Steamboat People: Jim Waddell as Mark Twain


Jim Waddell as Mark Twain in 2009 teleported in Photoshop back to Vicksburg in 1968 when the SPRAGUE still floated there.

More photos and illustrations of Jim Waddell:







Composites I made of Jim Waddell (Hannibal Missouri's Mark Twain for the Museum and the Cave) superimposed over historic photographs of steamboats, a movie still from THE GAMBLER FROM NATCHEZ (1954) and a color serigraph by Robert Addison of a derelict, sunken steamboat he called WESTERN WORLD.

Waddell and Gamblers SMALL FILE exp

Attached composite I created with three photos . . . two vintage images: first, a group of five poker players, second the inteior of an unidentified steamboat cabin and third a photo taken in September 2009 of Jim Waddell, a friend in Hannibal, MO who performs as Mark Twain at both the Mark Twain Museum and the Mark Twain Cave. I replaced the face of the second gambler on the left with Jim's face.

Jim is a gifted actor with an amazing memory and he has memorized many entertaining passages from the writings of Sam Clemens.

WADDELL-MARK TWAINStLouisHarborboat1902

Attached reduced file of Jim Waddell superimposed over the St. Louis harbor boat MARK TWAIN which Sam Clemens dedicated in 1902
The following brief history is adapted from Barbara Schmidt's twainquotes.com sit in a feature on Sam Clemens' Steamboat Career that Barbara and I assembled over a decade ago.
"In June 1902 Mark Twain/Samuel L. Clemens paid his final visit to the Mississippi River when he accepted an honorary degree at the University of Missouri in Columbia and helped dedicate a St. Louis harbor steamboat that was named in his honor.

Originally named ELON G. SMITH when new in 1873, this boat was renamed CITY OF ST. LOUIS while a harbor boat there; then renamed once more, this time MARK TWAIN in 1902 to celebrate what turned out to be the last visit Sam Clemens would make to the state of Missouri and the Mississippi River. In 1907 the MARK TWAIN was by the ERASTUS WELLS."


Attached frame captures from a short 3D film with Jim Waddell as Twain talking about inventor Nikola Tesla. I didn't realize that Tesla's last name was pronounced "Tezla" as Jim says it. The film had its debut at Hannibal's first Steampunk Festival on the last weekend in September this year, 2014. Available in both 2D & 3D versions on YouTube. If you got a pair of red & blue 3D glasses you can watch Jim as Twain talking about Tesla and also a film in both formats about the Steampunk Fest by Frank Elmore. Don't miss the 3rd video from 2007 featuring Jim giving Mark Twain's observations on U.S. politics.

Link to 2D video:

TWAIN & TESLA in 3D (for Red/Cyan-Blue 3D Glasses)

Link to 3D video:

Jim Waddell portrays MARK TWAIN as he recalls his encounters with the mysterious genius NIKOLA TESLA. Written by Jim and Directed by FRANK ELMORE for 2D and 3D presentations. The Video was produced in cooperation with the Hannibal History Museum.

The following video features Jim giving the opinions of Sam Clemens on American politics and Jim shares his own thoughts on the subject. Made by Julian Simmonds and his crew from the UK on the Mississippi shore at Hannibal in 2007.
The Telegraph

Nov 21, 2007

Actor Jim Waddell sits on the bank of the Mississippi and shares Twain's classic observations on business in Washington.

Film produced by Julian Simmonds of The Telegraph



Jim Waddell
Mark Twain at Jim Waddell

I grew up in northeast Missouri in a small town on the banks of the Mississippi River. I live in Hannibal now. I've been performing professionally since 1971. In addition, I've owned a restaurant in the French Quarter of New Orleans, been Mayor of a small town in southern Missouri, owned an art dealership in Florida, worked as a printer, newspaper correspondent, magazine editor, and crewed on a steamboat. I've been involved in at least a thousand other enterprises and they've all been fraught with peculiarity. I tend to be a purist in my delivery of Twain's material and prefer verbatim renditions to those that occur when a performer indulges in "artistic license." "The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightening and the lightening bug," as the venerable one says. I have a passion for historical research and an aggregate of sixteen years at Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO, which supplied me with an intimate understanding of the 19th century lifestyle. I perform regularly at the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum and the Mark Twain Cave, both in Hannibal.


