Steamboat Illustrations, Page 14


I bought this 18 x 24 inch poster in the DELTA QUEEN's gift shop in Sept '93 and over a span of days en route from Memphis to Cincinnati I took it around and requested folks employed on the boat to sign it for me. It's too clumsy to scan in pieces and reassemble so I photographed it instead and finessed it in Photoshop to enhance it a bit.



We have Captain Charles J.R. Peterson's photo in my collection but thought you'd also enjoy having his thank you note to Erba and Elizabeth Heckel of Riverside, CA.

The sisters sent him the photo one of them had taken of him in August, 1938 during their voyage on the DELTA QUEEN.

The Captain advised them not to take too seriously a news article written by then Chief of Naval Operations (Peterson refers to the office as "the Bureau of Navigation"). William Daniel Leahy took an enviable inspection tour of all boats that navigated on the Mississippi tributaries then wrote a "spoof" article about it. Will have to look for that, it sounds like it would be a "hoot." Surely Fred Way knew about it. I also have a letter from Elizabeth to Erba and one from the girls' mother to Erba, both of which were written aboard the DELTA QUEEN on the same stationery during a 1937 cruise.


Fleet Admiral William Daniel Leahy (May 6, 1875 - July 20, 1959) was an American naval officer who served as the senior-most United States military officer on active duty during World War II.

He held multiple titles and was at the center of all the major military decisions the United States made in World War II.

In 1933, Leahy came ashore in Washington as Chief of the Bureau of Navigation for two years.

He went to sea as a vice admiral, and Commander Battleships Battle Force. In 1936, he hoisted his four-star flag in California as Commander in Chief Battle Force.

He was appointed Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), took the oath of office in January 1937 to serve until August 1939 when he was placed on the retired list. On that occasion, President Franklin D. Roosevelt said "Bill, if we have a war, you're going to be right back here helping me run it."

As Chief of Naval Operations from 1937 to 1939, he was the senior officer in the Navy, overseeing the preparations for war.

After retiring from the Navy, he was appointed in 1939 by his close friend President Roosevelt as Governor of Puerto Rico. In his most controversial role, he served as the United States Ambassador to France 1940-42, but had limited success in keeping the Vichy government free of German control.

Transcript of Peterson's hand written letter:

Sept. 18 - (19)38 [ON BOARD] Delta Queen

Misses Erba & Elizabeth Heckel Dear Friends

I have just received your letter, pictures & clipping. I appreciate them all very much and I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for them. The pictures are very clear which speaks well for a good camera.

The clipping is the creation of a joke by Capt. Leahy of the Bureau of Navigation, Washington D.C. when he was on an inspection tour of all vessels on the Mississippi river and its tributaries, there is no serious thought connected with it.


Just as I was sitting here writing this letter to you a crowd of 350 people came aboard the Delta Queen at Sacramento from the Western Pacific Rail Road depot to see the boat. I took them around and showed them everything and they all seem to enjoy it. We are still carrying big crowds and the weather is ideal for traveling. The boat is sold out tonight and what a noisy crowd they will be.

Hoping this finds you well and happy.

I am truly yours
Chas. J.R. Peterson
528 Grove St S.F.
or str. Delta Queen Pier 3.


Neat feature at the link below includes radio broadcasts of the race with interviews with officers from the boat and sports announcers narration. The feature was written by the grandson or grand daughter of Captain Robert R. Hanna.


"The 1949 race between Towboat HOMESTEAD versus WILLIAM LARIMER JONES

In 1949 the first of three races took place as part of Pittsburgh's Welcome Week celebrations. The first of these races was between Carnegie-Illinois Steels' Homestead and Jones and Laughlin's Wm. LARIMER JONESilliam. These boats raced again in 1951 and statistical information concerning these two boasts can be found on the page dedicated to the 1951 race.

In 1949 the race was broadcast live on WEDO radio. My grandfather, Captain Robert R. Hanna was given a collection of 78 rpm recordings of the race and clips from those recordings can be heard thought out this race page by clicking on the link provided.

