Steamboat Illustrations, Page 15


The artist's initials in the lower left corner A.R.W. stand for Alfred Rudolph Waud (1828-April 6, 1891) an American artist and illustrator, born in London, England. Waud was famous for the sketches he made as an artist correspondent during the American Civil War. It is possible that Waud also wrote the story that accompanied this but "the artist" is referred to by another narrator so either Waud was getting creative or there was a journalist on board with him. There were several other drawings that were made into engravings for this voyage of the CITY OF CAIRO in July of 1871 adventure but the attached artwork is the only one of the boat itself in an "action" scene. We have other examples of Waud's work elsewhere among our illustrations including ON THE MISSISSIPPI which included the NATCHEZ on Sept 2nd 1871, which was also from the periodical EVERY SATURDAY in which he was indeed given a "double credit" as both "Our Special Artist AND Correspondent."

The Murphy Library has some photos of several boats named the CITY OF CAIRO but they were all built after the one in this story was active on the Mississippi. Fred Way lists the boat in this story as Number 1055 in his Packet Directory. This CITY OF CAIRO was built in 1864 at Metropolis, Illinois and completed in St. Louis. She was sidewheeler 272 feet long and rand St. Louis—Memphis for the Memphis Packet Co. Lost in a fire at New Orleans in 1873.

In the following story there are references in the text to things that are going on in the illustration including the clerk escaping from the boiler deck via the suspended "gang-plank" (stage) and an irate Priest shaking his fists at his parishioners in Lake Providence, Louisiana who failed to come to the rescue of the boat and him after the CITY OF CAIRO suffered an accident

The wrecked cotton packet JUDGE WHEELER mentioned in the article was built in 1870 and exploded 45 miles north of Vicksburg in February 1871 with 600 bales of cotton on board.

Some editing of the article was required due in part to the poor quality of the online source material which was difficult for both myself and "Omni PagePro" to transcribe. I was only able to obtain page 285 from this article on eBay from which the attached illustration was scanned.


pages 284 - 286


SEPTEMBER 16, 1871.


It was a hot afternoon in July when we hurried aboard the steamer CITY OF CAIRO.

She was advertised to leave Vicksburg for Memphis at precisely five o'clock p.m. At precisely six o'clock p.m., the CITY OF CAIRO pushed out in the river, and paddled away down stream in the direction of New Orleans.

Stopping, however, at a little railroad station on the bank opposite and below Vicksburg, the CITY OF CAIRO passed a social hour, so to speak, with the trim-looking, wharf-boat there, and then turned around, puffed back to the Vicksburg levee, and went to discharging the freights which she had brought from Memphis on the last trip.

Between ten and eleven o'clock we went to bed, and awoke next morning to find the CITY OF CAIRO with her nose on a desolate bank, commanding a view of about three rods of alluvial wilderness in the foreground and a dense tog swallowing up the river and all nature beyond. We had left Vicksburg some time in the night, and had been overtaken by this fag after a voyage of about five miles.

After breakfast the mist cleared away enough for the boat to feel its way by soundings, and when at last the day turned out bright and sunny, we paced the mouth of the Yazoo, and landed at Milliken's Bend.

Here the river has been busy in its work of obliterating traces of the late war. The spot where "the brave troops fought proudly," as the phrase goes, has not yet caved away, but the earthworks and the ten and eleven o'clock we went to bed, and awoke next morning to find the CITY OF CAIRO with her nose on a desolate bank, commanding a view of about three rows of old levees which served for works, are gradually going down the Mississippi to form sandbars for the peaceful water-fowl of lower latitudes.

It took us three days and three nights to reach Memphis. There is no reason why I should go over the long, tedious voyage in detail. We made, I believe, four hundred landings in all. The banks presented the same sunny monotony day after day, and the nights were the same dreary lapses of heat and half-sleep. Little is left of Napoleon, Arkansas which used to have the reputation of being the wickedest town on the Mississippi ; but the streets once vocal with the "sharp note of the pistol and the pleasing squeak of the victim" have all caved into the thee. Napoleon may be said to be wrecked on a sandbar a few miles below, on the opposite side of the river where the caving earth is being deposited. Even the Arkansas River, which used to empty all its waters into the Mississippi in the neighborhood, has broken into the White River, miles above, and has left the town to its fate. Napoleon is in fact a mere suburb of its former self. Helena, farther up the Mississippi, and in the same State, presents a thriving appearance. Remains of fortifications used in the late war, are still visible on the high ground back of the town, but the town itself shows no scars, at least to one passing on the river. Bell's Plantation and the picturesque wreck of the old steamboat JUDGE WHEELER, form, with the towns already mentioned, about the only interruption to the level sameness of the banks for the whole four hundred miles of our passage from Vicksburg to Memphis.

