Steamboats in Advertisements, page 1


Cornwell's BETSY ANN for Early Times is borrowed by Schmidt's Beer

Another nameless commercial artist harvested Dean Cornwell's painting of the BETSY ANN entitled "Kentucky River Boat" of for a 1952 True Magazine Ad for Early Times Whisky. This time the product was Schmidt Beer and this is from a "proof" print on metal for a beer can 4.75 x 6.60 inches printed in the "Keglined" process for Jacob Schmidt Brewing Co. St. Paul, MINN. The reference to the "Great Northwest" suggests the theme of the beer was the Columbia River between Washington and Oregon although steamboats in the Northwest have a somewhat different "style." This faithful representation of the BETSY puts it more towards the Midwest and South on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.

The Schmidt Brewery was originally known as the Christopher Stahlmann, Cave Brewery. A brewery first appeared on the site of 882 W. Seventh Street in Saint Paul, Minnesota in 1855, becoming the Jacob Schmidt Brewing Company in 1900. (Wikipedia)


"Widescreen" print ad 11-1/2 x 26 inches, probably intended to be framed and hung in bars to tantalize the taste buds of customers into ordering a glass of "1843" brand bourbon. Scanned in 2 parts, left and right and cobbled together then reduced to suit your requirements. Nice detail on the sternwheel, the row of little windows across the back is different, looks like an "excursion" steamboat.

Hiram Walker Imperial Wiskey advertisement with steamboat illusration
Detail of a Hiram Walker Imperial Whiskey advert. Even more emphasis on idealized nostalgia here.


J.M. WHITE pictured on a wooden Geo Dickel Whiskey presentation box

During the 1980's I purchased a wooden case with sliding lid that had contained a bottle of George Dickel Tennessee Whisky. There was a specialty shop of artisans here in the valley that made props for motion pictures and created art required for them. I commissioned the shop to paint the steamboat J.M. WHITE as it was pictured on the box, referring to a painting by John Stobart for the style and appearance. A deluxe frame shop in Montrose cut the custom matte to fit around the shape in which the graphic and lettering were positioned. Dimensions are 8 x 11 1/4 inches.


1945 ad for Band Instruments with illustration of a Showboat

Print ad for H.N. White Co. of Cleveland, Ohio who made the KING brand Band instruments. This was from a 1945 trade weekly subscribed to by entertainers such as musicians and singers.

Features an illustration of a night scene with a showboat at a rivertown wharf.

Sample of text:

"When the Show Boat Came to Town . . . 'Old Man River' Echoed to the strains of King Instruments."

"Let's join the folks who come from near and far to cheer the heroine and hiss the villain who seeks to do her wrong."


4-1/2 inch diameter tin that holds 3 1/2 ounces from the Scandinavian Tobacco Co. distributed by HOLLCO in the U.S. The scan picks up scratches etc. not visible to the naked eye. I'll try a digital photo as well, it might look prettier. What "Finest Old Belt" is I don't know although if you shredded a leather belt; put it in a pipe and ignited it, the result when you inhaled the smoke would probably be very much like "ta'backy."


"Old Hickory Whisky" ad


Old Crow Whiskey advertisement featuring a sidewheel steamboat on the Kentucky River

Illustration of a single stacked steamboat evidently based on Hippolyte Sebron's 1850 of a twin stacked steamboat named GIPSY at New Orleans for an Old Crow whiskey magazine advertisement, likely from LIFE circa the 1960's.

I have changed the spelling in caption to reflect common steamboat usage, so now "SIDE-WHEELER" is "SIDEWHEELER" and steam boat is "steamboat."

"JAMES CROW LOADING A KENTUCKY RIVER SIDEWHEELER Pioneer distiller James Crow supervising a shipment of his famous whiskey which travelled by steamboat and iron horse to the far corners of the land."

Old Crow whiskey ran many illustrated advertisements, many of which included Sam Clemens (Mark Twain). The Captain or clerk, seated on the right entering an inventory of James Crow's outgoing barrels of whiskey into a log book, bears a resemblance to Sam Clemens with the aquiline nose, big mustache and luxuriant hair but Sam was considerably younger circa 1850 and further West on the Mississippi River, not the Kentucky River.

The Glenn's Creek Distillery and the Old Oscar Pepper Distillery where James Crow where James Crow practiced his distillation techniques were on Glenns Creek and east of the Kentucky River. Have not come across any mention of whether Glenns Creek was navigable or not and the wording of the caption suggest this scene is set on the Kentucky River, perhaps at or near Frankfort.

