1926 - Delta Queen (and Delta King) fabricated on the River Clyde in Glasgow, Scotland, and shipped to Stockton, California, for final assembly.
WWII - The US Navy uses her (and the Delta King) to ferry and care for the wounded in San Francisco Bay
1947 - Decommissioned; Delta Queen auctioned to Tom Greene, Greene Line Steamers; boat travels 5,000 miles from San Francisco Bay, through the Panama Canal, up into the Mississippi River.
February - Richard Simonton, a California businessman, buys a controlling interest from Letha Greene, Greene Line Steamers, to save the company from bankruptcy. Saturday Evening Post, Washington Post and Cincinnati newspapers publish articles about the sale.
Queen for a Day offers Delta Queen river cruise as a prize.
April - E.J. Quinby locates a steam calliope, makes a down payment in June.
Disagreements break out between Letha Greene and Simonton over management. Simonton, being separated by distance and preoccupied with other business matters, commissions E.J. Quinby to represent him as chairman of the board of directors.
Delta Queen begins its 1959 season with a Kentucky Derby cruise. Aboard the boat are Richard Simonton and James Maxwell (free-lance writer doing a story for Sports Illustrated.)
Perry-Brown hired for advertising and promotion campaign.
March - Simonton and Quinby arrange to purchase a steam calliope and refurbish it for a 1960 debut.
Queen for a Day holds a special program aboard the boat during Mardi Gras.
January - Andrew Lodder sells 36.75 shares of stock; Quinby buys it for cash. Lodder dies suddenly in July.
Quinby, Simonton and Perry-Brown fight legislation that would have permitted construction of bridges too low for the Delta Queen to clear (S 1126, HR 7153, HR 8962, HR 1843, HR 5963).
Feb. 23 - Calliope premieres in Memphis. Mayor of Memphis and 5,000 citizens turn out to hear it.
September - By the end of the 1960 season, the boat operates at full capacity and makes a good profit. Greene Line Steamers pays off bank mortgage.
E.J. Quinby winds up his affairs at Shepard Laboratory in Summit, New Jersey, to become more involved in Greene Line Steamers
Simonton continues as the majority stockholder, but limits his involvement to writing letters
The Delta Queen captain, Paul Underwood, resigns in the middle of the season; GLS hires Captain Wagner of the Avalon (he will begin in the 1962 season).
Simonton hires William Muster to work for The Pacific Network, Inc., Simonton's California company. Muster to take an active role in Greene Line Steamers after five more years.
April - Greene Line Steamers hires Betty Blake to handle promotion. She formerly worked for the Avalon selling passage and charter cruises.
Perry-Brown publicity fired; they continued as advertising agents only.
Jack Douglas Organization films a TV show about the Delta Queen.
Former Avalon captain Ernest Wagner becomes captain of the Delta Queen.
January 31 - Simonton has a second, and more serious, car accident. Although he keeps up active correspondence, he relies more on the help of Quinby and Blake to manage things for him. April - First steamboat race in 33 years between Belle of Louisville and Delta Queen.
Simonton commissions Harold Lloyd, famous comedian of early Hollywood, to act as one of the judges in the steamboat race.
At their annual meeting, the GLS stockholders' officially decided to look for a second boat. Simonton particularly interested in the Delta King; he and Quinby go to Stockton to see it.
Delta Queen wins the steamboat race by several miles when the Belle of Louisville's new boilers failed to work properly.
Simonton shifts management over to Blake, Quinby, and Greene.
May - Safety at Sea Act passes the U.S. House of Representatives and comes before the Senate. The Act, if passed by both branches, would force the Delta Queen out of operation. After consulting with lawyer William Kohler, Simonton, Muster, and Quinby traveled to Washington, DC, to try to save their boat. As chairman of the board of Greene Line Steamers, Quinby testifies before the Senate. Quinby successfully persuades legislators to add an amendment to the bill granting the Delta Queen a two-year delay in enactment. The company promises to either bring the Delta Queen up to modern construction standards or build a new boat to replace her.
