Luther Fuller

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Augustus Fuller
Bornc. 1818
Known forheroic death

Augustus Fuller, also known as Luther Fuller and John Maynard, was the helmsman of the steamboat Erie. He died on August 9, 1841 at 23 years of age, at the wheel of the ship which was destroyed by fire. He was praised for his heroism for remaining at his post.


On the evening of August 9, 1841, the Buffalo Commercial Advertiser and Journal reported the death of the wheelsman "Luther Fuller", one of many who died during the conflagration of Erie on August 9, 1841.[1] Fuller was at the wheel when the fire broke out at 8:10 pm. He was praised by Capt. T. J. Titus (one of the few survivors) when he testified before the Coroner's Inquest at Buffalo, New York. He stated: "I think Fuller remained at the wheel and never left it until burned to death; he was always a resolute man in obeying orders". Titus in his testimony did not specify what Fuller's given name was. When Fuller's body was recovered, the Erie Gazette called him "Luther" Fuller instead of his real name. It was later established that the Buffalo Commercial Advertiser had previously incorrectly written his name.[2][3]

John Maynard[edit]

The anonymous prose sketch entitled The Helmsman of Lake Erie did not appear until four years after the loss of the Erie. Many researchers have stated that the sketch referred to Fuller, probably due to the magnitude of the tragedy, which up to 1841 was the worst steamer conflagration on Lake Erie. Nonetheless, it is claimed the helmsman in the sketch is not Fuller, but "Old John Maynard".[4]

19th century cultural references[edit]

The 1845 sketch first appeared on July 19 in the Poughkeepsie Journal & Eagle.[5] The August 30, 1845 issue of the Baltimore Sun led to the creation of a ballad by Benjamin Brown French, submitted to the same newspaper and printed on September 5 of that year.[6][7] A reworked and shortened prose sketch from 1860 was the subject of numerous temperance lectures by John Bartholomew Gough.[8] Horatio Alger Jr., inspired by Gough's sketch, composed his own popular ballad in the summer of 1866 titled "John Maynard, A Ballad of Lake Erie".[9] Already in November 1863, The British Workman (London, England) put out an untitled "John Maynard" ballad by the anonymous poet "Josephine",[10] which accompanied the shortened sketch by J. B. Gough. Epes Sargent continued the "Maynard" tradition with his own "Helmsman of Lake Erie", composed c. 1873.[11]

In Germany, the first Lake Erie ballad was published in 1871 by Emil Rittershaus in the popular Gartenlaube, to which he regularly contributed. The ballad's name was "Ein deutsches Herz" ("A German Heart"). Although not a "John Maynard" ballad, Rittershaus created a moving depiction of the problems of German immigration to the United States and emigration from the United States to Germany. Rittershaus was an important link between Ada Linden (Luise Förster) and Theodor Fontane[clarification needed]. Encouraged by Rittershaus, each of these poets composed their own Lake Erie ballads in the tradition of "John Maynard": Ada Linden, c. 1882, and Theodor Fontane in 1886. The steamer's name in Rittershaus's, Linden's and Fontane's ballads is the "Schwalbe" (the "Swallow")[why?].


  1. ^ [1]
  2. ^ John Maynard Home Page
  3. ^ Norman Barry, "Why Luther?"
  4. ^ For the distribution of the 1845 sketch, cf. The Two Basic Textual Variations of "The Helmsman of Lake Erie" in Light of the Discovery of the Poughkeepsie Journal & Eagle, the Maine Cultivator & Gazette, and the Mohawk Courier, an essay by Norman Barry.
  5. ^ [2]
  6. ^ [3]
  7. ^ [4]
  8. ^ [5]
  9. ^ [6]
  10. ^ [7]
  11. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original on 2014-07-14. Retrieved 2011-09-18.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)

External links[edit]

Title: Distinctive Traits of John B. Gough [pp. 3-7]Author: Park, Edwards A., Prof., D.D.