Magazine Covers and Illustrations, Page 2



North River Steamboat
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The North River Steamboat or North River (often erroneously referred to as Clermont) is widely regarded as the world's first vessel to demonstrate the viability of using steam propulsion for commercial water transportation. Built in 1807, the North River Steamboat operated on the Hudson River (at that time often known as the North River) between New York and Albany. She was built by the wealthy investor and politician Robert Livingston and inventor and entrepreneur Robert Fulton (1765-1815).

1909 Clermont replica

A full-sized, 150 foot long by 16 foot wide steam-powered replica, named Clermont, was built by the Staten Island Shipbuilding Company. The replica's design and final appearance was decided by an appointed commission who carefully researched Fulton's steamer from what evidence and word-of-mouth had survived to the early 20th century.

Their replica was launched with great fanfare in 1909 at Staten Island, New York, for the Hudson-Fulton Celebration.

In 1910, following the large celebration, Clermont was sold by her owners, the Hudson-Fulton Celebration Commission, to defray their losses; she was purchased by the Hudson River Day Line and served the company as a moored river transportation museum at their two locations in New York harbor.

In 1911 Clermont was moved to Poughkeepsie, New York and served Day Line as a New York state historic ship attraction. The company eventually lost interest in the steamboat as a money-making attraction and placed her in a tidal lagoon on the inner side of their landing at Kingston Point, New York. For many years Day Line kept Clermont in presentable condition, but as their business and profits slowed during the Great Depression, they voted to stop maintaining her; Clermont was eventually broken up for scrap in 1936, 27 years after her launching.



Waterways Journal 1955 An Almost Forgotten Ohio River Showboat, the DREAMLAND

J. Mack Gamble's article on the showboat DREAMLAND from the 1955 the bound WATERWAYS JOURNALS volume. The photograph has been upgraded by replacing the one in the weekly with the one in the La Crosse collection and the text scanned from the original article. A profile of Mr. Gamble is included after the conclusion of his article. The photo of Gamble standing behind Fred Way aboard Fred's sternwheel launch LADY GRACE is also from La Crosse.

An Almost Forgotten Ohio River Showboat
Page 10
April 9, 1955
By J. Mack Gamble

For a good many years the writer believed there was once an Ohio River showboat named the Dreamland, contemporary with the Wonderland and other famous floating theatres. Questioning of various showboat authorities brought the response that they seemed to have some vague remembrance of such a boat, but details were not to be learned.

The U S. List of Merchant Vessels, in the section on "Unrigged Vessels," listed a boat of that name, 61 tons, built in 1905 at McKeesport, Pa.

Finally The Waterways Journal, which can always be depended on to come up with some help, said in its Forty Years Ago column that, on March 14, 1914, the showboat Dreamland was wintering in the mouth of Kanawha River along with Reynold Brothers' new floating theatre and the Water Queen, Princess, Cotton Blossom, etc.

Inquiry from Capt. Thomas J. Reynolds, of Point Pleasant, W Va., owner of the Majestic, last surviving touring showboat, revealed that he did recall the Dreamland as a small showboat built somewhere in Pennsylvania. On a fairly recent visit of the Majestic at Fairmont, W Va., he had been visited by a lady who showed him a picture of the Dreamland. Thinking that a picture of the showboat would be clinching proof of the writer's contention that there was such a craft, it was determined to forward a letter to Mrs. Mary Long McMillen, of Fairmont. Mrs. McMillen responded most graciously and reported that she did indeed have one picture of the Dreamland, which had been presented to her by the owner of the boat some 50 years ago. As a girl Mrs. McMillen lived at Opekiska, W Va., where her parents, Mr. and Mrs. James C. Long, operated a store and a ferry. Her picture of the Dreamland was made at Point Marion, Pa., and shows not only the boat but also the crew and the dramatic company aboard. Mrs. McMillen kindly offered to have a copy negative made of her picture, and this made possible the presentation, in company with this story, of the only known picture of the Showboat Dreamland.

