Steamboat Illustrations, Page 22


Attached detail from a print of the following painting.

The link below will take you to a poster available from the MHS is below

View on the Mississippi River 1857 by Ferdinand Reichardt

Minnesota Historical Society Collections


A placid stretch of the Upper Mississippi near Lake Pepin is the setting for this romantic painting of the "fashionable tour" on the Mississippi by Ferdinand Reichardt (1819-1895) a Danish-born landscape artist especially noted for his paintings of Niagara Falls. The romance of the Mississippi River captured his imagination, presumably when he traveled through Minnesota in the 1850s. In his New York City studio Reichardt painted several canvases of life along the river such as St. Anthony Falls (also painted in 1857 and in the MHS Collections) and View on the Mississippi River. Another, similar rendition of the fashionable tour, executed in 1858, is in the collections of the White House. All are probably based on sketches and material gathered from his visit to the Mississippi Valley, and all are rich in fine detail.



Scan of an original letterhead in electrotype format on a printer's block measuring .70 x 5.70 inches attached to a custom sawed backing of wood. damoselsprintersblocks.com "Electrotypes have a copper printing surface backed with stereo metal and are approximately 12 points thick."

A "proof" of the printer's block was created by reversing the negative image to a positive mirror image in Photoshop. Mention of the S.R.T. Co. is made in "The Report of the Chief of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers 1891- 93" On page 3375 in Appendix 10 - in Capt. Thomas W. Symons', Corps of Engineers report pertaining to the upper Columbia and Snake Rivers, Oregon and Washington in 1893:

"The Snake River Transportation Company reported that their steamer NORMA has done nothing during the past year, with the exception of making one trip of 8 miles from the foot of Bay Horse Rapids to Huntington Bridge, where she still remains tied up. On this trip she carried no freight or passengers."


The 1940 WPA mural of the Mississippi river city of Cape Girardeau entitled "METROPOLIS" attracted my attention because of the towboat in the lower left and the packet boat lower center on a current postcard promoting the Missouri Preservation Conference to be held in Cape Girardeau in October, 2015. I contacted Missouri Preservation and both Katie Graebe and Bill Hart responded to my inquiries. Bill's comments below:

Cape Girardeau as it was appeared in the mural METROPOLIS in 1940, was created as part of a WPA project. Today, some of the buildings are missing, but very many of these structures still exist. Of course the river port is no longer filled with so many boats and so much activity. The train depot (red brick in the center) is gone, as well as the factory building in the far right. The old St. Francis Hospital in the far left at top is gone, as is the old bridge, which was pretty new at the time of the painting.

But the Court of Common Pleas, top and center is still there, as is the building to its right, the Southeast Missourian Building. Going right from there, the Marquette Hotel (just to the left of the smoke stack smoke) is still there, and just above, the domed Academic Hall at Southeast Missouri has recently been renovated. Coming down the hill from the old Marquette Hotel, the Presbyterian and Lutheran church buildings are still there. To the left of the old train depot are the B'Nai El Temple and St. Vincent's Cathedral, both of which are still shining.

Bill Hart
Executive Director

Missouri Preservation
Located in the Historic Katy Depot
320 First Street
Boonville, Missouri 65233


This St. Louis candy manufacturer chose a "river icon" ("Showboat"/Steamboat) as the graphic on this mid 1900's candy box "Founded in 1876 Chase Candy Company Chase's Showboat Chocolates"
Net Weight One Pound
Measures 12 inches long by 1-1/3 inches high.



Attached is the front of the dust jacket with pen and ink drawings by British artist Ronald Searle for the 1948 Chiltern Library Edition published in London of THE CONFIDENCE MAN: HIS MASQUERADE, a novel by Herman Melville (best known as the author of MOBY DICK). THE CONFIDENCE MAN was first published in New York City in 1857.

The top illustration depicts the title character on the left in one of his disguises, resembling Orson Welles playing a Mandarin. The character on the right is a frontiersman named "Pitch" wearing a coonskin cap and carrying a rifle who is described by Melville in Chapter 21:

"A rather eccentric-looking person, somewhat ursine in aspect; sporting a shaggy spencer of the cloth called bear's-skin; a high-peaked cap of raccoon-skin, the long bushy tail switching over behind; raw-hide leggings; grim stubble chin; and to end, a double-barreled gun in hand--a Missouri bachelor, a Hoosier gentleman, of Spartan leisure and fortune, and equally Spartan manners and sentiments; and acquainted, in a Spartan way of his own, with philosophy and books, as well as woodcraft and rifles."

