The broad range of the Frontenac's experience is important to an understanding of the early history of steam on the Great Lakes. As with the Ontario, the navy had played a critical role at an early stage in the promotion of the Frontenac--participation closely related to lingering concerns about the durability of peace. Like the Ontario, the Frontenac was modelled on an existing steamboat. In both cases, the same engine builder supplied machinery for both model and copy.
The Frontenac was the sole property of a large joint stock partnership or association run by a closed clique of wealthy Kingston merchants. Neither they nor their sons provided effective leadership, and much of the management of the concern was left in the hands of professional employees like McKenzie, Leys and Petrie. The result was bickering among the employees and poor management of her business affairs. Doing business in a province whose largest urban centre contained fewer than 5000 people, and launched during an economic downturn, the Frontenac was a losing concern.
The steamboat's affairs involved many men who would dominate the Upper Canadian steam trades for years to come: Captain James McKenzie, engineer John Leys, shipwright Henry Gildersleeve, David John Smith and John and Robert Hamilton. Men like Hugh Richardson, busily promoting his own steamer, found the lessons provided by the Frontenac useful tools in planning his own affairs.
While little mention has been made in this paper of the question of "firsts", the issue probably should be dealt with briefly. The laurel of "first steamboat on the Great Lakes" can be awarded according to whatever definition of "first" is preferred. The evidence indicates that the Ontario was the first to be promoted and the first to move on the lakes under the power of steam. However, the Frontenac was the first under construction and consequently, the first launched. Moreover, in her voyage from Ernesttown to Kingston in September 1816 she was the first to "sail".
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