During these three races Kasper Monahan, the Drama Editor for the Pittsburgh Press, and Chet Smith, who was the Sports Editor with the Pittsburgh Press, each served as the Commodore on one of the boats. Kasper was the Commodore on the HOMESTEAD in 1949 and 1950 and Commodore on the Wm. LARIMER JONES in 1951. Chet served as the Commodore on the Wm. LARIMER JONES in 1949, the TITAN in 1950 and the HOMESTEAD in 1951.


The Race stated at Brunot's Island in the Ohio River to the Smithfield Street Bridge of the Monongahela River.


The HOMESTEAD got out to an early lead, but half way through the race the JONES went ahead. During the final leg of the race the HOMESTEAD retook the lead and won by a foot. During the race the HOMESTEAD automatic stoker broke down and lost steam between the Point and the Smithfield Street Bridge. Forty-nine year old Jess Beckner from Clairton grabbed a shovel and continued to feed the boiler by hand.

After the HOMESTEAD was declared a winner and the bets paid off Captain Robert Hanna and chief engineer Evert Moats gave their final thoughts on the race."

Sternwheel Towboat
Way's Steam Towboat Directory T1123
Built in 1922, as the A.O. ACKARD in Ambridge, Pennsylvania
She was renamed the HOMESTEAD in mid-September, 1945. This boat cause an uproar in 1949 when she was raced with the Wm. LARIMER JONES at Pittsburgh and was adjudged the winner "by inches". Repeat performances were held in 1950, 1951 and the 1952 event was canceled because of a steel strike. In 1960 there was a move to preserve her as a local Pittsburgh tourist attraction, but there was a lack of financing and a suitable sponsor, so she was dismantled in 1960

Sternwheel Towboat
Way's Steam Towboat Directory Number T2671
Built in 1930 at Jeffersonville, Indiana by Howard Ship Yard She was a duplicate of the TITAN.
Named for William Larimer Jones, president of Jones and Laughlin Steel Company.
This boat had no pilot wheel and was steered with levers, a first among boats of that time Dismantled and sold for scrap in 1953.

box cover with steamboat illustration

Quaint box cover graphics for board game from Cadaco-Ellis Inc. 1939. 12 X 17 inches. I haven't scanned the board itself, it's not as much fun as this crazy cover with all the honeysuckle and moonlight nostalgia and old racial cliches. The color graphic vignette is based on a Currier and Ives print. They gave a little nod to Mark Twain by christening the boat at the landing "Becky Thatcher." The boat approaching bears the name "Lee," probably short for Rob't E. Lee. (This boat, Becky Thatcher, is not related to the Becky Thatcher that was formerly known as the Mississippi.)

Reminded me of the annual race you used to run on steamboats.com. - Dave

steamboat realty

Hannibal, Missouri, from the Hannibal Courier Post, published in the 1980s.

cotton levee

Magazine illustration of Memphis levee by W.J. Aylward 1915.

city of monroe assumption

Painting of the Assumption by Wilhelm . . . in front of Jim Hale's model of the City of Monroe for comparison.

steamboat illustration

The painting above is one of Michael Blaser's best. I have one of the large prints. Below is link and text off his site to that print which might attract visitors to your site who feel like it's time for them to buy a nice big display piece suitable for framing and fantasize over.
Dave michaelblaser.com


The old cotton packet Kate Adams of Memphis was brought to the Upper Ohio in 1926 for the packet business that was running between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.
The sternwheel towboat J. T. Hatfield ran coal from Charleston, W. Va. to Cincinnati for over 30 years.
Edition Size: 950
Signed and numbered lithograph $185.00
Image Size: 19" x 30" plus borders

steamboat illustration

steamboat illustration

Michael Blaser in his Bettendorf, Iowa studio with a work in progress: the Mississippi River at New Orleans on June 30, 1870; the beginning of the race between the ROB'T E. LEE and the NATCHEZ.

steamboat illustration

On the left is page 89 of the first edition of Mark Twain's LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI (1883) with an illustration of the pilot house aboard the ALECK SCOTT when the young Sam Clemens was "learning the river" from Horace Bixby. Thirty two years later (1915) cartoonist Harold Tucker Webster did a "spin off" of both the illustration and "Mr. Bixby" by basing his cartoon on the drawing by John J. Harley of the pilot house interior for one of his single panel cartoons in the series "THE THRILL THAT COMES ONCE IN A LIFETIME."