But we had excitement enough in one crowded boor on board the boat to make up for all the tameness of the shores. Up to the hour in question a faint show of diversion was furnished by a certain fat boy, who generally made his appearance on deck just after meal time. Here he would mingle freely with any group that had the energy to converse, find assist in the conversation, until yielding to post-prandial influences he would fall asleep sitting up. Then, too, there was a mild sort of excitement afforded on by three State-prison convicts, —an express robber, a poisoner and a cold-blooded murderer, who came aboard somewhere in Mississippi, and camped upon the baggage of your present chronicler, just outside of our stateroom door. They were negroes; and were on their way to work upon some plantation. Three men fiercely armed took turns in standing guard over them. The fine way in which the State institutions of Mississippi are I farmed out, could not, I think, have been brought to one's door with more exhilarating force. In comparison with any other Southern State, Mississippi has hardly debt at all, and why its citizens should be exposed to the humiliation, to say nothing of the demoralization, of having criminals turned out among them in gangs all over the country, does not appear to the pacing traveller. A private individual or company chartered the penitentiary and its inmates— a fact which speaks ill enough of the legislature; but this scattering of convicts all over the country, seems to me an outrage not only upon the dignity of the State, but upon the rights of the law-abiding citizen.

One afternoon, on the verge of the crowded hour I have alluded to, the prisoners were lying asleep upon my baggage, the fat boy was sitting asleep on the rail, and the majority of the passengers were gossiping drowsily in the shade on the forward guard. We had just left a landing on the Mississippi bank, and were going to Lake Providence, when there was a sudden scraping of the bottom of the boat, a jar that threw us all forward, a crash, an explosion, and a vast escape of steam. There was not a face that did not turn deathly pale. For a few seconds no one seemed to have power to speak or move. Then someone said, " We have struck a snag and it has gone through the boilers !"

The first impulse was now for every soul to jump overboard from where we were on the upper deck. There was a rush in that direction. At the railing, the united mind appeared to change in an instant, and the whole throng made for the stairs leading to the lower deck. Everyone hurried forward in the attempt to be as far from the boilers as possible when the explosion should come. And while we were expecting it to come, the scene was just simply terrific. Some mad person had secured a door of a state room and brought it down on the bow where I was, and then disappeared. I could do no more than gather up the door and stand ready to jump. There provided for, I surveyed the scene about me. At my feet, crouched behind a coil of rope, lay a negro "roustabout," too much terrified to move, but his gaze was so bent in the direction of the boilers that only the whites of his eyes were visible. Further along a lot of deck passengers and roustabouts were just launching the only available boat. The mate happening to see them, made them leave the boat and go to work putting out the fires under the boilers.

Some of the ladies were kept from jumping into the river by main force. The most distressful sight, perhaps, was that of the poor convicts; they were handcuffed together, and none of their three keepers had the means of unshackling them. The prison authorities had forgotten to send along the keys. The terror of the wretches was something sickening to see, especially after the keepers had tried to break the irons and had failed.

The whole upper part of the boat was enveloped la the escaping steam, out of which I saw the chief clerk emerging. He was a very dressy, gentlemanly person on ordinary occasions, but now he came abruptly, head first, in his shirt sleeves, through the back window of his office. He jumped out upon the gang-plank which hung suspended on a plane with the upper deck, and climbed down some ropes to the lower deck, preceded by his glossy silk hat, and followed halfway by the fat boy. This youth was on the point of going overboard after the clerk's hat supposing the clerk to be still under it, and in the safest place at such a moment; but his father caught him in the middle of his mad career and of his anatomy, and brought him back to the guard.

The humor of this scene had much to do in restoring me to my senses. Looking aft I saw the men working hard to put out the fires under the boilers and the engineers all at their posts. It occurred to me that if there were to be any further explosion the engineers would be apt to know it and would be getting out of the way. Events occur very fast at such a time. While I was standing still with a firm grip on my door, more people with everything but life preservers joined me on the bow. The life-preservers were all in the staterooms and no one seemed to care about venturing far into the cabin after them. The ladies were actually too scared to faint or scream. Once free of the idea of going overboard they stood stark and speechless on the lower deck. While they were standing there in this helpless way, a gentleman who had retired to the quarterdeck to strip himself as soon as the explosion occurred, strode forth in undershirt and drawers to view the situation; he came in plain view of the situation, retired gracefully, and put on his clothes again.

