Steamboat Photo Postcards


Steamer SONOMA

Nice newly acquired and then enhanced real photo post card of the SONOMA Postmarked 15 December 1909 in Waterford, OHIO

SONOMA (1881-1913)

Way's Packet Directory Number - 5139
Sternwheel Packet

Built 1881 at Harmar, Ohio at the Knox Yard

Owned by Captain Edmund B. Cooper & Captain E.W. Webster

Captain Cooper ran her on the Ohio River, Parkersburg-Belleville.

In December 1892 she ran daily on the Muskingum River, Marietta-Beverly.

She also made some trips on the Big Sandy River.

In 1897, Captain Webster enlarged her at Parkersburg.

She made daily trips Marietta-Beverly from 1893 to 1909.

From 1909 to 1910, she ran Marietta-McConnelsville.

She sank, while down bound, at Lem Lawrence's landing between Beverly and Luke's Chute on April 19, 1910.

The LORENA took her freight and the towboat DARLING pumped her out.

In 1911 she ran excursions and substituted for the H.K. Bedford in the Pittsburgh-Parkersburg trade.

On May 12, 1905, she took Theodore E. Burton, chairman of the Congressional Rivers and Harbors Committee, plus ten others up the Muskingum River, 10 miles from Marietta.

By 1913, the SONOMA was in the Madison-Frankfort trade when she turned over and sank on the 3rd of May that year after she hooked a snag while backing out of a Kentucky River landing one mile above Glen Mary in Henry County. Captain Webster quit the river after the sinking.


Columbia River sternwheeler UNDINE circa 1915

Canada across the border to the north had a great deal of steamboat commerce on its lakes and rivers and especially on the Yukon River during the Gold Rush while in the U.S. territory of Alaska the Klondike River transported gold seekers, supplies and necessities of life to frontier settlers who would not have been otherwise reliably connected to the outside world.

The sternwheeler "Undine" on the Columbia River

April 29 - May 3, 1915

With more than 100 people aboard, the sternwheeler "Undine" was the first steamer to travel on the Columbia River from Portland, Oregon, to Lewiston, Idaho, during the week-long celebrations of the opening of The Dalles - Celilo Locks and Canal.

The "Undine" was the flagship to a long string of vessels participating in the celebrations. She left Portland, Oregon at 1 a.m. on April 30th and arrived in Lewiston, Idaho on the morning of May 3rd. On the return trip she led the "fleet" from community to community to participate in canal opening celebrations.

Contemporary newspaper account from "The Sunday Oregonian", May 9, 1915:

"... The Undine party left Portland at 1 o'clock Friday morning, April 30. The vessel passed through the Cascade locks at 6 o'clock in the morning and reached The Dalles about 10 o'clock. The vessel was delayed there for several hours on account of high winds, but about 3 o'clock in the afternoon left on the up-river journey. It took about four hours to go through the locks and waterways. The Undine's first stop was at Maryhill, Washington. The Undine reached Pasco, Wash., on Saturday night, with a brief call at Umatilla, Oregon in the afternoon.

On Sunday night they stopped about three miles below Almota, Washington after calling at Riparia in the afternoon for copies of The Sunday Oregonian.

At 10 o'clock Monday morning the Undine reached its objective point Lewiston, Idaho...

The Undine, followed by the steamer J.N. Teal and the Government vessels ... left at daybreak the following morning for the festivities at lower river points. ..."


The ELOISE on the upper Mississippi River 1908

One of my favorite real photo postcards. Postmarked Dallas City, Illinois - 12 August 1908

Sternwheel: Packet
Way's Packet Directory Number 1795;
Built in 1889 at Harmar, Ohio
Formerly the towboat ELIZA H.
After she was purchased by Captain Peel and others, she ran Keokuk-Burlington.
One season she sank in shallow water at Pontoosuc, Illinois and was afire once at Keokuk.
Sold to Captain Walter Blair in October 1907 and after some alterations was renamed WENONA.


This is a brand new real photo postcard which scanned up pretty well. John Hartford wrote an illustrated book about this incident called STEAMBOAT IN A CORNFIELD and probably a song by the same title as well. and in this photo the lookie-loos/curiosity seekers found the stranded steamer to be an irresistable tourist attraction. Imagine there were concessions selling beverages and popcorn etc. and postcards like this one must have been big sellers as well.

Here is the VIRGINIA's biography from Fred Way with detail on how she became stranded in the cornfield and eventually returned to the river.

Excerpted from

Way's Packet Directory Number

Sternwheel Packet boat

Built Cincinnati, Ohio 1895 235 x 40 x 7 Compound condensing engines, 15's, 33 s- 7 ft. Four boilers, each 42" by 20 ft. six flues each. Built by Cincinnati Marine Railway Co. Machinery by Griffith & Wedge, Zanesville, Ohio. Built for the Pittsburgh & Cincinnati Packet Line, construction superintended by Capt. J. Frank Ellison. Came out new on New Year's Day 1896.

She was noticed as being exceptionally quiet in operation, and we have heard Capt.William D Kimble remark that those in the office did not know whether she was in motion until they looked out the window.

She had 50 staterooms in the cabin and 10 more in the texas. Her cabin was done in white with elegant panels of a material known as Lincrusta Walton.

Also she was one of the first on the Upper Ohio to have a carbon arc searchlight contained in a glass fronted case with a reflector, called a White Squadron light imported from the Atlantic seaboard.

Paddlewheel 23 1/2 ft. diameter working 30 ft., buckets, staggered.

Had distinctive arch hogchains, an innovation later used on the QUEEN CITY KANAWHA, and others.

She had good water all 1896 and is said to have paid for herself that first season.

