Steamboat Photo Postcards

ALTON r.p.c

Attached scan of a real photo postcard that I plumbed and cropped for you. Self captioned by the photographer H.H. Bregstone of St. Louis.

The following information I edited from a profile provided on the Howard Museum site.

The ALTON was an excursion boat with a wood hull (241.1 ft. x 38 ft. x 7.3 ft.), that was built at the Howard Boatyards in Jeffersonville, Indiana in 1906.

She was owned by the Eagle Packet Company in St. Louis, MO and operated on the Mississippi River between St. Louis and Alton, Illinois.

She had an octagonal pilothouse and was famous for her speed, once traveling from the Eads Bridge in St. Lous to Alton, Illinois (about 33 miles) in one hour and forty-four minutes.

In October 1907, ALTON carried fourteen State governors from Keokuk to Memphis in the "Roosevelt Parade" which accompanied President Teddy Roosevelt down the Mississippi.

The ALTON was lost in the ice at Paducah, Kentucky on January 29, 1918.


Another original cyanotype (blue "proof print") postcard from my collection (the other one was of Miss Margaret E. Johnston aboard the HENRY M. STANLEY). This showboat card was post marked 22 April, 1910. I converted both these "blue" cards to gray scale to make them easier on the eye.

Cyanotype is a photographic printing process that produces a cyan-blue print. The process uses two chemicals: ammonium iron(III) citrate and potassium ferricyanide.

To find more photos and information about the New Sensation, visit the Showboat photo page - click here.


This just in . . . real photo postcard . . . post mark date is unreadable

Sternwheel Packet
Way's Packet Directory Number 5339

Built at Jeffersonville, Indiana by Howard, 1897
St. Louis and Tennessee River Packet Company (1897)
Kansas City-Missouri River Navigation Company (circa 1907-1908)

Built for the St. Louis and Tennessee River Packet Company; original price $8500; home port or owner's residence circa 1897 was St. Louis, Missouri. Under Captain Shep Green, she entered the Nashville-Evansville trade in opposition to the Ryman Line. She was in the boat parade from St. Louis to Memphis in 1907 when President Theodore Roosevelt went down the Mississippi River. During a storm at St. Louis in July 1907, she hit a pier at Eads Bridge and was damaged considerably. She was snagged at Little Blue Bend, Missouri and lost on September 11, 1908.

paddlewheel boat

Attached is a real photo postcard of THE NEW KLONDIKE which ran on Flathead Lake in Montana in the early 1900's. Dayton is a little village on the west side of the lake and Riggins was the photographer. He may have taken the photo at the outset of an excursion and then printed the cards while the boat was gone so he could sell them to the passengers as they left. Nice tidy little boat, wish we could see more of the sternwheel.

The ladies and little girls in white dresses and big hats make it interesting. There's a fellow on the dock talking to one or more passengers on the boiler deck above. A moment frozen in time . . .

paddlewheel boat

Here's a new pair of real photo postcards just in. The towboat ELINOR was built in 1905. On the first card the following was written in the right margin:

"Chief Engineer on the Boat since built 4 years ago 1909"

So that was consistent with the boat's history. The cards had been glued in an album apparently and there's black paper from the album pages stuck to the back of both of them. The only fragments of writing that I was able to read were on the second card (the first apparently had nothing written on it).

"Savannah, Illinois" on the top was the place it was evidently sent from and the words "yours, Dad" on the bottom signing off.

Probably the 2 cards were mailed together in an envelope so they didn't have to be addressed or postage attached to them.


A charming snapshot just added to my collection with the towboat ELINOR in the background; two young girls are standing in the foreground and a young man on the shore bending over the bow of a skiff he's holding onto in the middle ground. The snapshot is dated 1935 and on the back it is stamped MOEN PHOTO SERVICE - LA CROSSE, WISCONSIN (on the Mississippi River where this photo was probably taken).

paddlewheel boat

Latest real photo postcard off eBay at an unusually reasonable price, what a treat for a change. It's the SUSIE, designed by the Howard boatyards and shipped up to the Klondike disassembled and built up there. The SARAH and the HANNAH were Susie's sister ships (see citations from websites below), all 3 designed in the classic Western Rivers style to transport gold seekers during the Klondike Gold Rush. Iowa steamboat captain W.H. Bledsoe went up there and was sued for "breach of promise" . . . sounds like he "jilted" some lady he proposed to. I don't think they're doing much of that any more.

Interior Alaska

The Sarah, Susie, and Hannah were the queens of the Yukon River steamboats.

Ordered by the Alaska Commercial Company, they were built in Indiana and shipped to Unalaska where they were reassembled.

The 222-foot sternwheelers had 1,000-horsepower engines.

They served with style, from rich mahogany-paneled dining rooms to their monogrammed bed linens.

The boats were designed to carry 150 passengers, but sometimes as many as 500 persons were aboard.

Those without cabins slept where they found space

Excerpt from:
By Jerry E. Green

BLEDSOE, W.H., (Mississippi River)
1877, Born, Iowa (Federal Census, 1920, Iowa).
1900, Captain Bledsoe was from Davenport, Iowa. In 1900 he was pilot on the SUSIE with Captain Dolson (Waterways Journal, May 12, 1900, p 10).
1901, The Davenport Republican for Aug.11, 1901 has an interesting article regarding his being sued for breach of promise regarding his time in the Klondike.
1908, Master of the ST. MICHAEL (S&D Reflector, March, 1978, p. 43)

paddlewheel boat

I've also attached a postcard of the STACKER LEE which was a rather plain utilitarian steamer although the fancy style lettering of her name on the stern perks her up a bit.

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.

steamboat photo

Won this postcard on eBay. The highest I ever paid for one during bidding war, don't even want to remember how much it cost. Great picture of 3 boats at the Kanawha Dock, West Virginia. GEO. MATHESON, J.B. LEWIS and IRON AGE. Nice houseboat in lower right too.

recent acquisitions

This is the best of a set of three vintage photo postcard/snap shots of this mishap that I bought some years ago.

In the margin under the photo is written: "Feb-6th 1918"

On the verso is written:

"Str Liberty caught in ice against (old) bridge across Sunfish Creek. Boat had been put in creek for safety from flood waters."


Excellent real photo postcard of a boat which Fred Way said was "an attractive example of marine architecture." High praise indeed.


Frederick Way's Packet Directory Number2376
Sternwheel lighthouse tender

Built Jeffersonville, Indiana., at the Sweeney Yard, 1888.

150 x 26.5 x 3.7. Engines, 12's- 5 ft.

Two boilers. An attractive example of marine architecture.

Served the government lights on Ohio River and tributaries replacing the LILY. Capt. Owen F. Jolly was master in early years, then Capt. Leslie T. Hill, native of Aberdeen, Ohio was on her until the end. Harry Layfield, New Richmond, Ohio, went aboard as a striker engineer 1903, became chief 1912 and left her in 1917. William Handley was engineer for 22 years.
Decommissioned when the GREENBRIER was built in 1925, and sold to John Lyons, Middleport, Ohio. He moored her under the ice piers there, and in a flood she broke away and was lost. To see photos of the Greenbrier, go to davet-photos15.

Illustrated postcards


With the exception of images credited to public institutions,
everything on this page is from a private collection.
Please contact for permission for commercial use.*