Information indicated that a son of the owner of the Dreamland was still living somewhere around Elizabeth, Pa. The aid of Steve Mackinack, builder of model steamboats and river enthusiast extraordinary, was then secured and he succeeded in putting the writer in touch with Harry E. McKinney of West Elizabeth. Mr. McKinney reported that his father, Capt. A. W McKinney, built the Dreamland at McKeesport in 1905, that the boat was 100 feet long by 20 feet in width, and had a seating capacity of approximately 300 people. The new boat made its first tour in 1906 carrying a vaudeville and musical comedy show as well as moving pictures.

The Dreamland was operated along the Monongahela and as far down the Ohio River as Louisville, Ky. It was first towed by a gas boat named the Clarion and Mr. McKinney did not know where his father built this boat. However, government records say that the first Clarion was built at Pittsburgh in 1895, had 20 hp., and was 45 by 10 feet in hull size. This boat was dismantled at Henderson, W Va., in 1914 when Capt. McKinney built the Clarion No. 2 which was 65 by 14 feet in size. Capt. A. W McKinney died in 1916, and Harry McKinney sold the Dreamland to two men in Pittsburgh who used it for a club boat. It is believed the craft was later carried away in an ice gorge and destroyed. The Clarion No. 2 was also sold and has since been dismantled.


Mr. J. Mack Gamble was the first president of the Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen. His father was an owner of packet boats operating in the Upper Ohio River trades in the late 19th and the first decade of the 20th century.

For many years, he was also the chairman of the Board of Governors of S&D and was a leader in promotion of its aims and projects. J. Mack Gamble had worked for a brief period as a packet boat clerk before attending college but his life's work was as an educator. He held a master's degree in education and history from Ohio University in Athens and, after teaching at several one-room country schools in Monroe County, Ohio, was long the principal of the Clarington (Ohio) Elementary School.

Upon his death in 1973, J. Mack Gamble gave a sizeable bequest to the Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen. This bequest was used to establish the J. Mack Gamble Fund in 1976. The Fund is administered for the Board of Governors by three trustees.


The TENNESSEE BELLE's former Captain Dick Dicharry





12 FEBRUARY 1955

To the Editor of The Waterways Journal. I spent a $5 taxi fare just before Christmas to drive from the airport in New Orleans to St. Rose, over the Mississippi River levee, just for a 15-minute chat with Capt. Dick Dicharry, the last owner of the Tennessee Belle. Capt. Dick, Gertrude, his wife, mother and three dogs were all fine. Their coffee tasted just like steamboat coffee in the pilothouse at four o'clock I in the morning—which was the finest coffee ever made. Capt. Dick still lives by the levee and still waves at the boats and is about as happy as a steamboat man can be without a boat.

He is as spry as a cricket although he says his rheumatism bothers him at times. He loaned me his personal and autographed copy of "Children of Noah" (by Ben Lucien Burman) so I would have something to read on the plane which I took back to Los Angeles that afternoon. It is really refreshing to talk with the boys who ran the rivers when steamboating was in its glory and pilots did a wonderful job without channel markers.

While in New Orleans, I went to the Cabildo Museum and arranged for Al Farette, our photographer, to make a picture of the model of the Tennessee Belle. This boat had the honor of being the last regular general freight and passenger packet on the Mississippi. I spent many happy days and nights looking out of the pilothouse. The model was built by Ernest W Bates, Sr., engineer of the Tennessee Belle, and is securely enclosed in a large glass case about seven feet long. I have sent pictures of the model to Mrs. Charles R. Beard, of Clifton, Tenn., wife of the Belle's pilot when she ran from St. Louis to Pittsburg Landing, on the Tennessee, and to Capt. Dick, of course.

I am on the "go" again and expect to eat dinner on the "Sternwheeler" (RIVER QUEEN) at Owensboro if I can work it into my schedule. Maybe I'll see you on the Delta Queen's down trip from St. Paul this summer since I'll be on board if nothing happens.

Sincerely, Frank L. Teuton.

The following has been edited and abridged from KING OF STEAMBOATMEN pages 43-69 in Ben Lucien Burman's 1951 non-fiction book: "Children of Noah—Glimpses of Unknown America" Published by Julian Messner Inc.

