Illustrations by Dave Thomson

cigar box with steamboat illustration

I combined a Mark Twain cigar box label graphic and lettering with the mirror image of a post card of the steamboat Helen Blair. I was happy the way it came out. Nice strong silhouette on the boat with its peaky roofed pilot house and those funky clouds the post card artist dreamed up. It has a sort of surrealistic quality to it in a way. Viva Zam Klemenz!


Beckwith combined with Rockwell

Here are the elements showing Beckwith's 1890 portrait of Sam Clemens and Rockwell's 1921 Literary Digest cover that I composited to make Sam a fisher-man.


Artist Carroll Beckwith was born in Hannibal, Missouri on September 23, 1852, while still a little boy his family moved to Chicago where at age 16 he would begin to study art at the Chicago Academy of Design. Beckwith became an accomplished portrait painter and in 1890 he painted a portrait of another Hannibal "hometown boy" - Sam Clemens, (Mark Twain) who was born nearby in Florida, Missouri in 1835 and moved with his family to Hannibal in 1839 where he would grow up and have the experiences which led him to write TOM SAWYER and HUCKLEBERRY FINN among other works of fiction. Sam left Hannibal in 1853 as a journeyman printer before becoming a "cub pilot" under Horace Bixby on a Mississippi River steamboat in 1857.

In this composite I used an early Norman Rockwell magazine cover of a fisherman sitting on a dock and incorporated a photographic sky (above) and a colorized postcard of the steamboat J.S. on the Upper Mississippi (below). The pieces fit together nicely with the face of a corn cob smoking Sam Clemens painted by Beckwith. The original painting is in the collection of the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut. I made this comp about a dozen years ago.

It can go with the other Mark Twain "put-togethers" in my wing of the museum if it isn't there already. Wasn't sure where to look for it so I may have missed it.

steamboat round the bend illustration

More illustrations by Dave Thomson or from his collection

Dave says: "These are some of my more whimsical contributions, some of them bordering on surrealism."

"In this one I replaced Dante's head with Twain's in the Delacroix painting."

"I colorized pictures of the homes where Clemens was born and died then added a deep sky with comet streaking overhead."

"Borrowed a body from Rockwell and added Twain's head. The steamboat is from one of my old post cards."

Middle aged/old Clemens face split inside a circle."

"Twain's head on Santa's body on an old Christmas card."

"Twain's head on the body of a young boy on his way home with a catch of fish."

"This is me and the Tom and Huck statue in Hannibal in 1992."

"Twain's head on Tom Sawyer's body, rafting on the river - replaced the sky too."

Hale's City of Monroe Dave Thomson provided the photos of Jim Hale's City of Monroe model

Steamboat 'Round the Bend Dave Thomson provided the still photos to entertain the crowds after the third annual online steamboat race.

The Knight, Death and the Devil A piece by Dave Thomson when he was at Chouinard Art Institute, Los Angeles, 1964 - 1968.

Attached a mock up of a "make-believe" book cover I made years ago as a T-shirt design for Debbie Harris in Hannibal, MO who printed my Hannibal/Mark Twain/Tom & Huck graphics on shirts and tote bags. I incorporated on the top, lettering from the front cover of a very old British edition of Mark Twain's OLD TIMES ON THE MISSISSIPPI that had been renamed "MISSISSIPPI PILOT" and used Sidney Riesenberg's illustrations from the book PIONEERS ALL! of young Mark Twain as a steamboat pilot that we have on ILLUSTRATIONS 10.

by Joseph Lewis French
Illustrated by Sidney Riesenberg
Published by Milton Bradley, 1929

All together nineteen American "pioneers" were given the juvenile biography treatment including Mark Twain, Lewis and Clark, Kit Carson, Daniel Boone, John C. Fremont, Charles Lindbergh, and others.


Years ago I had a Corel program that was capable of curving a line of lettering so I made this attached mock-up of a cover for Mark Twain's LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI using the illustration from an old Southern Comfort magazine ad for the background.

The old display font was perfect and the colors nicely compatible with the moonlit river scene.


This is a composite I made using a portrait of Mark Twain from an old Campbell's soup ad with the Budweiser promotional painting. The styles of the two artists are pretty compatible together.


Comp I made with Twain from an old advertisement by an artist named Brissaud for Old Crow or one of those boozes and put some calendar art of the initialed only "A.C." of the GC Greene in the background. The styles of the two pieces of art was quite different but it's good enough for government work . . .