Glenns Creek empties into the Kentucky River south of Frankfort, Kentucky, just above present day Interstate 64. Among the creeks that feed Glenns Creek i are Camden Creek and Buck Run.

Born in Inverness, Scotland Doctor James C. "Jim" Crow (1789-1856) may be loosely credited as the person who perfected the sour mash process used in creating bourbon whiskey. There are no historical records pin pointing him as the creator. Earliest records, in fact, cite Catherine Carpenter of Casey County, KY in 1818 as the first documented user of the sour mash method at her families' distillery. [1]

Dr. Crow, a Scottish chemist-physician, graduated in medicine from Edinburgh University in 1822. He moved from Philadelphia to Kentucky in 1823 and began working for a distiller, bringing his scientific and medical training to the process.

According to The Kentucky Encyclopedia, Crow began experimenting in 1835 at his Glenn's Creek Distillery in Woodford County Kentucky with a saccharimeter to measure sugar content. This litmus paper test to determine the mash acidity resulted in Crow's decision to age his "Old Crow" whiskey before selling it.[2]

Crow moved to the town of Millville and for the next twenty years he was in charge of the Old Oscar Pepper Distillery, now known as Woodford Reserve. Later he went to work for the Johnson Distillery. That distillery eventually became Old Taylor. He worked there until his death in 1856.

Jump up Filson Historical Society, Louisville, KY
Jump up The Kentucky Encyclopedia - University of Kentucky Press - 1992 pg 266



I obtained this ad with the text in both English and Greek for SOUTHERN COMFORT from Panagiotis Skoufezis in Rhodes, Greece. It that came out of one of the 12 issues of the Greek edition of PLAYBOY during the calendar year 1990.

"an American liqueur made from neutral spirits with fruit, spice and whiskey flavoring. A brand originally created by bartender Martin Wilkes Heron in New Orleans in 1874."

The photo of the JULIA BELLE SWAIN was a "mirror image" so the name at the stern was flipped over in the ad. The lettering of the boat's name on the ad looked pretty shabby when flipped back to normal so I processed the name from one of my own photos of the JBS and finessed it into position.

This ad is printed on very thin paper for a Greek language magazine so what we're seeing (not too faintly) are mirror images of some of the letters that spell "ROBE di KAPA" a company which makes apparel for sports and casual wear) from the reverse side of the page.


1990 Advertisement Southern Comfort The Spirit Of The South Natchez Riverboat

1990 French Canadian Advertisement for Southern Comfort entitled "The Spirit Of The South. The montage includes a bottle of the liqueur, the steamboat Natchez of New Orleans, a Southern Belle & 5 Hearts from a deck of cards that constitute a Royal Flush: 10♠ J♠ Q♠ K♠ A♠ Ace-high straight flush (Also called a Royal Flush) In the background is a map including portions some of Southern States. Thee young lady is standing in front of the state of Louisiana, the names of the states of Mississippi and Alabama can be seen, while Arkansas, Texas, Georgia and Florida can only be glimpsed.

recent acquisitions

Promotional solid oak "walking stick" put out by Southern Comfort probably about 20 years ago. It is topped off with a heavy metal knob bearing a bas relief of a sidewheel steamboat which appeared in an oval print of a painting that was part of a large Southern Comfort mirror that is also on this site.

The diameter of the heavy knob of the walking stick is 1.60 inches, the height of the knob 1.70 inches. The overall length of the walking stick is 34 inches, the oak portion tapers from 1 inch beginning just below the knob to .60 inches at the tip.

steamboat illustration
This was a printed graphic that was vignetted in a Southern Comfort advertising mirror hung in "saloons" and/or bars. The pilot house and its windows are a bit small but you can't have everything.

Kaywoodie pipe advertisement with steamboat illustration

This 1945 ad for Kaywoodie pipes uses a still from Steamboat Round the Bend, starring Will Rogers. Kaywoodie did the colorization.


Detail from the Kaywoodie pipe ad which included a colorized still from STEAMBOAT ROUND THE BEND.


Advertisement from the Saturday Evening Post May 31st 1958 page 79

The following is featured on SAMUEL L. CLEMENS' STEAMBOAT CAREER

by Barbara Schmidt and Dave Thomson
on (1) (2)

When a pilot "calls for the lead" he gives the command with a signal from the whistle or bell. Soundings are taken from either side of the boat, and when necessary from both sides. One signal from the pilot house sends a leadsman to the starboard (right) side, two signals to the larboard (left or "port" side).