Dick Dicharry was born in the village of Smoke Bend, Louisiana, where as a boy he watched with awe the white-painted river craft gliding down the Mississippi. He decided there was only one thing in life worth doing; he would become the proprietor of a steamboat.

He found a vacancy at last on a vessel of the Bradford Lines, where the crew was lacking an assistant clerk. He persuaded the captain to give him a trial at an almost invisible salary. By the end of the month, his salary was quadrupled. The boy from Smoke Bend was launched on his career.

Quickly he rose from assistant to a full clerkship; from time to time when there was need he began to act as master.

Always as the boat swung in for a landing he was the first to leap upon the muddy bank. Soon he possessed friends everywhere, who would often travel miles out of their way to bring him onions or yams or watermelons, or whatever the loads in their rattling wagons.

He heard of a small steamboat named the Uncle Oliver up the river which was for sale at a bargain. Captain Dick had managed to save a little money from his salary. A local merchant offered to lend him the remainder. Captain Dick decided to buy the boat and run it on the Mississippi.

Captain Dick Dicharry would become King of Steamboatmen of the Lower Mississippi.

Dicharry is a man of average height, with the sturdy physique common to most men who spend their lives on the river. His walk is jaunty, his movements electric. He seems supercharged with energy. His eyes are bright, merry; his mouth curved in a smile that radiates warmth and geniality. He is obviously a happy man, a lover of pleasantry and laughter.

I never ceased to find some new phase of his extraordinary character. Ordinarily a man of peaceful ways, when his anger was roused he was like an exploding volcano. Possessing the courage of a lion, I am sure he would not have hesitated empty-handed to fight ten men holding machine guns if they were abusing a child or an old Negro. He was the idol of his friends, and the terror of his enemies.

His kindness toward the poor or unfortunate was perhaps his most striking quality. For generations on the river a bitter feud has continued between the patrician steamboatmen and the lowly shantyboaters who live in the floating homes moored along the bank. Some captains send their craft at full speed past a shantyboat, regardless of the fact that the waves from the huge propellers or paddle wheels may almost swamp the smaller vessel moored along the willows. For Captain Dick the contrary was always the rule.

I have seen him bring the Uncle Oliver to a stop as it neared a shantyboat where some river dweller was cooking supper, because he did not wish to send the rabbit stew or catfish flying to the shanty floor. I have seen him keep the whistle of the Oliver silent, because in a little houseboat near by a shantyman's wife lay ill, and the sound might have roused her from a troubled sleep.

Years passed and the Uncle Oliver, too old to struggle longer, went the way of all good rivermen and river boats. Captain Dick heard of a large packet for sale up the Tennessee River, bearing the graceful name of the Tennessee Belle.

He went off to inspect it, and concluding the purchase on sight, brought the vessel at once to the Mississippi. The Tennessee Belle was a beautiful steamboat. A voyage upon her was an adventure in tranquility. White painted like a bride she would glide over the brown river, while the ever-changing panorama of the Valley swept past her prow, her sweet-toned whistle would blow, echoing musically across the swamps and the levees.

In 1927 a terrible flood swept the Mississippi Valley, the worst disaster in all its troubled history.

Captain Dick at once took his steamboat and began rescuing people from their flooded dwellings, carrying them off to the refugee camps on the levees, or to towns safe in the distant hills.

Relief was not organized in the efficient manner of today, with Coast Guard stations and their trained crews ready to spring into instant action.

The loss of life in some areas was appalling. Captain Dick labored night and day—savior of the living, doctor of the sick, and preacher for the dead.

Often, as he took the Uncle Oliver across the raging water, he would come upon a farmhouse whose inhabitants had been cut off for a week or more, unable to get word of their plight to headquarters.

Occasionally one of these families would be at the point of starvation, with the mother and several children stricken with fever and dying for lack of medicine.

At such times Captain Dick would bring out some of the government supplies and drugs he happened to be transporting to a refugee camp, leave what he thought necessary at the flooded home, and go on his way again over the muddy sea.

