Tent Boat or Plantation Barge, Suriname, 1770s

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This record was last updated on 03 May 2012

Image Reference

John Gabriel Stedman, Narrative, of a Five Years' Expedition, against the revolted Negroes of Surinam . . . from the year 1772, to 1777 (London, 1796), vol. 1, facing p. 93 (bottom). (Copy in Special Collections Department, University of Virginia Library)

A Belgian visitor to Suriname around 1831 describes this boat as follows: "Rich colonists/inhabitants and planters use a Tent- Boat, which is so luxuriously ornamented and decorated that they often cost up to 1500 Dutch florins. They serve to go from one plantation to another or to come to the city. These trips would be difficult to make by land, and besides all the plantations are situated on the banks of rivers. The Tent-Boat is driven by six to eight Blacks, who are excellent paddlers; a Black is also at the helm" (Pierre Jacques Benoit, Voyage a Surinam [Bruxelles, 1839], p. 30, our translation). See also image JCB_04050-3. This and other engravings are found in the autobiographical narrative of Stedman, a young Dutchman who joined a military force against rebellions of the enslaved in the Dutch colony. The engravings are based on Stedman’s own drawings and were done by professional engravers. For the definitive modern edition of the original 1790 Stedman manuscript, which includes this and other illustrations see Richard and Sally Price, eds. Narrative of a five years expedition against the revolted Negroes of Surinam (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1988).