The Julia Belle Swain, Belle of Louisville and Delta Queen offer a group hug to the Mississippi Queen. Here is a quote about this photo from the July 1975 edition of ONA Horizons, publication of Overseas National Airways:
Mississippi Queen Christened: The first christening in 49 years of an overnight passenger steamboat took place when the Delta Queen Steamboat Co., ONA's subsidiary, christened the Mississippi Queen on April 30 at the Louisville Public Wharf. Congresswoman Leonor K. Sullivan (D-Mo.) a good friend and strong supporter of steamboat tradition, was an honored guest and performed the actual christening of the new sternwheeler. John Warner, Chief Administrator of the american Revolution Bicentennial Administration (ARBA) presented Steedman Hinckley with ARBA flags for both the Delta Queen and the Mississippi Queen and with certification that both sternwheelers are ongoing parts of the American experience. Representative Sullivan read a letter from President Ford; he wrote, "As a sister ship of the Delta Queen this steamboat is a tribute to the heritage of America's inland rivers."
Editor's Note: New information has come out about the Mississippi Queen. The boat has been decommissioned and is allegedly now sitting in a boatyard in Texas being disassembled.
Buzz is that the Overseas National Airways (ONA) was a CIA operation and that Steedman Hinckley was a CIA operative. ONA allegedly carried troops and supplies during the Vietnam War into places where they could be shot down if they flew as military aircraft. However they could fly safely under the guise of a civilian airline.
ONA had to make some legitimate charter flights carrying civilians, to quell suspicions about the nature of the airline. Any money they earned from carrying civilians had to be laundered to make it disappear. Buying Greene Line Steamers and building the Mississippi Queen were a convenient way to get rid of the money.
This would explain why Hinckley told Bill Muster (my father, president of Greene Line Steamers) to "stay out of it" with his suggestions about how to build the Mississippi Queen, and "just run the Delta Queen." My father quit because of the way ONA treated him and all the mistakes they made in building the Mississippi Queen. The boat was too big and went about $24 million over budget.
I swear on a stack of Bibles, our family never knew of any CIA connection. I flew with a friend to Europe and back on ONA in 1972. My father died in 1989 and would have told me Hinckley was CIA if he had known.
The Mississippi Queen was never mean to be functional - and it was not for most of its life. If I had my way, I would purchase the MQ right now and turn her into a CIA museum. - Nori 10/28/2007
Feedback from a family friend who was around when they were building the Mississippi Queen - 10/29/2007
I don't know anything about that and I don't think Betty [Blake], Bill [Muster] or [Richard] Simonton knew anything about that. From what I remember is that ONA was a charger airline taking groups of passengers to Europe, it may have been used for troop or military transfers but that was mainly a company I think was called "Air Lift."
As far as I remember the story Stedman Hinckley's father bought him the airline and I think by the time ONA or Stedman bought the boats the company was already operating under the name of the Delta Queen Steamboat Co. and the original design drawings of the Mississippi Queen were already completed.
Stedman wanted to increase the passenger load of the boat and redesign it by putting on an extra deck and making it longer, which compromised the structure of the boat. He had put one of his friends, a Greek man I don't remember his name. in charge of the construction of the boat. Apparently he didn't have a clue about boat building and made several mistakes. As you remember, Stedman sold the company to Coca Cola before the MQ was finished.
I never heard anything about Stedman other than he was the son of a very rich man and very spoiled, he was also married to a Swedish woman.