The area, for the emergency, was under military law. A newly arrived army lieutenant, more familiar with regulations than with disaster, was in charge of one of the nearby depots. Chancing to learn of Captain Dick's actions, he summoned the river captain, and informed him that he was disposing of government property without the authority the regulations demanded.

He warned that if the captain continued his practices, the lieutenant would order him court-martialed. Captain Dick, exhausted from his continuous labor without sleep, listened, and point-blank refused to obey his commands. More days passed, and he found more stricken families; again he gave them the supplies they needed so desperately.

Then one morning when the vessel docked near the depot the lieutenant commanded, a grim-faced soldier was waiting. "Want you up at headquarters," he announced.

Captain Dick hurried off with him up the muddy path. In a tent on the levee some high officers on a tour of inspection were assembled, sitting stiffly on camp chairs. The depot commander turned to the visitors, headed by a solemn, much-decorated general, and asked that drastic punishment be meted out to the offending riverman.

Captain Dick faced the stern dignitaries unafraid. "If I pass a man dying of hunger, won't ask if he's got the right piece of paper," he declared stubbornly. "Can't eat paper. Going to feed him, that's all. Won't stop unless you shoot me through the head."

He continued to speak for some time, growing more and more eloquent as he told of the scenes he had witnessed. When he finished each of the visitors came forward and shook his hand. He left the tent, instead of a criminal a hero, with power to distribute relief supplies anywhere.

He could never understand a human being who did not love a steamboat. He was talking one day with a river captain, whose vessel in a near-by trade had been damaged beyond repair and was on its way to the steamboat graveyard.

Captain Dick expressed his sympathy to the former master. To his amazement the other riverman, noted for his lack of warmth, only shrugged his shoulders.

"What's a steamboat?" he demanded. "Just some deck boards, a paddle wheel, and a fool in a pilothouse."

Captain Dick grew hot with anger.

"Thought you were my friend," he retorted. "Now I know better. You don't feel bad when your steamboat dies; I know you won't worry when I die. You're too cold a man for me. We're through."

Year after year the Tennessee Belle continued to steam up and down the Mississippi and as I gazed out of the wide pilothouse window, I would always remember what the Belle and the Oliver and Captain Dick had taught me of the river.

St. Louis & Tennessee River Packet Co.
Being a True History & Account
1885 - 1942

On a July day in 1927 Capt. Dick Dicharry arrived in St. Louis. He had been running a small boat of about 150 foot hull out of Vicksburg, but his boat had burned; believing there was yet packet traffic to be had on the Lower River, Dicharry wanted another boat.

Capt. Fred Way, another optimist on the future of packet service, on the upper Ohio, had been first visited by Dicharry, object: Sell him the Betsy Ann, Way's boat then running between Cincinnati and Pittsburgh. In spite of any argument that Dicharry could bring to bear, Way said no.

Thus the St. Louis visit, which Dicharry seemed to think was next best town for surplus boats, where he found, first, on walking down from Washington Ave., the Belle of Calhoun tied off at the levee. The Belle had been bringing down apples in direct opposition to the trade of Alabama, and since the owners had come from that county, they achieved some success; not enough, however to stop the Alabama. Possibly they lacked finesse in customer relations, as illustrated:

Dicharry started up the stage set on the levee, and barely reaching the foredeck, heard a loud voice, "Git off the boat." The worthy captain hastily retreated and went down levee fifty yards to the wharf of the St. Louis & Tennessee River Packet Co., where a cordial reception was gained from Rhea in the office.

Dicharry spoke with a thick accent Rhea had some difficulty in comprehending at first, but eventually the word came through that his visitor wanted a boat. Of course, selling off a major asset called for consultation with the younger brother, theoretically, but the brother was out of town at the time, and as Rhea contemplated the situation he was not inclined to ponder.

Whether the Alabama came up for discussion is not known, but with rebuilding, the Tennessee Belle was technically a newer boat; it is suspected she was not at the wharf that day, but must have arrived from her regular Tennessee River trip in short order, and Rhea must have had Dicharry return as soon as possible to see the merchandise.