About this time my eye lighted upon our artist from whom the confusion had separated me. The artist was now intently watching the movements of the bartender, and the bartender was walking vigorously up and down in front of the bar, the only man on the boat, except probably the engineers, who had not left his post. He kept up his promenade for some time, and thee stopped as if something had struck him; something indeed bad struck him ; it was the thought of the money in his drawer. He went deliberately behind the bar, transferred the money from the drawer to his pocket, and resumed his walk. Sometimes his form would disappear in the steam, but he kept on marching to and fro in front of his bar till the panic was over.

I joined the artist and we went up into the cabin and found it still full of steam and unbearably hot. The carpet was torn and a part of the floor was blown up ; chairs, tamps, and tables were capsized, and everything high and low strewn with the bits of cotton which had served as padding to the carpet. Here I was much relieved to learn that we had not taken a snag into our boilers at all, but that we had run with full headway on to a sandbar, and a steam-pipe had been twisted off by the swaying and wrenching of the boat. When we found that the danger from fire was over, we ventured into our stateroom, which was in the immediate neighborhood of the broken steam-pipe. We found our pillows blown into a heap with our mosquito-bars, and diverse volumes of light literature, to say nothing of light articles of apparel, strewn on the floor and covered with hot water and Mississippi mud. If this had all happened in the middle of the night, we might have gotten scalded and been a great deal more scared than we were. If we had been roused out of an unquiet sleep by such an explosion accompanied by hot water I have in my mind's eye at least one person who would probably have gone overboard without waiting to secure a door as a floatation device or anything else.

In the course of time the anchor was cast and the water was blown out of the boilers. We were all the while in plain view of the people of Lake Providence, scarcely a mile away, but they made not the least effort to come to our aid. We lay at anchor most of the afternoon, yet no one seemed to have even the curiosity to approach us. We could see people watching us from the wharf-boat while the steam was escaping. They however gradually disappeared and we were left to our fate. We had on board the parish priest of Lake Providence; he was, like the rest of us, very much frightened at best, but he waxed much more indignant than any one else at the conduct of his parishioners. He vowed he would give them a little sermon on the subject, if he lived to get ashore. The chubby reverend gentleman had seized his valise at the first alarm, and rushed down on the lower deck, ready to go ashore, and he stood, as you will see him in the lower right hand corner of our picture, waving at his stolid, unheeding flock, until the steam was quite blown out of the boilers.

Assured that the danger was really past, we all met to compare notes. As is always the case after an accident, every one was more anxious to give an account of his own experiences than to listen to an account given by anyone else but in this sympathetic reunion we found that no one had been injured except a canary bird, a sweet songster belonging to the boat. The steam had killed it. At the time of the accident a small party were at dinner not far from where the pipe burst in the cabin. In regular order dessert was their next course; they took napkins instead and hurried away with them. As soon as the steam was out of the cabin the ladies, with one or two exceptions, retired and powdered their faces. Then they came back en the guards and contributed their sham to the general stock of experiences One lady said she had heard in such awful moments people always think and talk about death and religion. Now that hadn't been the way with her. She was thinking all the dine about her trunk full of new clothes, and whether they would get wet, or burn up. Finally the said her anxiety seemed to have settled upon one solitary dress made to wear north, —when, being assured that the danger was over, her mind traversed hack from the one dress to the other contents of the trunk, and thus through the trunk to her ordinary consciousness again. This metaphysical process, as I understand it, was just the converse of the German one which resulted in the elephant. The young lady you see, did not evolve the trunk from her consciousness, but her consciousness from the trunk.

Not twenty minutes before the occurrence of the accident an officer in former Confederate service had been telling of certain cool behaviors of his own, not only upon the field of battle, but on the occasion of a great steamboat explosion once upon a time. When the crash came on board of our boat, he jumped to his feet and disappeared. After all was over he explained that he had gone aft to see to the ladies. Now all the ladies he happened to know were in the party from which he so suddenly vanished. That evening when we had got under way again, and were all seated at supper, the boat went a little hard against the bank in making a landing. Our ex-Confederate again sprang to his feet and disappeared. Being questioned upon his return, he said that be thought it was his getting-off place. All the stories of brave conduct in the war which our friend had previously told at may have been true; but he never on the boat seemed quite brave enough to acknowledge that he was scared. The fact is we were all scared, as we had a right to be. Even the plucky bartender could hardly speak when he was first accosted on his solitary walk in front of his bar.

