A Legislative and Corporate History
From the Files of Bill N. Muster
and Richard C. Simonton
Muster & Simonton Delta Queen documents index - click here.
Delta Queen legislative and coroprate timeline - click here.
Summary: "The Delta Queen and its sister ship, the Delta King, were built in the early 1920s. The twins were designed to operate overnight between Sacramento and San Francisco where riverboating was comparatively unknown.
"The Delta Queen hull was fabricated on the River Clyde in Glasgow, Scotland, and shipped to Stockton, California, for final assembly. The superstructure of oak, walnut, teak, mahogany, and ironwood was completed in 1926 and the boat was commissioned by the California Transportation Company.
"After a memorable career carrying honeymooners, vacationers, businessmen, legislators, and freight along the Sacramento River, the Delta Queen entered military duty. The US Navy used her to ferry and care for the wounded in World War II in San Francisco Bay. She was decommissioned in 1947 and auctioned to the highest bidder: Tom Greene, then-president of Greene Line Steamers.
"After her more than 5,000 mile journey from San Francisco Bay, through the Panama Canal, up into the Mississippi and on to Pittsburgh, the Delta Queen was remodeled and re-outfitted at a cost of nearly $750,000. Then she embarked on a 20-year series of vacation voyages.
"Since then, the 285-foot vessel with 75 officers and crew and carrying 192 passengers, has logged nearly a million miles of leisurely travel. She has become a much beloved, adopted daughter of the waterways she now calls home."
The Delta Queen. . . A Steam-Powered Time Machine
by Steve Christensen
Repro, Fall, 1973
Read the highlights for this year or skip to 1958
Tom Greene, d. 1952.
Misc.: Paddle wheel brochure; 1936 passage ticket; calliope poster; Calliope; 1949 brochure; undated brochure; 1957 brochure; correspondence, Simonton: letter of gratitude to Letha Greene following his first trip. Also offers to convey her invitation to Tennessee Ernie Ford.
News Clippings: Circus advertisement, Sacramento Bee, June 2, 1927 announcement, Delta Queen and Delta King; Jan 26, 1924 front page Sacramento Bee article: "Plans Told for Construction of Big River Vessel"; June 2, 1927 front page Sacramento Bee article: "Hail to The King of the Sacramento, Reception Given to Mark Arrival of Palatial Boat"; Sacramento Bee, "Delta Queen Makes Home City Arrival, Reception Like That on Delta King Being Held; Boats Heavily Booked."
Summary: Richard Simonton, a California businessman, rode the boat in the summer of 1957. Desiring a second trip, he sent a letter and check to the ship's owner, Letha Greene. However, the boat was on the verge of bankruptcy and his request for passage was denied and check returned.
Upon receipt of this letter from Greene and simultaneously seeing an article about the boat's situation in Saturday Evening Post magazine, Simonton called Greene to offer financial assistance. Less than 60 days later, she came to California and he signed an agreement to become the majority stockholder and provide the cash necessary to save the boat.
The Post did a follow-up story describing the part they played in rescuing the boat. In late February, after Simonton closed the deal with Greene, Cincinnati newspapers covered the story. An article also appeared in the Washington Post.
Simonton, who lived near Hollywood, arranged free publicity by offering rides on the boat as prizes for TV game shows. The exposure from the first "Queen for a Day" show and other free publicity helped the corporation take a profitable turn during the first quarter.
Also in January, Simonton asked his associate EJ Quinby to locate a steam calliope for the vessel. By April, Quinby had tracked one down. It had been aboard the Island Queen steamboat, which sank in 1936. It was retrieved by the boat's calliopist, "Crazy Ray," and later acquired by a circus couple who offered it to Greene Line Steamers for $1,000. By June, Quinby made a $100 down payment.
Simonton and Quinby worked throughout the year scheduling free trips for game shows, negotiating with TV producers, and inviting reporters to ride the boat.
Disagreements broke out between Letha Greene and Simonton over management. Simonton, being separated by distance and preoccupied with other business matters, commissioned Quinby to represent him and smooth over difficulties.
Read the highlights for this year or skip to 1959
Correspondence: Simonton to Greene to make reservations, also regarding contacting Tennessee Ernie Ford; to Quinby asking for help in managing the DQ if he buys it, also mentions buying a calliope; to Tennessee Ernie Ford (a neighbor) inviting him for a free trip on DQ when it visits Tennessee.
Correspondence: Simonton to Quinby asking for his help in managing the boat and finding a calliope.