When Rhea found out Dicharry was prepared to pay cash, there was no hesitation. Actually, the boat had been doing well that season, and a new trip with staterooms about filled had already been booked. But, as Rhea viewed it, the trade had no assurance of continuing and it was unlikely any better offer than cash was going to materialize. He agreed to accept $25,000 offered by Dicharry, who wanted the boat immediately, and promptly sent off telegrams to the booked passengers to not come to St. Louis, that their trip had been canceled.

Capt. Dicharry took the boat to Vicksburg, and put her on a run to Natchez. As the depression years of the 1930's deepened, Dicharry ran out of cash, like everybody else, did not maintain the boat, and she became a shabby imitation of anything the St. Louis & Tennessee River Packet Co. would ever have run in its fleet. But she kept running anyway, and achieved some fame as the last packet remaining on the Lower Mississippi. She finally burned below Natchez in 1942.

Sale of Tennessee Belle may have been interpreted, from outside parties, as a sign the Company was disposing of its equipment that summer, for in August, 1927 an unsolicited offer was made for Robert Rhea. Rhea was glad to accept. New owners took her to Mobile for the Alabama River, and she continued in service for several years; her ultimate disposition is unknown.


Snag Boat on the cover and story inside the 23 July 1921 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN magazine


July 23, 1921

Cover art of a Snag boat by Howard V. Brown

Transcription of the story in that issue written by George H. Dacy that was printed on pages 60 and 70:


What Is Being Done by Way of Making Our Longest River Navigable

Our Father of Waters, the peaceful, placid, tortuous Mississippi, which runs amuck and bursts its bounds only once in a dog's age, is unique as a channel of inland barter and commerce. Its shipping potentialities and prospects were long neglected during the period when rail traffic was in its 'teens. For this reason and that reason, because of disinterest of those who would be benefited most by its development or because Congress was always too busy with other affairs to bother much about the crooked, illy-navigable river, the Mississippi for scores of years pursued her catch-as-catch-can course, unharassed and unsung. River packets and freighters, scows and bumboats, dories and derelicts plied their difficult and hazardous ways between St. Louis and New Orleans. Year after year, the stationary volume of traffic and unchanging type of boat bore witness to our lack of appreciation of one of the best inland waterways with which any country ever was blessed. Participation in the international war changed the focus of the glass through which we had missed seeing the possibilities of the Mississippi River. The Mississippi at last came into her own and a belated development was instituted. Much has been done toward bettering shipping facilities and shipping conditions prospects are that much more will be done in the future.

The Father of Waters finally will occupy the prominent position in our interstate freight exchange which its natural advantages justify.

In January, 1918, the Director-General of the Railroads appointed a committee to study the possibilities of utilizing our inland, canal and coastwise waterways for transportation purposes. Six months later, an appropriation of approximately $8,000,000 was authorized by Uncle Sam for the construction of a federal fleet of barges to operate on the lower Mississippi. Twenty steel, flat-deck barges of the U. S. Engineers, capable of carrying 450 tons of freight apiece, as well as eight barges ranging in tonnage capacity from 400,E to 1000 tons, were immediately chartered for freighting service. Simultaneously, plans were devised and work begun on the construction of a fleet of new, auxiliary barges. These activities have continued even after the cessation of warfare with the result that right now the Federal barge line which operates out of St. Louis has in service six old-type tow-boats, one new self-type propeller tow-boat (5 similar boats are under construction) , 40 two-thousand-ton steel barges, and 4 smaller steel barges which range in size from 500 to 1000 tons.

With the remarkable improvement in the shipping facilities along the lower Mississippi,, the importance of maintaining the channel navigable and free of all obstructions has been intensified. This brings into the limelight the novel snag boats, the most extraordinary vessels which Uncle Sam supports—either in or outside of his Navy. The Mississippi carves out and carries away huge fragments of the banks that fringe her crooked course. Untold miles of these consist of farm timberlands and forests. As a result, she often dislodges and steals great strips of land containing large trees. These impediments she whips away only to have them sink and settle, ultimately, in the sand and mud of the open channel—there to effect evil and ruin unless discovered and eliminated by Uncle Sam's water sleuths. The general term "snag" may signify anything from a small tree of half a ton or so to an entanglement of large fellows weighing many tons. Whatever their size they must come out if they are in the channel.

