The “Swan” began as a flat-bottomed stern-wheel steamer hauling cotton on the Mississippi River. The was said to cruise so lightly upon the water, the “Swan” would float like a drop of dew in her transits up and down the River. In her second reincarnation, the “Swan” was purchased by the Indian River Steamboat Company to transport citrus and winter vegetables up and down the Indian River in the early 1890s. Allied with a railroad company, this steamboat company went bankrupt.
Several investors in the canal company organized another company that practically exhausted the English language in naming it to buy the “Swan” and other assets in 1896 or 1897 from the bankrupt company. The Indian River and Bay Biscayne Inland Navigation Company soon operated a small fleet of steamers along what would become Florida’s Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway. In 1898, the company won the contract to transport munitions down the waterway to Cuba for the short-lived Spanish American War.