News Clippings: Saturday Evening Post article by James Maxwell, andTake Five brochure; Cincinnati Post, "Delta Queen Sold, Will Stay Here," other articles; Feb. 23 Cincinnati Enquirer, "Delta Queen 'Saved'; Cincinnati to Stay Its Port"; numerous similar articles including The Washington Post; several small articles (including Variety magazine) about Greene's visit to Hollywood and the possibility of a TV series about the DQ.
Correspondence: Simonton to James Maxwell, a free-lance journalist, asking for reprints of an upcoming Saturday Evening Post article about the DQ; to friends explaining his involvement with DQ and asking them to join him for a summer cruise; to Waterways Journal asking for their clippings on DQ and explaining his involvement; to Saturday Evening Post, including an account of events leading to the purchase of the boat; to The Washington Daily News sending photos of DQ (publicity arranged by Quinby); three letters to Greene regarding publicity ("Queen for a Day," etc.), wharf contract, and new boat steward.
Doc: Simonton purchase agreement to buy GLS stock.
News Clippings: "Inland Rivers," Steamboat Bill of Facts (Journal of the Steamship Historical Society of America); several articles regarding Quinby and Simonton saving DQ.
Correspondence: Quinby to Simonton regarding calliope purchase; Simonton to Quinby, two letters regarding QFD publicity, other PR, cruise bookings; "Honorary Mate Certificates," five letters to Greene regarding QFD, "What's My Line?", meeting with NBC in Cincinnati, financial, insurance; Perry-Brown, PR company, regarding meeting with NBC in Cincinnati; with Maxwell exchanging news about PR; to Norman Hoover, lawyer, regarding financial, insurance, PR, QFD; to PR companies; from Farny Wurlitzer/Letha Greene regarding availability of staterooms.
News Clippings: Saturday Evening Post reprints; "Saga of a Queen" pictorial in the Cincinnati Enquirer; other articles about saving the DQ.
Correspondence: Simonton to Greene regarding NBC, QFD, other PR, details of his mother's arrival; three letters to Quinby regarding meeting with NBC, PR strategy, QFD, meeting author Virginia Eifert, promotion plans, visit to DQ with his mother; new steward, Ohio River flood, purchasing GLS stock; PR company; two letters to his mother regarding PR, management of DQ, her cruise and reaction to gossip on DQ.
Docs: PR materials, outlines, etc., agreement with Perry-Brown, QFD script.
News Clippings: Several general articles regarding DQ river cruises; Popular Mechanics, article regarding DQ going out of business.
Docs: Film Proposal, Perry-Brown Service Agreement.
Correspondence: Simonton to Greene regarding "Wanderlust" and other TV shows, upcoming DQ trip with family; to Quinby regarding DQ stock, recent PR, management, sales; to friends and acquaintances; invitation to author Virginia Eifert; confirm invitation to reporter Dave Roberts; to Bill Burrud Productions regarding travel show; two letters from reporter Kent Previette, with story about Simonton saving the DQ, "The Queen's Angel." Quinby to Somers with down payment on calliope. A series of letters to and from Perry-Brown to arrange PR engagements. Memo from Howard Nadel of Perry-Brown, reporting "scuttlebutt" from recent cruise.
News Clippings: Steamboat Bill, "Delta King Land-Bound at Kitimat"; three Pittsburgh papers on DQ expected arrival.
Correspondence: Simonton to Greene regarding costs for TV promotion, company operations, pre-season PR; to Quinby explaining management problems at GLS (Simonton trying to "change things" by hiring new people, etc.). Correspondence with Perry-Brown regarding PR opportunities, disagreements with GLS over paying travel expenses for free promotion ("the entire conception of paid public relations work is foreign to them"), budget.
Simonton to Maxwell, journalist; to friends and acquaintances; two letters to Andrew Lodder regarding GLS business ("I am sorry to hear that the kids on the wharf boat have Perry-Brown all undone, it is senseless to do that."), also regarding legal matters; to Norman Hoover regarding GLS accounting and administration; to AJ Wasley describing a July 11 tornado in Cincinnati. Quinby to Wall Street Journal; to Detroit News; to "The Price is Right" TV show.
News Clippings: "Rescued Queen Rides River Again," Citizen Magazine, and several other promotional articles.
Correspondence: With Quinby: First letter (8/8/58) describes situation at GLS: a rift between Andrew Lodder and Letha Greene, Gene Pothier resignation, ("things can't go on the way they are: there's just too much dissension and too great a need for real regarding-organization and closer control on the management."), asks Quinby to become more involved ("What we reallyneed is your brand of diplomacy and tact."). Quinby to Simonton (8/11/58) regarding his involvement ("I would be very enthusiastic over the project."), also describes meeting Garland Kimball, a New York executive who once worked with GLS. Two more letters, Simonton to Quinby, discussing management at GLS, and other PR matters.