The girls are from that still of the gals with Joseph Schildkraut from the 1929 movie "Mississippi Gambler." The surreal steamboat interior is composed of 2 Murphy photos that had been taken in the corridor off of the cabin and in the kitchen aboard the towboat CAPTAIN ALPHIN (1937-1948) that was built in Nashville for New Orleans-Ouachita River service.


In 2010 I got up at the crack o' dawn and took some photos of the Hannibal waterfront while the golden color of the rising sun washed over it. Situated Jim as a cut out over the "WELCOME" sign that greets passengers disembarking from the DELTA QUEEN and AMERICAN QUEEN etc. Touched out the drooping telephone wires etc. that interrupted the pretty sky and made it seem like "all's well with the World."


I took the background photo of Hannibal, MO from the Illinois shore looking southwest about 5 years ago. On the left is one of the church spires on the far right on top of "Cardiff Hill" stands the "Mark Twain Memorial Lighthouse." The photo of Jim was one of a dozen or so that local Hannibal photographer Georgia Degitz took of him upstairs in the Mark Twain Museum so I'd have some good likenesses of him to use in my composites.

The lettering floating in the sky is from an old license plate "Topper" that I had chrome plated. After photographing the "Topper" outdoors on the patio under the stripe'ed awning I opened the file on the computer and cut out the lettering in Photoshop then rotated it all to fit just so up yonder.

Have given the Visitor's Bureau in Hannibal permission to use some of my composites but don't believe they've taken me up on the offer yet.



This was a complicated composite . . . Georgia Degitz took the photo of Jim in a modern style chair. In Photoshop I put Jim into one of Mark Twain's own rocking chairs in the octagonal study that was built for him by his sister in law Susan Crane in 1874 on her Elmira, New York estate called "Quarry Farm" where the Clemens family spent their summers.

The window sill, flooring and hearth are all in that study where Sam Clemens wrote (among other works) portions of ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER & HUCK FINN as well as LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI.

The study overlooked the Chemung River valley and Clemens dearly loved his little sanctuary where he could work in blissful solitude away from his sometimes distracting family.

His daughters Susy, Clara and Jean were told to not disturb "Papa" while he was working but they discovered that if they were holding a kitten or cat in their arms when they entered the study that Sam would drop everything to play with the cat and visit with the girls.

I replaced the foliage outside the window with a Murphy photo of the steamboat CITY OF SAVANNAH (1902-1911) that evokes a "daydream" that Waddell as Clemens has conjured up from memory and the book that he's reading. The photo of the study was taken in 1903 when Clemens revisited the place to pose for photographs.

Photo of City of Savannah Courtesy of Murphy Library at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse Steamboat Collection Photographs


Have added Jim Waddell as Mark Twain to this evocative photo from the LaCrosse steamboat collection of three crewmen on the deck of the steamboat J.G. PARKE.



Sternwheel Snagboat/Towboat

Built in 1882 at Jeffersonville, Indiana by Howard Ship Yard

Owned by U.S. Engineering Department, Rock Island, Illinois

Captain William R. Tibbals (master, 1890-1895)
Captain "Billy" Mills (master, 1895- ? )

Ran primarily on the Missouri River

Way's Steam Towboat Directory Number T1250

Original price, $18,750. Home port or owner's residence circa 1882, Rock Island, Illinois. Off the list by June 30, 1904


The photo of Jim with "Tom Sawyer" was taken in the Cave, I believe it's from the Cave's website marktwaincave.com
The Cave's page devoted to Jim on that site is Mark Twain Live:
The photo of Jim in the composite was by Georgia Degitz and the steamboat background is a detail from my mirror image of Sebron's painting of New Orleans boats from 1850.


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