Webster followed the details very closely but added the strangely dressed boy at the wheel, Mr. Bixby, whose goatee also originated in illustrations of the pilot in LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI. The lanky galoot on the "lazy bench" nicely fills out the empty space in the lower right. Webster's cartoon was reproduced in an issue of THE REFLECTOR some years ago. When scanning these pictures I sized them to approximately the same size in terms of the stove, pilot wheel and bench. Webster expanded the composition and altered the perspective slightly.

steamboat illustration

Jack Woodson's atmospheric ROB'T E. LEE on some foggy mornin' Down South with a fisherman's little riverside cabin in the foreground. From the warm color scheme on the cabin and it looks like the risin' sun will soon burn off the fog.


Jack Woodson's WHIPPOORWILL.

Woodson evidently painted this as a piece of "calendar art" which could also be sold as a print in a standard 11 X 14 inch picture frame.

Woodson was primarily a nautical artist apparently who specialized in sailing ships at sea rather than riverboats. John Stobart's sea-going ship paintings also outnumber the ones he has done of steamboats on the Inland Waterways.


First published in 1910

by F.A. Mills Music Publisher

122 West 36th Street, New York City

Lyrics by Ken Shields

Music by Bert & Frank Leighton

As sung by Arthur Collins
On the 78 rpm Victor recording made in 1911
Number 16867-A

Sheet music specified that it was to be played in "Allegro moderato"

L Y R I C S:
Down the Mississippi steamed the WHIPPOORWILL
Commanded by the pilot, Mr. Steamboat Bill.
The owners gave him orders on the strict Q.T.*
To try and beat the record of the ROBERT E. LEE

"Just speed up your fire, let the old smoke roll,
Burn up all your cargo, if you run out of coal.
If we don't beat that record," Billy told the mate,
"Then the MAIDEN CARE'll beat us to the Golden Gate."

Oh Steamboat Bill, steaming down the Mississippi.
Steamboat Bill, a mighty man was he.
Oh Steamboat Bill, steaming down the Mississippi.
Gonna beat the record of the ROBERT E. LEE.
Up then stepped a gambling man from Louisville,
Who tried to get a bet against the WHIPPOORWILL
Billy flashed a roll that surely was a bear,
The boiler it exploded threw them up in the air.

The gambler said to Billy as they left the wreck,
"I don't know where we're going, but we're neck-and-neck!"
Said Bill to the gambler, "Tell you what I'll do.
I'll bet another thousand, I'll go higher than you!"

Oh Steamboat Bill, he tore up the Mississippi
Steamboat Bill, the pilot made him swear
Oh Steamboat Bill, he tore up the Mississippi
Explosion of the boiler got him up in the air

The river's all in mourning now for Steamboat Bill
No more you'll hear the puffing of the WHIPPOORWILL
There's crepe on every steamboat that plows the stream,
From Memphis right to Natchez, down to New Orleans
The wife of Mister William was at home in bed,
When she got the telegram that Steamboat's dead.
Said she to the children, "Blessed honey lambs,
The next Papa that you'll have will be a railroad man!"

Oh, Steamboat Bill, missing on the Mississippi
Oh, Steamboat Bill is with an angel band
Oh Steamboat Bill missing on the Mississippi
He's a pilot on a ferry in that Promised Land


With the exception of images credited to certain institutions,
most of the images on this page are from a private collection.
Please request permission before reproducing our images in any publication.*