September - Simonton, Muster, Quinby, and others announced plans to build a new boat at the annual meeting of the Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen, at Marietta, Ohio.
The Safety at Sea Act (PL 89-777) included various clauses defining safety disclosure and financial responsibility requirements. The law requires ships to disclose safety hazards to potential customers and keep adequate funds on hand to prove financial responsibility in case of any emergency. GLS works to comply with these requirements.
September - legislation for construction aid passed and signed by the president. GLS becames eligible for a government-insured loan to finance a new boat.
January and February - Muster writes numerous letters to legislators asking for complete exemption or at least a two year reprieve from Safety at Sea Law.
March - Bills were introduced in both the Senate (S 3102-Sen. Bartlett) and the House of Representatives (HR 15714-Rep. Sullivan) asking for an operating extension of two years. Other bills in the House were HR 15950 and HR 15580.
April - The senate passed S 3102 and it goes to the House; HR 15714 passes the House, then the Senate.
April - Bill Muster becomes president of GLS; Betty Blake becomes vice-president.
July - President Johnson signs HR 15714 into law (PL 90-435).
Delta Queen joins the dedication ceremony at the newly-completed St. Louis arch.
British writer and witch Sybil Leek initiates a scandal and curses the boat during the early part of the season.
May - Bids for a new boat exceed the resources of GLS, ranging between $8 - 10 million. Muster looks for a sympathetic company to buy the boat and finance new construction. He notifies Congress of an offer to sell to a Sacramento tourist operation. This evokes the sentiments of Rep. Leonore Sullivan (the boat's main congressional proponent), and she tries to help find a buyer who will keep the boat on the Mississippi.
May - Final negotiations to sell the boat to Overseas National Airways (ONA) begin. ONA president Stedman Hinkley agrees to build the new boat and operate both boats on the Mississippi. Muster issues a letter to Congress about the pending sale to ONA. The letter asks for further extensions, considering the setbacks and unexpected high cost of building the new boat.
October - Rep. Corbett, introduces HR 14002 to extend the life of the Delta Queen two years beyond the present deadline (Nov, 1970).
November - Muster closes the sale with ONA and announces his desire to resign after one year.
All year long, the company lobbies congress for another extension, launching a mass letter-writting campaign and petition drive. Over the year, a quarter million Americans participate.
April - U.S. Dept. of the Interior names the Delta Queen a national historic monument.
June 26, the September - Senate Commerce Committee unanimously approves HR 15424 (the Merchant Marine bill) with an amendment to save the Delta Queen. In the House of Representatives, Congressman Garmatz, chairman of the House Committee on Merchant Marine, refuses to hold hearings on any of the Delta Queen bills pending in his committee.
October - The Merchant Marine Bill goes to a joint House-Senate conference for final confirmation; Garmatz killes the Delta Queen amendment, despite a recommendation signed by 195 Congressmen favoring the boat.
Delta Queen sets sail on its final voyage - a 2,000 mile journey to New Orleans. City and state officials, high school bands, and throngs of sympathizers lined the shores in river cities and locks, and turned out to meet the Queen for the last time. The press followed the boat down the river and hundreds of articles appeared in local and national papers, and on TV. In New Orleans, jazz bands greeted the boat and gave her an official jazz funeral. Towboats, excursion boats, and fire boats followed the Queen to pay tribute. One Mississippi journalist wrote, "It was something like a New Orleans funeral where you didn't know whether to clap your hands and sing, or cry."
October - Sen. Marlow Cook tacks a Delta Queen amendment onto a private relief bill (Elmer M. Grade, HR 6114). The amendment passes the Senate and goes to the House. Because of the nature of the bill, it does not go to Rep. Garmatz's committee, but is considered by the judiciary committee instead.