I made the attached a long time ago and Barbara Schmidt has it on twainquotes. It's a combination of a photo of the AMERICAN QUEEN's stacks and 3 chime whistle by Jon Kral from his photography book LIVE STEAM, 2000. The photo of Sam Clemens' face worked nicely manifested within the billowing steam.

recent acquisitions

I created this collage years ago for the website that Marie-Anne Durand-Chapuis and put together to showcase our English translation of the French critic Henry Gauthier-Villars 1884 appreciation of Mark Twain:

The following elements were combined:
1880's vintage carte de visite of Mark Twain
One of his original autographs
Two vignettes by illustrator True Williams:

- A steamboat to which I added the name BIG MISSOURI (mentioned in "Tom Sawyer") on the paddlebox
- A portfolio, pen, inkwell etc. from Mark Twain's SKETCHES NEW & OLD by Mark Twain 1876.

In that same year Williams illustrated the 1st edition of TOM SAWYER. The seated boy watching the river came from the 1st edition of Twain's LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI, 1883.


Took a graphic of Twain which had a not particularly good face and standing beside him was a red setter dog. I got a face from another source, touched out the dog and borrowed a cat from Norman Rockwell. Now we're cookin' . . .


This Murphy photo of the CITY OF MOBILE taken at the Mobile wharf looks like a scene from a movie. I "posterized" it a bit and graduated the color from blue above to sepia below.

Sternwheel Packet
Way's Packet Directory Number 1105
Built at Mobile, Alabama, 1898
Owned by the Peoples Line
Captain G.W. Quaries
Alabama and Tombigbee rivers
Wrecked in a hurricane at Mobile, Alabama, July 1916, was dismantled

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


This is a Photoshop composite I made with a photo of the NATCHEZ whose name I changed to HANNIBAL (after the boyhood home of Sam Clemens in Missouri) and the cityscape of New Orleans behind the boat I transformed into a verdant riverbank from a photo that I took of the eastern shoreline of 17 acre Bixby Slough (now referred to as Bixby Marshland and on the map called Machado Lake) at Ken Malloy Harbor Regional Park in the city of Carson, at the northeast corner of Vermont Avenue and Anaheim Street east of Los Angeles Harbor. The "Slough" was my substitute for the Mississippi River when I was attending high school in nearby Palos Verdes on the Pacific Ocean.


An incarnation of Huckleberry Finn

Had been visualizing making the attached incarnation of Huckleberry Finn for quite a while and finally came up with harmonious elements that combined made a reasonable facsimile of a ragamuffin on a Mississippi rivertown steamboat landing wearing a worn out coat, vest and neckerchief. The boy's expression conveys a sense of self confidence and mischief that transcends his modest circumstances.

My friend Jim Waddell in Hannibal portrays Mark Twain at the Museum and the Cave and he produced a radio play edited from a 1940s radio scenario adapted by Orson Welles from Twain's HUCKLEBERRY FINN. A reading of this scenario is performed in front of live audiences in Hannibal by local actors and Jim had proposed using my composite of the urchin Huck for posters and other advertising of the presentation called simply HUCK. I don't know if they ended up using this or not but it was fun to create anyway.

Below that is the text of Twain's description of the "urchin" Huck Finn in Chapter 5 of the novel TOM SAWYER. I gave my Huck the outsized and shabby adult's coat but left his hat intact without the crescent lopped out of the brim.

He came from a group of photos taken of impoverished children in London's East End in 1912 by Horace Warner that have been collected in a book entitled "Spitalfields Nippers" which is available here:

The young boy was wearing a mint condition broad brimmed felt hat so I searched until a period style straw hat turned up in an early daguerreotype worn by a gent holding an Colt dragoon pistol. The image of the St. Louis steamboat landing was taken in 1853 by Thomas Easterly. T he 3 steamboats on the Mississippi behind "Huck" were the following:


Built in 1850 at Brownsville, Pennsylvania. Ran between St. Louis, MO and Pittsburgh, PA. When the Mississippi River froze up at St. Louis on 28th of February 1856 was crushed by ice.


Built New Albany, Indiana in 1852 for the St. Louis-Keokuk trade. Ran the Illinois River in 1853, first to arrive in Peoria. Was snagged and sank at Island 25 below Cairo, Illinois on 3 of March 1854.


Built in Elizabeth, Pennsylvania in 1852
Snagged and sank in the Missouri River at Atchison, Kansas in June of 1857

This photo shows one of the premier contemporary river historians and model builders, Jim Hale, whose expertise is on steamboats that plied the rivers of Alabama. Dave Thomson comments,

"Jim describes technical stuff clearly and concisely so that a non-engineer can grasp it, which is quite a gift. He knew quite a few old time rivermen in the South and has letters and interviews with them that are full of fascinating details of that vanished era. Jim kept track of all the descriptions they gave him including color schemes (very handy for model making) and the particular idiosyncrasies each boat had."

Dave made this image by incorporating Jim Hale's face into an actual old photo of a steamboat officer.

Click here to see the Jim Hale Model Boat exhibit at this site.
Click here to see the new model building page at this site.


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.