The Central America Steamer

This model represents the Central America ocean steamer. The Central American, with 423 passengers and crew, tons of mail and freight, and over $1 million in gold on board, sunk in a storm off Cape Hatteras on September 12, 1857. Investigators found that the ship's owner, the United States Mail Company, knew the vessel was not seaworthy, but had considered repairs too costly.

Binding the Nation
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Narrator: U.S. Mail also moved by water.

Boats and ships bearing mail plied inland waterways and crossed oceans.

A steamer, the Central America, carried passenger's freight and mail for the United States Steamship Company.

Crippled by a storm, the ship sank on September 12, 1857 killing 425 people.

It would have remained just another wreck lost to history if it hadn't been for part of the ship's cargo, a fortune in California gold.

Located by divers in 1987, the sunken ship yielded a rich cache of gold coins and artifacts.