December - When HR 6114 is debated before the House, Garmatz circulates a letter with a hand-drawn skull and crossbones to his colleagues. He warns that if a disaster ever strikes the Delta Queen, "the blood would be on the hands of Congress." (The incident of the warning letter is covered in the Cincinnati Enquirer and Cincinnati Post, Dec. 3; the December issue of Waterways Journal, and the Dec. 15 Congressional Record. Click here to see the letter.)
December 17 - The Elmer M. Grade bill passes 295 to 73, after a dramatic fight on the floor of the House of Representatives (covered in the Congressional Record).
December 31 - President Nixon signes the bill into law, giving the boat three more years to live. With the last-minute reprieve, Greene Line Steamers and ONA began to plan the 1971 season.
The year's media coverage includes the CBS Evening News with Roger Mudd, the NBC news, an ABC TV special ("This Land is Mine"), the Today Show, Life and Newsweek magazines, and a second-time front-page of the New York Times. The Washington Post and newspapers from nearly every state (including Alaska and Hawaii) covere the story of the Delta Queen with hundreds articles and editorials. Three movies and documentaries are produced, including one by National Geographic. A CBS-TV special called "America" features John Hartford singing "Gentle on My Mind," aboard the boat. Johnny Cash appeals to his ABC-TV show audience to save the Delta Queen and sings a song about her. An Oklahoma rock band called "Carp" writes Save the Delta Queen and records it on the Epic label ("Mr. Muster called it treason, he had a damned good reason, he was going to save the Delta Queen.")
April - the new season begins with two cruises chartered by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
April 29 - Victorious homecoming to Cincinnati. Mayor Willis Gradison proclaims "Delta Queen Day" and the city greets the boat with a red carpet. Media reports festivals and grand receptions in every town the boat visits throughout the year. Muster keeps in touch with legislators advising them of the public's enthusiastic response to the Delta Queen.
Aug. 6 - Senators Taft, Saxbe, and Scott introduce S 2470, asking for the boat's permanent exemption to the 1966 Safety at Sea law. (Similar bills are introduced in the House.) Shortly after S 2470 is announced, the US Coast Guard and Rep. Garmatz each publicly decry the move and vow that they will block any legislation favoring the Delta Queen.
September - Garmatz and USCG Chief of Marine Safety Admiral Rae try to discredit the Delta Queen, writing letters to constituents and colleagues claiming that Greene Line Steamers did not make promised repairs to the boat during winter layup. Their allegations spur negative editorials in several newspapers. Muster vigorously defends the Delta Queen by writing to legislators to explain the situation. He also writes rebuttals to Admiral Rae and Coast Guard officials.
Bill Muster produces a film called, Delta Queen, My Time Machine, and enters it in the Public Relations Society of America Film Festival. During the last four months of 1972, the film plays on numerous TV shows and private showings for groups, clubs, churches, etc. The boat also receives numerous articles and other media coverage throughout the year. (April of 1973, the film wins the Sunset magazine Certificate of Excellence.)
August - A bill for the boat's permanent exemption fails in August, but new legislation is immediately introduced by other senators. There is no major campaign to save the boat during 1972, besides PR and safety improvements. However, Blake and Muster lay plans for the 1973 campaign as the boat goes into winter layup in Cincinnati.
January - Greene Line Steamers, Inc. signs a contract with Jeffboat, Inc. to build the new boat.
February - Muster begins filming and writing a second Delta Queen movie.
March - Rep. Sullivan introduces several bills to extend the life of the Delta Queen for five years. Many congressmen and several senators follow suit by introducing similar bills. Simultaneously Greene Line Steamers announces their plans to build a new boat.
April - Legislators introduce more bills to save the Delta Queen. Throughout the year, Muster keeps up active correspondence with congressmen and senators. His letters kept them informed about pending legislation, safety improvements, and plans to build a new boat.
May 2 - A steamboat race between the Delta Queen and the Belle of Louisville. For the first time in five years, the Delta Queen wins.
May - The company unveils a model of the new boat
May - Letha Greene releases her book, Long Live the Delta Queen.
