Like his apparent mentor, the Metropolitan’s caption-writer, Mr. Schwartz uses raftsmen and flatboats interchangeably as synonyms, and assumes that either a flatboat or a raft could be used to carry firewood to steamboats. A flatboat was used for transporting freight and could carry many tons, but downstream only. A raft was made of logs—or in Bingham’s paintings, squared timbers—to be transported, of course, only downstream. Both were equipped with long, heavy oars for steering, but they could not be rowed. Neither a flatboat nor a raft could have been used to supply firewood to a steamboat. Navigation of either a flatboat or a raft required great strength, skill, and knowledge—also courage, for the work was dangerous. The people who sold firewood to steamboats had first to cut the wood. And so there is no likeness whatever between Bingham’s river boatmen and gas station attendants.
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