The bottom illustration depicts the steamboat Fidèle, also attached is a larger file of that steamboat drawing by itself. Searle probably based his drawing on a steamboat in one of the Currier & Ives prints which this closely resembles in style.

In the summer of 1840 Herman Melville had traveled from the East to visit his Uncle, Major Thomas Melvill Jr. at Galena, Illinois. Galena was a prosperous town inland a short distance northeast of the Mississippi River which steamboats reached by a six mile passage up the Galena River to pick up and deliver passengers and freight.

Melville's 1840 journey was made by steamer on the Great Lakes, inland waterway canals and by a steamboat on the Mississippi.

Melville's CONFIDENCE MAN takes place on April Fool's Day aboard a steamboat departing St. Louis for New Orleans. The title character appears in seven disguises and personalities in which he cleverly "wins the confidence" of passengers and the boat's barber in order to persuade them to make dubious investments from which only the con artist will profit.

Melville wrote this novel in his characteristic style which is dense in content and the conversations that the con artist engages each potential victim in are riddled with snares and ambiguities that require concentration from the reader.

Whenever any of the would-be "suckers" express doubt as to his genuineness the Confidence Man in any of his guises always comes up with lofty sounding denials such as this in Chapter 21:

"If you mean that I can in any way dupe you, or impose upon you, or pass myself off upon you for what I am not, I, as an honest man, answer that I have neither the inclination nor the power to do aught of the kind."

From some of the individual chapters I selected excerpts that have been edited and abridged to provide glimpses of the setting aboard the boat and the cast of characters.

I have limited my quotations primarily to those related to the steamboat and have not attempted to address the complexities of Melville's characterizations and events within the novel which is a formidable one to tackle.

For an in-depth analysis of the novel I recommend Professor Barry Goldensohn's "Melville's The Confidence Man and his Descendants in David Mamet's Work" which can be found online at this link: Google

What follows is a preview of the microcosm that exists aboard the steamboat Fidèle in Melville's CONFIDENCE MAN. A virtual solar system is represented in the last chapter with lamps suspended from the ceiling in the gentlemen's cabin in the last chapter:


from Chapter 1

On the first of April, there appeared a man in cream-colors, at the water-side in the city of St. Louis. He stepped aboard the favorite steamer Fidèle, on the point of starting for New Orleans.

A peddler was selling money-belts, one of his popular safe-guards, while another peddler hawked in the thick of the throng, the lives of Samuel Mason, the bandit of the Ohio, John Murrell, the pirate of the Mississippi, and the two Harpe brothers, the Thugs of the Green River country in Kentucky -- creatures, with others of the sort, who had all been exterminated by this time, however where the wolves are killed off, the foxes increase.

The barber of the boat, whose quarters, under a smoking-saloon, and over against a bar-room, was next door but two to the captain's office. This river barber, aproned and slippered, but rather crusty-looking for the moment, it may be from being newly out of bed, was throwing open his premises for the day, and suitably arranging the exterior. With business-like dispatch, having rattled down his shutters, and at a palm-tree angle set out in the iron fixture his little ornamental pole, jumping on a stool, he hung over his door, on the customary nail, a gaudy sort of illuminated pasteboard sign, skillfully executed by himself, gilt with the likeness of a razor elbowed in readiness to shave, and also, for the public benefit, with two words not unfrequently seen ashore gracing other shops besides barbers':--"NO TRUST."

from Chapter 2

Now the boat started on her voyage. The Mississippi amply flowing between low, vine-tangled banks, flat as tow-paths, it bears the huge toppling steamers, bedizened and lacquered within like imperial junks.

Pierced along its great white bulk with two tiers of small embrasure-like windows, well above the waterline, the Fidèle, might at distance have been taken by strangers for some whitewashed fort on a floating isle.

Fine promenades, domed saloons, long galleries, sunny balconies, confidential passages, bridal chambers, state-rooms plenty as pigeon-holes, and out-of-the-way retreats like secret drawers in an escritoire, present like facilities for publicity or privacy.

Her voyage of twelve hundred miles extends from apple to orange, from clime to clime, and at every landing, the huge Fidèle still receives additional passengers in exchange for those that disembark.

Staring crowds on the shore were now left far behind, seen dimly clustering like swallows on eaves; while the passengers' attention was soon drawn away to the rapidly shooting high bluffs and shot-towers on the Missouri shore, or the bluff-looking Missourians and towering Kentuckians among the throngs on the decks.

As among Chaucer's Canterbury pilgrims there was no lack of variety.