July - Delta Queen legislation passes the House and goes on to the Senate. In the Senate, the bill is heard, reported on, and passes all in one week.
August 16 - President Nixon signs the bill into law
September - Greene Line Steamers, Inc. officially changes its name to "Delta Queen Steamboat Company, Inc."
Nov. 11 - Dedication of the new hull at Jeffboat shipyards. Numerous legislators and other officials attend. Rep. Sullivan is guest of honor; 143 American newspapers cover the story, along with magazines, radio and TV.
December - Delta Queen went into layup for $1 million in repairs and safety improvements.
Construction on the new boat progressed steadily. Numerous press releases are issued throughout the year and national media followed the story.
Nov. 11 - the hull is launched and christened. February - Muster resigns as president of the corporation, but remains as a director.
The Delta Queen races several boats, including the Jullia Belle Swain, the Natchez, and the Belle of Louisville. She wins the race with the Belle, breaking a tie-record of five-to-five. Playboy magazine runs a humorous piece on steamboat races in April.
September - ONA asks Muster to act as a marketing and PR consultant. Muster also begins work on his own project, compiling the Travelers' Almanac. November - Press releases announce the new boat's name: Mississippi Queen. (The name is officially adopted the following March by a corporate resolution.)
Main activities of the year included building the new steamboat and meeting with various delays
January - Muster releases his first Travelers' Almanac with Rand McNally and a second version comes out at the end of the year. He continues with the steamboat company as a photographer and consultant.
April - Mississippi Queen christened.
January - Coca-Cola Bottling Company of New York buys the Delta Queen Steamboat Company.
May 1 - Coke appoints Betty Blake company president.
July 19 - Rep. Sullivan's HR 13326, asking for a five-year exemption for the Delta Queen, passes the House of Representatives 367 to 9.
October 1 - The bill passes the Senate on Oct. 1
October 18 - President Ford signs the bill.
July - Mississippi Queen Shakedown, Homecoming, and Maiden Voyages proceed on schedule. The boat suffers from numerous mechanical problems caused by faulty engineering and construction, thus it had to return to the shipyard for repairs.
When repair of the Mississippi Queen are arranged in November 1976, it's already too late for an adequate marketing job for 1977. Considering the difficult circumstances and shortness of time, Delta Queen and Coca-Cola officials ask Bill Muster to develop a last-minute marketing and advertising campaign.
April - Stan Thune of Coca-Cola Bottling appointed vice president and general manager for the Delta Queen Steamboat Co. The following month, the advertising account shifts back to Cincinnati.
May - Betty Blake wins the Woman of the Year Award from DATO.
July - Despite losing the account and suffering personal inconvenience, Muster testifies on behalf of the steamboats in waterways users tax hearings.
In a letter to Sullivan, Muster wrote: "I'm quite disappointed in Coke's handling and management of the Delta Queen and Mississippi Queen. . . . So far, they don't seem interested in my advice or in utilizing the experience of people such as Betty Blake. Instead, they keep blundering along, apparently with the hope that a miracle will happen."
August - Garmatz indicted on bribery charges.
August - Thune leaves the Delta Queen and returns to Coca-cola. A merger deal with Prudential Lines falls through, but one of Prudential's executives is hired to replace Thune as general manager.
October - Hinckley resigns as chairman/director of ONA. (Coca-cola never purchased ONA, only the Delta Queen.)
1978 - 2000
1979 - President Jimmy Carter takes a cruise on the Delta Queen; visits Hannibal, Missouri.
1979 - Betty Blake resigns in June.
1979 - Captain Wagner dies.
1979 - Richard Simonton dies.
1982 - Betty Blake dies.
1988 - Leitha Green dies.
1989 - Bill Muster dies (1926 - 1989).
1992 - Fred Way, Jr. dies (1901 - 1992).
1993 - Company acquires the bankrupt American Global Line, i.e. American Hawaii Cruises.
1994 - Company changes its name to American Classic Voyages.