There was no one to blame for the accident. The sands and mud of the Mississippi will shift, and if a steamboat striking a bar with all its force wrenches off a steam-pipe, the engineers can do no more than ours did. They worked with all their eight and made their fire-men said coal-heavers work, and long before dark the damage was repaired and the engines were moving The current itself took us off the bar. The anchor was shipped, and we proceeded on our voyage. The accident furnished us with something to talk about all the way to Memphis. The story had to be told over and over to passengers whom we picked up on our way. To the newcomers we gave tithes of wonder and fear until we had nothing left in our store but individual bravery. At last we were a lot of gallant people who had been blown up without moving a muscle except in giving dauntless aid to unprotected women and children.



Original oil painting 18 x 24 inches by Joe Rigsby of the CINCINNATI recently obtained through a friend and art dealer in Alton, Illinois. Also included a photo of the boat from La Crosse which the artist must have based his painting on.

CINCINNATI Sidewheel Packet

Way's Packet Directory Number 1033

Hull built by Midland Barge Company, Midland, Pennsylvania and completed at Cincinnati, 1924 for John W. Hubbard of Pittsburgh;

Navigated the Ohio and Mississippi rivers

This boat had a double cabin, parlor rooms, baths, separate dining room, steam heat and all the trimmings.

She was designed by marine architect Tom Dunbar as a single-cabin packet for the Cincinnati-Louisville trade.

Before completion, the stateroom capacity was vastly enlarged by the building of a second passenger cabin.

The original cost of this boat was $417,000 of which she made back about $200,000 in the first eight years of operation.

The boat was owned by John W. Hubbard, Pittsburgh and operated by the Louisville and Cincinnati Packet Company.

She made Cincinnati-New Orleans Mardi Gras trips without a break from 1924-1930 and cleared $40,000 on her first Mardi Gras trip.

She was in Pittsburgh on several occasions, and brought the 31st annual convention of the Ohio Valley Improvement Association there in October, 1925.

She appeared for the 1929 celebration of the completion of the Ohio River locks and dams.

Her principal business was regular summer operation in the Louisville-Cincinnati packet trade.

On May 24, 1928 while between Carrollton and Madison, she collided with the MV BELMONT and engineer Homer Johnston was killed.

Hard times came with the Louisville and Cincinnati Packet Company having financial troubles.

The Cincinnati was sold to Streckfus Steamers, Incorporated, St. Louis IN 1932.

Streckfus tore her down to the hull and built a superstructure for an excursion boat named PRESIDENT.


Attached scan of painting by Bill Reed with text by Fred Way, both from the cover of the 1968 Christmas edition of the REFLECTOR. This is one of Reed's better efforts. I "plumbed it up" and cropped it a bit and also desaturated the color to enhance the aesthetics.

Published by Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen

Vol. 5, No. 4

Marietta, Ohio

December, 1968

The steamboat above is the TARASCON, and that is a pretty name, French, and the Tarascon family built sailing ships at Pittsburgh starting in 1801. Soon after that they were making flour, and had a rope-walk and other interesting affairs at the foot of the Louisville Falls. The Tarascon Mill was a landmark at Shippingport for years after.

William E. Reed painted this picture just a month ago for Bert Fenn.

The TARASCON was built in 1895 at the Howard Ship Yard and for about twenty years ran in the packet trade between Louisville and Evansville. That's why Bert Fenn cherishes the boat; he remembers seeing her at Tell City, Indiana. Bill Reed was generous to allow us to reproduce this, and Bert Fenn even more so. While we messed around three weeks getting this color picture made, Bert was biting his fingernails, maybe not literally, for he hadn't yet seen the original oil.

So this is a special Christmas present to all S&D members particularly from Bill Reed and Bert Fenn. They join with S&D's editor and wife, and with the S&D officers, in wishing each and all a steamboat-load of joy delivered aboard the Str. TARASCON waiving the usual bill of lading exceptions.


Betsy McCall paper dolls were a feature in McCall's Magazine . . . this one from May 1960 used the premise that Betsy takes a voyage down the Mississippi on the DELTA QUEEN and calls her cousin Linda when the DQ lands in New Orleans to tell her about the trip. The reference to a "real Pirate's Cave" has to refer to Cave-in-Rock on the Ohio River in Hardin County, Illinois.

