  • By David Wilma
  • Posted 8/04/2003
  • HistoryLink.org Essay 5499
Just before midnight on March 2, 1858, the S.S. Traveler, the first American steamship on Puget Sound, sinks near Port Gamble. Five people die.

The Traveler was built in Philadelphia as the Kangaroo and in October 1853 transported in pieces to Puget Sound, where it was assembled. The hull was of iron, but the technology of the day was such that the hull was sheathed in wood to keep it from leaking. She was the first American steamship on Puget Sound and ran mail between the settlements of Olympia, Steilacoom, Port Gamble, and Port Townsend. During the Indian War of 1855-1856, she was chartered by the U.S. Army.

On March 2, 1858, at 11:00 p.m. off Foulweather Bluff at the entrance to Hood Canal, she ran into heavy weather. The captain headed toward shore to wait out the blow. About an hour later, the ship ran aground and began to break up. Of the crew of eight, only engineer Thomas Warren and two Native American crewmen were able to swim to shore.

The Traveler sank in about 30 feet of water. At low tide her smokestack was visible. Would-be salvagers tried to pull off the smokestack using teams of horses on shore. This only moved the wreck to the point that it slid into deeper water.

The wreck was located and investigated in 1990 by members of the Argonaut Society.


Sources: Don Duncan, "Finding the Lost Traveler," The Seattle Times, May 19, 1990, p. A-1.

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