1996 - Steedman Hinckley dies. The ONA CEO who oversaw construction of the Mississippi Queen in 1975.
Following is a brief summary from a news article that shows how American Classic Voyages saw itself as an extension of Greene Line Steamers, the original packet company that brought the Delta Queen to the Mississippi River in 1946. (Click here to read entire article.)
The tale of American Classic Voyages' rise and fall goes back to 1890, when the firm began as the Greene Line, a freight and passenger steamboat company. In 1946, the company bought the Delta Queen steamboat, a historic vessel built in 1927. In 1973, the company changed its name to Delta Queen Steamboat Co., and three years later it launched its second luxury steamboat, The Mississippi Queen.
In the early 1990s, Delta Queen Steamboat Co. began a series of dramatic changes. In 1992, the company went public, and the next year it expanded into the Hawaiian islands with the acquisition of the bankrupt American Global Line, which operated under the American Hawaii Cruises brand name. In 1994, the parent company changed its name to American Classic Voyages and launched its third riverboat, the American Queen, the next year.
In the late 1990s, the company began rolling out new cruises under the Delta Queen Coastal Voyages brand. The line offered small, luxury cruises off the East Coast and Pacific Northwest. American Classic Voyages' business plan, which drew cheers from some Wall Street analysts, was to build on its core market of older, affluent travelers -- a market that was poised to mushroom with the baby boomer generation heading toward retirement.
American Classic Voyages goes into bankruptcy.
May 7 - The U.S. Bankruptcy Court, District of Delaware, approves the sale of American Classic Voyages' steamboats Delta Queen, Mississippi Queen, and American Queen to Buffalo, N.Y. - based Delaware North Companies for about $80 million. Delaware North is a privately held firm with operating subsidiaries in food service, retail, sports and hospitality management in the U.S., Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Delaware North sells the Delta Queen, Mississippi Queen, and American Queen to Majestic American Line of Seattle, which had its own paddlewheelers, Empress of the North, Queen of the West, and the Columbia Queen; the parent company, Ambassador International, has an additional fleet of ships.
Aug. 1 - Majestic America Line announces that the Delta Queen would cease operations at the end of the 2008 season because of its temporary exemption not being renewed.
October - The steamboat community and several people people close to the 1970 Save the Delta Queen campaign re-group to save the Delta Queen one more time.
Save the Delta Queen Campaign continues.
April 24 & May 6 - Ambassador International announces that it will sell Majestic America Line, all the paddlewheelers together, or each boat separately.
Mary Greene dies March 30, 2009
January to April - Delta Queen docks in Chattanooga and begins to give shore tours; opens as a floating hotel. The boat is leased to the City of Chattanooga under the care of Harry Phillips and Sidney Sloane; parent company Majestic America Line is out of the picture. Any transaction to sell the DQ is being handled by an investment banking group called Stephens, Inc., of Little Rock.
Save the Delta Queen Campaign continues.
The Delta Queen continues as a hotel in Chattanooga, but went up for sale in August for $4.75m.* In May, steamboat fans spotted the American Queen in a government mothball fleet in Texas.* We heard the boat was repossessed after the owners defaulted on government-backed loans. Also in May, the Mississippi Queen was towed to Harvey Canal for dismantling.* The hull might be used for another boat.
Great American Steamboat Company, headed by Jeff Krida, buys the American Queen for $15 million and sets a date to put her back into service.
May - Xanterra Parks and Resorts purchased the assets of Ambassadors International Inc., including the Delta Queen and Columbia Queen, for $39 million cash. U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Delaware approved the sale in late May to the Greenwood Village, Colorado-based company that runs concessions and activities at national and state parks.
Steamboat American Queen begins travel, reinstating paddlewheel steamboat cruises on the Mississippi River system in April. She is re-christened by Priscilla Presley on April 27, and competes in the annual steamboat race May 2. Effective July 1, the Great American Steamboat Company is changing its name to the American Queen Steamboat Company.