Loading Events

« All Events

  • This event has passed.

The Case of the Vanishing Locomotive

July 1, 2023 @ 11:00 am - 12:00 pm

Learn about the mysterious disappearance of the first steam engine shipped to the US from England in the 1820s.

Join the Bidwell House Museum for our 3rd History talk of the summer, this one in person at the Tyringham Union Church with Yale Professor Emeritus John Demos.

In the 1820s, right after the first steam locomotives were produced in England, a large American transport company–the Delaware and Hudson Canal Co.–ordered two for delivery to New York. The plan was to incorporate them into a new canal and railway system for bringing coal from mines in northeast Pennsylvania out to cities on the coast. The first to arrive, named the AMERICA and informally described as an *iron horse*, caused an enormous stir when unloaded in Brooklyn harbor. Thousands of spectators came to view it up-close, and to join in its christening by city and state leaders. Following this and other ceremonial enactments, it was shipped by barge up the Hudson River, and then by canal to the mining site. There it completely vanished; no one seemed to know what had happened to it. In due course, the second of the two locomotives, named the STOURBRIDGE LION, made a similar entry, attracted some (though not as much) fanfare, was tried out at the mines, and was thereafter celebrated as *the first steam locomotive ever run on track in America*. To this day the Smithsonian includes a large and lavish display on it. The AMERICA was forgotten, except by historians of transportation who wrote of it in puzzled footnotes. The mystery of its disappearance remained unsolved for most of two centuries, until the emergence, in around the year 2000, of a carved box with crucially relevant inscriptions. In this talk Demos will share what he has learned about the locomotive and one of American history’s great mysteries.

John Demos, Samuel Knight Professor of American History Emeritus at Yale University is an award-winning author and Tyringham resident. He is the author of numerous books, including The Unredeemed Captive: A Family Story from Early America, and The Heathen School: A Story of Hope and Betrayal in the Age of the Early Republic, a 2014 National Book Award finalist and most recently Puritan Girl Mohawk Girl. His book Entertaining Satan: Witchcraft and the Culture of Early New England (1982) won the Bancroft Prize.

This lecture will be held at the Tyringham Union Church at 128 Main Rd in Tyringham. This will be an in-person lecture, with the option to also watch a livestream via Zoom. All Zoom participants will receive a link to access the lecture 1-2 days in advance. Tickets for Zoom attendance must be purchased in advance but tickets for in-person can be purchased at the door.


July 1, 2023
11:00 am - 12:00 pm


Tyringham Union Church
128 Main Road
Tyringham, MA 01264 United States


The Bidwell House Museum

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.