Natives of all sorts, and foreigners; men of business and men of pleasure; parlor men and backwoodsmen; farm-hunters and fame-hunters; heiress-hunters, gold-hunters, buffalo-hunters, bee-hunters, happiness-hunters, truth-hunters, and still keener hunters after all these hunters. Fine ladies in slippers, and moccasined squaws; Northern speculators and Eastern philosophers; English, Irish, German, Scotch, Danes; Santa Fé traders in striped blankets, and Broadway bucks in cravats of cloth of gold; fine-looking Kentucky boatmen, and Japanese-looking Mississippi cotton-planters; Quakers in full drab, and United States soldiers in full regimentals; slaves, black, mulatto, quadroon; modish young Spanish Creoles, and old-fashioned French Jews; Mormons and Papists Dives and Lazarus; jesters and mourners, teetotalers and convivialists, deacons and blacklegs; hard-shell Baptists and clay-eaters; grinning negroes, and Sioux chiefs solemn as high-priests.

Here reigned the dashing and all-fusing spirit of the West, whose type is the Mississippi itself, which, uniting the streams of the most distant and opposite zones, pours them along, helter-skelter, in one cosmopolitan and confident tide.

from Chapter 10

In the cabin were stools, settees, sofas, divans, ottomans; occupied by clusters of men, old and young, wise and simple; in their hands are cards spotted with diamonds, spades, clubs, hearts; the favorite games are whist, cribbage, and brag.

Wikipedia: "Three card brag is a 16th-century British card game, and the British national representative of the vying or "bluffing" family of gambling games. Brag is a direct descendant of the Elizabethan game of Primero and one of the several ancestors to poker, just varying in betting style and hand rankings."

from Chapter 20

The boat sided up to a landing, two passengers went ashore through an open guard, then "The plank's in, we're off." The huge boat, with a mighty, walrus wallow, rolled away from the shore, resuming her course.

from Chapter 45 (the last one in the novel)

In the middle of the gentleman's cabin burned a solar lamp, swung from the ceiling, and whose shade of ground glass was all round fancifully variegated, in transparency, with the image of a horned altar, from which flames rose, alternate with the figure of a robed man, his head encircled by a halo. The light of this lamp, after dazzlingly striking on marble, snow-white and round--the slab of a centre-table beneath--on all sides went rippling off with ever-diminishing distinctness, till, like circles from a stone dropped in water, the rays died dimly away in the furthest nook of the place.

Here and there, true to their place, but not to their function, swung other lamps, barren planets, which had either gone out from exhaustion, or been extinguished by such occupants of berths as the light annoyed, or who wanted to sleep, not see.

By a perverse man, in a berth not remote, the remaining lamp would have been extinguished as well, had not a steward forbade, saying that the commands of the captain required it to be kept burning till the natural light of day should come to relieve it. This steward, who, like many in his vocation, was apt to be a little free-spoken at times, had been provoked by the man's pertinacity to remind him, not only of the sad consequences which might, upon occasion, ensue from the cabin being left in darkness, but, also, of the circumstance that, in a place full of strangers, to show one's self anxious to produce darkness there, such an anxiety was, to say the least, not becoming. So the lamp--last survivor of many--burned on, inwardly blessed by those in some berths, and inwardly execrated by those in others.

As an "extra" illustration for THE CONFIDENCE MAN feature I located a sketch in the Murphy collection of the barber's domain aboard the RICHMOND (1867-74) that Mrs. Keyes wrote about in her novel STEAMBOAT GOTHIC.

You can insert the file of the illustration with the caption that I wrote for it between the 2nd paragraph in Chapter 1 and the 3rd paragraph which describes the barber's domain on the fictional steamboat "Fidèle" in Melville's novel. I put the text in italics as reference for you as to where the drawing goes above the paragraph about the barber in THE CONFIDENCE MAN chapters.



Original poster matted and framed here in the collection measures approx. 10 X 13 inches.

Ramona 1902-1932
Sternwheel Packet/Pleasure boat
Built 1902 at Cincinnati, Ohio
Dismantled below Cincinnati in 1932
Owned by Albert Bettinger

Text on the "FOR HIRE" poster for the RAMONA gives information about chartering her for cruises.

The portside view of the RAMONA from the Murphy Library shows off her profile very well.


Years ago I ordered a large print of this painting by Jay H. Matternes from National Geographic and have it framed downstairs.

It's endlessly fascinating to look at and frightening to anyone contemplating swimming in the Mississippi where the water is only this clear on the upper river.

Attached scan of the print to which I added National Geographic copyright.

