Pilot Houses, Page 2


Seven foot pilot wheel from the Missouri River steamboat PIN OAK upstairs in the River Room of the 1871 German School at the corner of 4th and Schiller streets in Hermann, Missouri. Taken during my October, 2007 visit. - Dave

recent acquisitions

Here's the October 1874 Scribner's Monthly pilot house of the Great Republic which as I mentioned we have in a smaller, less glorious incarnation in 16th place on Illustration1 in the museum of nautical steam-driven wonders.

recent acquisitions

Pilot house interior of the snagboat Horatio G. Wright featuring huge and impressive pilot wheel, what a Jim Dandy! The Wright was built 1880 at Carondolet, MO by Western Iron Boat Co. for the U.S. Engineers. It was dismantled in 1941. The man at the wheel is unidentified.

Horace Bixby spent the last years of his long career on the river as a pilot at the wheel of the Horatio G. Wright. Bixby was the pilot who "learned the river" to young Sam Clemens from 1857 until 1859 when Sam was awarded his Pilot's License.

recent acquisitions

This is from Keith Norrington's collection. As you know Keith is now Director and Curator at the Howard Steamboat Museum in Jeffersonville, Indiana. Behold! Pilot Harry English in the pilot house of the QUEEN CITY in 1918.

recent acquisitions

This photo of W.C. Fields as "Commodore Jackson" in MISSISSIPPI (1935), a musical/comedy co-starring Bing Crosby.

The art director evidently thought that a pilot house on a riverboat did not require windows in back to see what was behind the boat while it was navigating Ol' Man River.

The pilot wheel has to be authentic perhaps it was salvaged from a steamboat that had once plied the Sacramento River.

recent acquisitions

Aboard the U.S. Mississippi River Commission Inspection boat MISSISSIPPI. Pilot L.H. Sanders at the wheel in 1907 during the voyage of President Teddy Roosevelt. Favorite iconic pilot house interior!

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


Dave Thomson in the pilot house of the GOLDEN EAGLE in the early 80s as it looked when it was still on display in the Missouri Historical Society's museum in St. Louis. The pilot wheel is the only thing from this exhibit which can be seen there now. Hope someday the dismantled pilot house will be taken out of storage so it can be enjoyed in all its glory again.

NATCHEZ pilot house DT Oct 1989 HALF size EXP

NATCHEZ at N'awlins 1989 . . . Verne Streckfus is in the pilot house.

October 1989 is when Doc Hawley gave my brother Darryl and I the "behind the scenes" tour where tourists usually didn't go.


Attached my favorite photo of the pilot wheel from Fred Way's beloved BETSY ANN displayed in an alcove made of windows through which the Mississippi River can be seen.

Golden Eagle River Museum
Bee Tree County Park
2701 Finestown Road
Saint Louis, MO 63129

Some of the Golden Eagle River museum's collection of log books are now in the St. Louis Mercantile library. Among them are the logs of the steamers BETSY ANN, DUBUQUE, GOLDEN EAGLE. They also have the ledger from Cap'n Buck Leyhe's Eagle Boat Store.


Detail from the Betsy Ann pilot house.


TELL CITY's pilot house restored and preserved on the grounds of the Ohio River Museum in Marietta, Ohio.
Photographed by Dave Thomson in September, 1990
TELL CITY 1889-1917
Sternwheel Packet

Way's Packet Directory Number 5327

Built in 1889 at Jeffersonville, Indiana by Howard Ship Yard

Original price, $21,350. Home port or owner's residence circa 1889, Louisville, Kentucky.

She originally had double stages; changed to a single stage in November 1898.

She worked in the Louisville-Evansville trade and after 1895 was teamed up with the TARASCON.
In 1911 she was rebuilt and widened at Point Pleasant, West Virginia.

In September 1898 she sank in the Louisville-Portland canal and was pumped out by the towboat TRANSIT.
In 1916, after going under the ownership of Captain Hornbrook and others, she worked in the Pittsburgh-Charleston trade teamed up with the R. DUNBAR in the Ohio and Kanawha River Transportation Company. She replaced the KANAWHA which had overturned below Lock #19.

On April 6, 1917 the TELL CITY was down bound and had landed at Little Hocking, Ohio. Pilot Mike Davis ran into problems leaving the landing and was forced into shore just below the landing on the Ohio side, and hit with enough headway to knock down her stacks. She sank rapidly.

Her pilot house was saved and used as a summerhouse in the yard of a couple at Little Hocking, Ohio. Later the pilot house was moved to the grounds of the Ohio River Museum in Marietta, Ohio.



Attached scan from neg I took at the Missouri Historical Society of the GOLDEN EAGLE's pilot house with a mural of the St. Louis waterfront "outside."
Here's a Murphy Library photo of the GOLDEN EAGLE's "Daddy," Captain Buck Leyhe at the wheel in the same pilot house. It appears that the photo was taken at dusk, what little sky that's visible is pretty dark. My favorite Murphy photo of the GOLDEN EAGLE was taken at a wharf someplace. The seated me in the lower right may have been crewmen waiting for their pay checks. The gent in the light hat and suit standing on the front of the stage looks like he could have been payroll master. The fellow with the maritime cap could have been an officer from the EAGLE.

Originally the WM. GARIG (built 1904) was sold to the Eagle Packet Co. in 1918 and was renamed GOLDEN EAGLE when she was built in 1904. In May 1947 the EAGLE sank at Tower Island and passengers and crew were all evacuated safely. She had the distinction of being the last wooden hulled passenger steamboat to ply the Mississippi and tributaries.


With the exception of images credited to certain institutions,
most of the images on this page are from a private collection.
Please request permission before reproducing our images in any publication.*