She struck a submerged bridge pier at Steubenville, Oh. on March 3, 1904, rupturing the hull, but prompt assistance from the local fire department and from towboats RAYMOND HORNER and IRONSIDES prevented her sinking.

She was the first packet to pass under the completed Wabash Railroad bridge, Pittsburgh, 1904 Her original fancy-topped stacks were replaced with plain 'towboat' stacks prior to April 1909 when she sank at the lower landing, Wellsville, Oh., on the 13th of that month.

The towboat RIVAL was sent down from Pittsburgh to assist but arrived too late.


The celebrated event of this boat's career came when she quit the river on the night of Mar 6, 1910 and was turned into a cornfield decoration. Captain Charles W Knox was master and Billy Anderson was pilot on watch. The river was in flood, and a landing was made at Willow Grove, West Virginia below Ravenswood to put off a passenger.

In departing, she sidled down over Williamson's submerged field and stuck.

In another week she was the Ark on Arrarat, high and dry, the river a half mile away steamboat excursions were run from St. Marys, Marietta, and Gallipolis with sightseers, and the B & O Railroad ran excursions to accommodate the curious.

The Pittsburgh contracting firm, John Eichleay Jr Co. was called in to move her back to the river, which was done, but she could not be launched because of the sandy riverbank soil.

A fortunate rise came in the Ohio River and lifted the boat back to its bosom.

The story of this epic is recounted with many photographs in the S&D Reflector issue March 1966.

Another feature story on VIRGINIA appears in the same publication s March 1973 issue, copiously illustrated.

She struck an overhead cable at the construction site of Dam 26, Ohio River Dec. 18, 1911, upbound, and knocked down her stacks and tore up the pilothouse.

After temporary repairs she continued to Pittsburgh and then returned to Pt. Pleasant, W Va., for repairs. At this time she was renamed STEEL CITY.

Shanty boat girls in men's clothing

This is an undated photo postcard that I won in an eBay auction. On the back is penciled "From Mary Vanpattan (to) Miss Irma Carpenter Sandford, Ind." Above these girls dressed in men's clothing Mary wrote their names in pencil. Mary herself is on the right and the one in the middle is Ethel Hay. The name of the one on the left is more difficult. There's an indecipherable squiggle in front of what seems to be the last name "Broeff" This was advertised as being 3 "boys" on eBay, the seller didn't look very closely. The first thing I noticed was the high heeled shoes, then the rolled up trouser legs and outsized coats. Very cute old picture taken aboard a house boat or "shanty" boat. Must date from the early 1900's. Know this isn't steamboaty although that must be a barge right alongside there.


J.S. 1910 real photo postcard. Lots going on at the landing.

steamboat illustration

The attached postcard of the Chester is one of the weirder ones with the bevy of young ladies, were the "Marquis girls" vaudevillians or "fancy wimmen"? . . . they're too old to be school girls. And why the Mexican straw hats? Captain looks like Will Rogers. I like the geezer with the huge beard that looks like a disguise.

In the margins is written:

"Lexington, Missouri, August 21 -1907 Captain Burton (Steamer Chester) Miss Alice Spencer Miss Fannie Pirner (?) Bates and Marquis girls on trip down Mo. River - August 1- 1907."


Postcard of the "Morning Star Bar" located in the "Steamboat Inn & Barge" restaurant at 12 Northwest Second Street in Evansville, Indiana. Picture taken between 1945 and 1954

Below the postcard is a photo of folks enjoying beer and cocktails. A young couple are playing a pin ball machine on the left. The girl is wearing cowboy boots and the young man is wearing a uniform cap and coat along with a pair of white bell bottom trousers.

This photo was taken from the bar area looking towards the street entrance with the tail end of the words STEAMBOAT INN visible on the window to the right.

The interior of the Inn was made from parts salvaged from an actual steamboat cabin, probably from the MORNING STAR. Have heard that after the place closed that the arches and other architectural details were carefully removed and put into storage somewhere in Evansville. Hopefully some day they will be resurrected and reassembled in a suitable place.


The Gordon C. Greene, Cincinnati.


This just in from a dealer in Germany, an unusual wintertime real photo postcard of the VALLEY GEM dated 10 November, 1913. On the right is a small frame building with signage painted on it: MUSKINGUM VALLEY TRANSPORTATION CO. Likely location was somewhere in the vicinity of Marietta, Ohio.

VALLEY GEM Sternwheel Packet

Way's Packet Directory Number 5535

Built for the McConnelsville-Zanesville trade on the Muskingum River in 1897 at Harmar, Ohio at Knox Yard From 1898-1917 she ran this trade, making one round trip a day.

Owners in 1898: Captain Newton Price, C.F. Siler; J.H. Shipps, Charles F. Hearing, H.S. Shaner and Lee Humphrey.

McLaughlin [first name unknown] was the (pilot in 1900)
Captain J. Orville Noll (owner and master, 1917-1918); T.M. Price (clerk)

Captain Noll bought her in 1917 to use in the Pittsburgh-Fairmont trade on the Monongahela River.

She was the last packet in the Fairmont trade. Destroyed by ice at Morgantown, West Virginia in February 1918.


Real photo postcard post of the excursion steamer CAPITOL at Sam Clemens' hometown.

post marked HANNIBAL JULY 6, 1940

Addressed to Mr. & Mrs. W.R. Finney Mansfield, Ohio


"Hi Folks
We're way down here in Missouri where it's hotter than blitzen.
Wish you were here.
Bob & Marialier"

I gather "blitzen" is used in one of the several German translations as "lightening." There are several ladies "Maria Lier" listed online including a Norwegian girl born in 1818. Bob's traveling companion may have made a "portmanteau" name by combining the two names which are still in use today.

Illustrated postcards


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