Note the distant steamboat just above the waterline in the upper right half of the painting.

The painting was commissioned for this book:

The Mighty Mississippi. Hardcover
by Bern Keating (Author)
James L. Stanfield (Photographer)

Hardcover: 199 pages
Publisher: National Geographic Society, 1971

Painting by JAY H. MATTERNES Pages 150 - 51

Caption under the painting:

"Armored with hard, diamond-shaped scales, an eight-foot alligator gar glides near the surface of the Mississippi; another chases a young blue catfish.

Largest fish in the river, gars sometimes grow ten feet long.

Scaleless blue catfish, full size at left, may reach a hundred pounds or more.

The broad, flat snout of the paddlefish possibly helps stabilize its body as it sieves with gaping jaw for crustaceans and plankton.

Prowling for food, shovelnose sturgeons rake mud near the bank with sensitive fleshy barbels that help the weak-eyed fish detect snails, crawfish, and insect larvae; they vacuum the morsels through tubelike mouths.

Heavily ridged shells cover alligator snapping turtles.

One lures six-inch green sunfish with wormlike "bait," an extension of the tongue.

Breaking the surface of the river another turtle startles a mallard into flight."


This catfish "taxidermy" is in the "replica" category with accomplished air brushed detailing. The name of the artist who accomplished this was on a special plaque that I had made that used to be in the case with the catfish but that plaque is missing, hope it turns up so I can give the creator of the work proper credit.

Obtained this during the 90's in a store specializing in vintage hunting and fishing items in St. Charles, Missouri on the Missouri River. From the same dealer I also got a huge taxidermy piece of a "gar" that's in an outsized case inside a crate in the garage and hasn't been brought out to be photographed or exhibited yet.


Sheet music over for L&C Waltzes dedicated to the CITY OF LOUISVILLE, Way Number 1095 sidewheeler 301 feet long built at Howard Shipyards in 1894. Owned by Louisville & Cincinnati Packet Co., operated on the Ohio River between Louisville and Cincinnati. 72 staterooms, slept 160, could carry 1500 passengers on excursions. Set speed records between Louisville and Cincinnati upstream (9 hours 42 minutes) and downstream (5 hours 58 minutes) Lost in the ice at Cincinnati, Ohio on January 30, 1918.


Beautiful color lithograph promoting the GRAND REPUBLIC.

Way Number 2438

A side wheel packet with a wood hull, originally built as the GREAT REPUBLIC (Way #2438) in 1867 and then remodeled and renamed GRAND REPUBLIC in 1876. Owned by Captain William H.Thorwegan, she operated on the Mississippi River until she burned at St. Louis on September 9, 1877.


Marie Adrien Persac Steamboat Cabin Interior Louisiana State University

Gouache and collage on woven French-made paper Signed and dated lower left corner in white watercolor script, "A. Persac 1861" Dimensions: 17 in x 15/16 in

Frame: Period rosewood grained bolection molding matching known Persac moldings used ca. 1857-1861

Provenance: The artist, his son Octave Persac, his granddaughter Mamie Persac Lusk, LSH Museum of Art Loan: Louisiana State University Museum of Art Gift: Mrs. Mamie Persac Lusk, Acc. No. 75.8

"The saloon of the Imperial represents the height of luxury of steamboating at the middle of the nineteenth century."


The Wisconsin Historical Society has the following book (file on the cover attached) available to read in a facsimile at wisconsinhistory.org

George C. Nichols
Recollections of a Pioneer Steamboat Pilot: contributing to the early history of the Mississippi (La Crosse, Wis. : Tucker & Co., 1883)

A Mississippi Riverboat pilot looks back on his career, 1845-1883

Recollections of a Pioneer Steamboat Pilot

This short book contains the recollections of Mississippi steamboat pilot George C. Nichols, as recorded in the third person by an anonymous editor. Nichols was born in Ohio in 1824 and his family moved steadily westward until settling on the Black River in Wisconsin in 1840. Young George went to St. Louis that year to learn to be a riverboat pilot but soon returned north to work on the family farm for four years. In 1845, he returned to the river, beginning a decades-long career as a steamboat pilot for the Minnesota Packet Company; over the next 40 years he worked for many other firms on the upper Mississippi and its tributaries. Nichols' memoir discusses not only a pilot's duties and wages but also the early years of Fort Snelling, the fur trade, the Ho-Chunk, Sioux and Ojibwe Indians, lumber rafts, birth of Wisconsin river towns, and collisions and crashes between vessels. A long section describes the removal of the Ho-Chunk to Minnesota, in which he was personally involved.


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