The same signals from the pilothouse recall the leadsman from his post.

Soundings are taken at the discretion of the pilot, when making a crossing, going through seldom used chutes, or at any time when there is doubt regarding the depth of the water. When a leadsman is at work the pilot expects to be informed of the depth of the channel about every hundred feet.

Throughout the leadsman's chanting, pilots listen hopefully for "No Bottom." To them this is the leadsman's sweetest song.

When a boat can be kept in deep water the danger of going aground is avoided.

From "Steamboatin' Days - Folks Songs of the River Packet Era" by Mary Wheeler. Louisiana State University Press, 1944.


The soundings as "sung out" by the "Leadsman":

"Quarter Less Twain" - ten and one-half feet

"Mark Twain" - twelve feet (two fathoms)

"Quarter Twain" - thirteen and one-half feet

"Half Twain" - fifteen feet

"Quarter Less Three" - sixteen and one-half feet

"Mark Three" - eighteen feet (three fathoms)

"Quarter Three" - nineteen and one-half feet

"Half Three" - twenty-one feet

"Quarter Less Four" - twenty-two and one-half feet

"Mark Four" (or "Deep Four") - twenty-four feet (four fathoms)

"No Bottom" - over twenty-four feet


Paper label 3 1/2 x 4 1/4 for Cook's Goldblume Beer brewed in the Ohio River city of Evansville, Indiana.

Cook's Goldblume Beer:

F.W. Cook Brewing Co. was located at 11 NW Seventh St., according to Donahue Studios 1940s Photographs. The company was initially established under the name of Cook & Reis, after F.W. Cook and Louis Reis. The History of Vanderburgh County, Indiana: From the Earliest Times to the Present says the pair established and built the City Brewery in 1853. Louis Reis then sold his interest in the brewery to his brother, Jacob Reis, who was Cook's stepfather. Cook became the sole owner of the business in 1873, and in 1885, the City Brewery was converted into a stock company under the name of F.W. Cook Brewing Co. The company, the book says, brewed a famous Pilsner beer that became a "household word and is the most popular beverage in this part of the country."



"Steamboat Paint" from Burdsal Co. 1911

Nice vignette of a sidewheeler on a receipt from Burdsal's Paint Company of Indianapolis; dated 9 August 1911 promoting "Steamboat Paint" which was probably copyrighted as a specialty item within Burdsal's product line. The paint is described in the 1917 article below as a "paste" which implies that it was intended to be either laid on very thick or thinned down with water or turpentine depending on the application it was to be used for. It's possible that "steamboat paint" was initially designed to be used on the interiors and exteriors of steamboats and its chemistry chosen for durability from exposure to the elements outside and extremes of temperatures and humidity outside and inside, in particular when it was applied near the boilers and engines.

Alfred Burdsal established the paint business in 1875 and it was incorporated in 1892. The company was still listed in city directories in the 1920s.

The following is from page 5 The Indianapolis Star newspaper September 25, 1917 Indianapolis, Indiana:

"The A. Burdsal Company Is, among the oldest manufacturers of ready mixed paints In the United States.

It was established In 1867, and this year marks Its fiftieth anniversary.

The first can of mixed paint was manufactured in New York city in 1862, five years before the organization of the Burdsal company.

Indianapolis stands, therefore, among the pioneer cities in the manufacture of paint.

William Bonnet, sales manager of the Burdsal company pronounces the Burdsal factory one of the most modern and best equipped in the entire country.

His experience in paint manufacture reaches from coast to coast, and is in a position to speak authoritatively on the rank of the Indianapolis company.

'We manufacture paints and stains and paint products,' said Mr. Bonnet. 'Homestead Paint, ready for use, and Steamboat Paint, a paste, are our leading brands.'"


A steamboat promoting Pennsylvania motor oil

The steamboat at the landing here bears similarities to the GOLDEN EAGLE and AVALON so the artist may have combined elements from various photo research in their graphic. Undated Saturday Evening Post ad of PENNSYLVANIA Motor Oil. The style of the vehicle at the landing suggests that the ad might date from the 1950's. Where it wasn't black and white the ad was a butterscotch golden-brown color which I have converted to blue.


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.*

All captions provided by Dave Thomson, primary contributor and historian.