Away back in the days of Mark Twain, Government snag boats were operated on the Mississippi, although the obstructions were not removed as scientifically and efficiently in that era as they are in the present. River-men and navigation experts say that this service will have to be continued as long as the river exists and is utilized for transportation purposes. The Government now maintains three large snag boats on the Mississippi, two on the lower river which police the beat that extends from St. Louis to New Orleans, and one on the upper river, north of St. Louis. One other large snag boat is operated on the Ohio River while smaller vessels patrol such tributaries as the Arkansas and Missouri.

For the last 33 years the Government has annually appropriated $100,000 for snag work on the lower Mississippi. Two snag boats, the "Horatio G. Wright" and the "John N. McComb" are specially designed and equipped for this service. The peak of their activities comes during the summer months from July on, when the river is low and the quest for snags is most fruitfully rewarded. The usual plan is to maintain one of these boats at the southern extremity of the Mississippi and the other in the northern districts adjacent to St. Louis, as bases. This means that the boats can speed to localities where snags are reported as dangerous in their respective zones without needless overlapping travel. In one trip of 1100 miles last summer, the "Horatio G. Wright" sighted, pulled and destroyed over 600 gigantic snags, the average weight being more than 40 tons while the heaviest topped 175 tons. The next trip over its beat, this police boat destroyed only 200 snags. River conditions, the water level, the season of year and various other factors influence the prevalence and appearance of snags, so that it is impossible to plan a definite and accurate campaign and to estimate the work and the number of snags which will be spotted and lifted in a certain season.

The maximum speed of the snag boats, each of which is about 190 feet long and 95 feet wide and carries a crew of 45 men, is approximately 83/4 miles an hour in still water. Ordinarily, the snags point down-stream and often are buried anywhere from 10 to 40 feet deep in the mud, the tendency for trees which are carried away in the shore-undermining activities of the turbulent waters being to right themselves and to settle in the sand in an erect, upstanding position. The snags are so securely anchored that they rip holes in the bottoms of vessels which collide with them. Waterlogged, anchored snags effect the greatest damage ; river pilots have had to contend with them ever since navigation between New Orleans and St. Louis was begun. The position of the snag in the water is indicated by the V-shaped break which it causes in the surface of the river. A snag submerged even as deep as 30 or 40 feet causes a boil in the overhead surface water which is easily recognizable by the lookouts on the snag boats. The Federal snag boats are of the double-bowed, catamaran type with a steel butting beam 15 feet long and 10 feet wide connecting the bows. When a snag is sighted, the boat is maneuvered close to the point where the V-shaped break appears on the water surface so that the crew can lower a huge sweep chain operated by means of 4 engine-driven capstans, each of which can exert a pull of 35 tons. The chain finally will engage the snag and raise its free end out of the water. Windlass chains are then used to haul the snag on to the beam, a special engine being used to run an enormous drum which releases or winds up a huge sansom chain that can resist a strain of 75 tons. The individual links in this chain weigh 27.5 pounds and are made out of round iron 23/4 inches in diameter.

In case difficulty is experienced in loosening the snag, the boat resorts to butting tactics. It backs away from the obstruction about 60 feet and then under full steam slides at the snag and smashes into it with its steel butting beam and 800 tons of total weight. This method of attack is repeated until the snag gives way. The shock of the concussion is so violent that frequently all the members of the crew are sprawled headlong on the deck and the fire doors under the boilers are knocked open. When the snag is freed sufficiently, the windlass chains are used to haul it up over the beam where it is placed in such a fashion that engine-driven saws may be used to cut the tree or obstruction up into sections about 20 to 25 feet long. These logs are then cast overboard and generally are salvaged and sold by squatters who live along the river banks or by parties in gasoline launches who follow the snag boats and make a business of gathering the drift logs and hauling them to sawmills and selling them. Sometimes, these loggers of the river realize $100 or $150 from a single day's work in salvaging stray logs which emanate from the activities of the Government snag boats. Snags which will not float after being dismembered are hauled on the snag boats to deep sections of the river and there dumped overboard. They sink in the sand and henceforward do no more damage.