In addition to the composite that I made is a small scan of the whole page which you don't necessarily need to include. This page includes a color graphic of Betsy in her "skivvies" and three "outfits" with tabs that could be cut out by little girls. I put Betsy in the clam-digger outfit since she's holding a toy DELTA QUEEN in her right hand in that one. McCalls offered this set of paper dolls "printed on sturdy cardboard" plus 19 others for only 20 cents mailed to McCall's Dept D in New York or Toronto.

Transcript of text on the Betsy McCall's paper doll feature on page 57, May 1960:

"Betsy McCall takes a trip down the Mississippi

When the river boat Delta Queen landed in New Orleans, Betsy phoned her cousin Linda: "Hi, Linda! This trip is the most fun! We sleep in bunks, and our bedroom is called a stateroom. We were in a real Pirates' Cave, and we visited a plantation and some mansions.

The Mississippi is just the LONGEST river—about 3,901) miles, the captain says, and we haven't seen even half of it. `Mississippi' is Indian for 'Big River.'

Our boat is called a stern-wheeler because it has a big wheel at the stern—that's what they call the back, and port is the left side, looking forward, and starboard's the right—and the stern wheel churns up the water like a giant egg beater.

The captain let me visit him in the pilothouse. He pointed out boats from all over—an oil boat from Europe, and barges with new autos from Detroit, and a motorboat from Florida, and houseboats with people living on them.

They fish right from their own decks. You know what? I talked to one family on the captain's ship-to-shore telephone. They invited me to a catfish dinner. No, I don't know whether a catfish meows, but I don't think so. Mommy and I are going sight-seeing in New Orleans, so I have to stop.

Linda, listen: When it gets foggy on the river, the boats tie up until it clears, and they talk to each other in whistles.

The Delta Queen has a steam whistle, and the first time I heard it, I jumped, because it's so LOUD. Want me to say good-bye to you in whistle talk like the Delta Queen? Listen:


Frank Leslie's Illust News. 16 August 1879 steamboats Missouri River 40 percent for NORI

1879 Frank Leslie's Newspaper illustrations of 2 steamboats which must have transported troops, weaponry and other supplies (the one on the left is the GEN'L SHERMAN) for a U.S. Army expeditionary force under General Miles that was in pursuit of Chief Sitting Bull during an "Indian Campaign in Montana" on the north side of the Missouri River.

German Life on the Mississippi Klaus Ensikat steamboats dot com 80 percent for NORI

One of Klaus Ensikat's illustrations for Mark Twain's LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI. (With name of this website added!)

Aunt Jemina steamboat & plantation house 60 percent for NORI

Detail of the "banner" illustration in watercolor that ran along the top of a full page Aunt Jemima Pancake mix ad in a mid 1950's to mid 1960's issue of LIFE, LOOK or the SATURDAY EVENING POST.

The caption says that on the right is "Colonel Higbee's plantation" where the fictional African American cook Aunt Jemima was a slave before the Civil War and remained as a faithful servant to Colonel Higbee after the war was over and she was "set free." The illustrator probably based the plantation house itself on Scarlett O'Hara's "Tara" in David O. Selznick's epic 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's GONE WITH THE WIND. The steamboat "PRINCESS" closely resembles the KATE ADAMS as she looked when remodeled to portray the antebellum steamboat "LA BELLE RIVIERE" in the 1926 silent film of UNCLE TOM's CABIN.

Cadillac 1937 detail Ad with steamboat 90 percent EXP

Might be one of the "Anchor Line" boats out yonder on the river with the anchor device twixt the stacks. Detail for a 1937 print ad for the Cadillac series "60" with 135 horsepower and all the V-8 "smoothness, acceleration and dependability" for only $1,445 (prices subject to change without notice). Lan' o' Goshen even pennies, nickels, dimes & quarters had real purchase power in them days.

Folk Art Steamer SPRAGUE on banner ELEANORA on paddlebox for NORI

This folk art style painting was made with a lot of precision. It looks a bit fanciful as if it was dreamed up by the artist rather than an actual boat. The pennant on the flagstaff says SPRAGUE but on the paddlebox is the name ELEANORA.

The flag at the stern looks features a spread eagle in the style of a Union army battle flag during the Civil War.

steamboat label

Steamboat label from the days of Sacramento produce crates.

steamboat illustration

Handles on that pilot wheel are awful chubby, hard to get a little "mitt" around one. Traveler's insurance ad from inside pilot house with snag boat in distance on the river.


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