Correspondence with Greene: Following a telephone conversation (8/7/58) offering to sell back his interest and quit, also cautioning her to save money for winter. Greene to Simonton (8/11/58) stating that she would rather sell the boat to another party than buy back the stock herself. Letter also discusses various aspects of management and finances.
Two letters to Andrew Lodder on GLS management, 8/26/58 ("Yesterday I sent a telegram to Madame President stating that I was herewith appointing EJ Quinby as spokesman for the majority, and any decision he made would reflect my wishes.")
Other Correspondence: Maxwell; a DQ passenger.
News Clippings: Wall Street Journal, "Delta Queen Proves Old-Fashioned Cruise on River Still Lures Tourists, Turns Profit"; color spread, "Good Eating on the Mississippi," in This Week, a syndicated Sunday supplement carried by 37 US papers.
Correspondence: Simonton with Greene regarding Bill Burrud Productions' film, "Wanderlust," other promotion; Greene to Simonton acknowledging Quinby's help.
Quinby to Simonton (9/3/58): nine-page letter giving details of his visit to Cincinnati. ("Mrs. Greene and Lyle at first were ready to throw in the sponge and wind up the business, by offering its assets for sale, and Mrs. Greene was ready to resign her office of President and let someone else struggle with the problems of the Greene line. But before I left, their whole attitude had changed").
Simonton to Quinby: four letters discussing GLS management, especially Greene's son-in-law acting in capacity as temporary steward. ("There is a question in my mind about whether or not Mrs. Greene can administer things from the wharf boat. She has a blind spot where any of her family is concerned, even Jack Cleary, and he can get his own way with her in almost any matter. Jack will not observe the chain of command") (9/24/58)
Correspondence with Perry-Brown regarding: This Week spread, 1959 brochure, GLS management, recent PR, etc.
Other correspondence: to Andrew Lodder regarding promotion films; to other reporters, friends and acquaintances; rewrite of Kent Previette's story, "The Queen's Angel"; with author Eifert regarding her trip on DQ; to his mother regarding family news.
News Clippings: Rock Island Daily News, "Delta Queen: Plush Reminder of River Heyday"; "Savior of the Delta Queen," by Kent Previette, Sunday magazine (syndicated supplement); Quinby and calliope, Elizabeth Daily Journal.
Correspondence: Simonton to Greene regarding new Queen for a Day winner and promotion; GLS management.
Simonton to Quinby (two letters) discussing GLS management and banking matters, especially Jack Cleary ("He puts his Jaguar on board and goes down stream for a distance, then roars off and home; but while he is on board he makes the deck hands polish his car, and you can imagine the love they have for him. . . . He'll get a club on the back of the head from some of them"). Second letter regarding Greene's resignation letter (I wish Letha had the gift of frankness, so she could lay all issues squarely on the table and we could look at them in a broad sense. . . . [There] seems to be no immediate problem, and we can discuss it when we get a chance to talk sometime in December."). Also discusses other GLS matters.
Four letters to Perry-Brown regarding QFD promotion, second Bill Burrud Productions show; two to The Pilgrimage Garden Club regarding filming a TV show during a stop in Natchez.
Correspondence: Simonton to Greene (two letters) regarding QFD, other PR and management topics. Three letters to Quinby regarding planning a charter trip for Crown-Zellerbach Paper Co. in the spring; offering him five shares of GLS stock, discussing other PR, his itinerary. Three letters to Crown-Zellerbach regarding charter trip and other business matters. Cordial letters to Captains Paul and Harris Underwood. Letters to friends reporting progress in Delta Queen project; to reporter in Pittsburgh offering assistance in preparing an article.
News Clippings: "Local Man Tells of Trip Aboard Delta Queen," by Arthur Wasley (friend of Simonton); "The Queen is Saved," Columbus Dispatch Sunday magazine.
Correspondence: Simonton to Greene regarding QFD invoice, film, his itinerary; to QFD producer; from a friend regarding booking DQ.
Docs: Steamship Historical Society roster, financial statement.
Promotional materials, press release on DQ rescue, wired to Saturday Evening Post; press release on upcoming cruises.
Docs: "Promotional Plans for Reactivating the SS Delta Queen," by Perry-Brown; manuscript of DQ story; press release to accompany 1958 cruise brochure.
News Clippings: "Purchase Price of DQ Reported at $200,000"; "Young Man River," by Kent Previette; "Delta Queen Rides Out Rough Financial Seas," Cleveland Plain Dealer; photo/caption, St. Louis Dispatch.