Washington was designed and built by Henry Shreve who launched his ship on the Monongahela River near Pittsburgh. His design proved the concept and the ship began regular runs between New Orleans and Louisville Kentucky. She could make 16 kts up river (against the current) fully loaded with cargo and passengers and downriver, a blistering 25 kts was possible!
By the 1850's, the peak of the paddle wheeler era,over 700 steamers plied the waters of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers and carried over 3 million passengers every year! Settlers heading west often, if they could afford the passage, took a paddle wheeler on the first leg on their journey, then going overland from Independence, St. Joseph, and Council Bluffs.
By the later part of the century, the western steamboat had been eclipsed by rail and diesel towboats hauling barges. But the iconic paddle wheeler had made its mark.
Now, they are tourist vessels that ply the same waters, hauling modern day folks on sightseeing trips.
Here are a couple of the modern day reproductions. I am told by those who have experienced the trip, it
is worthwhile and fun!