Considerable danger is associated with the raising and destroying of the river snags, but despite the hazards, men like to work on the Government boats as there is a certain romance associated with this pioneering work which appeals to the adventurous natures of the rivermen. During the last score of years, four men have been killed and 60 injured on the snag boats as a result of slipping or breaking of chains or the sudden collapse of snags when they were pulled from their mud beds. In the case of wrecks which have sunk to the bottom and are dangerous to traffic, experienced divers are employed to salvage the valuable machinery and then the heavy drag chain is used to smash them into small timber. Sometimes accidents ensue here.

These unusual craft of Uncle Sam are also employed in raising wrecks which are still serviceable. A noteworthy accomplishment of this description was the lifting of the wrecked packet steamer "John Simonds," sunk during the Civil War and raised to the surface a half century later. The machinery in this boat was still in excellent condition despite its long sojourn in the water.

The wood work of the boat was also well preserved. The water does not seriously injure the metal or wooden parts of a sunk ship it is the mud which effects the bulk of the damage. Wrecks which are not imbedded in the mud and sand survive decomposition for many years. During the periods When snag work on the river is not pressing, the snag boats occasionally assist private companies in the raising of river boats which have been sunk at sections of the river adjacent to the open channel. Such assistance is furnished at actual cost.

Despite the great increase in labor costs, Congress appropriates the same amount for snag removal from the Mississippi today as 30 years ago. The consequences are that the two snag boats which are supposed to patrol the river from St. Louis to New Orleans are not able to work a full season—the snagging season usually lasts from July until March. Lack of funds is halting this essential work just at a time when the Mississippi River is being used more than ever before. It is now highly necessary to keep the channel clear and navigable and to do everything possible to promote the increased utilization of this wonderful inland waterway. It would seem that Congress might allot a few thousand dollars more a year to this meritorious cause.

Just to show that the money used in the past has been effectively expended, it may be cited that during a normal season, the two Government snag boats on the lower Mississippi will pull and destroy between 300 and 400 snags, the average weight of these obstacles being between 30 and 40 tons. In addition, they will break up anywhere from 10 to 20 drift heaps which—if neglected—are inimical to navigation. The crews of the two boats in addition will cut between 200 and 10,000 trees which fringe the banks and are liable to be undermined and washed away by the river and ultimately converted into dangerous snags. The conquest against snags in the open channel is well in hand, at this time, and with sufficient funds to continue the work it -will be possible to keep the number of accidents due to snags down to a minimum. However, to neglect the work at this stage of the game due to lack of funds is a costly, senseless and unnecessary error. The American public desires that Congress reduce expenses along sane and sensible lines. It does not wish our legislators to rob Peter to pay Paul in the style evidenced by the 1921 lack of adequate appropriation for the complete and efficient removal of snags from the Mississippi.

COVER ART by Howard V. Brown, Artist of Technical Subjects
Special thanks to Steve Kirch for help in researching this artist's note.

Anyone looking at the covers of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, RADIO NEWS, SCIENCE AND INVENTION, EVERYDAY ENGINEERING, or ASTOUNDING SCIENCE FICTION in the early years of the twentieth century would find a familiar style and an unmistakeable signature. Howard V. Brown probably had as much to do with shaping our concept of the future as any three science or science-fiction writers you could name. What the futurists thought, Howard put into pictures so we could immediatelysee what it would be like.

There's a listing of his cover art for the SF magazines at the ISFDB site, which gives his birth and death dates as:
Birthdate: 5 July 1878 / Deathdate: 1945. Detail on Brown seems to be in short supply.

There is a short, incomplete bio of Brown floating around with internet, with some obvious errors and without attribution:

"Howard Vachel Brown was born in Lexington, Kentucky, and received his art education at the Chicago Art Institute. His work was exhibited at the National Academy and featured by the the International Exhibition of American Illustrators.From 1913-1931 Brown was the cover illustrator for Scientific American. He also illustrated for Gernsback's Electrical Experimenter, 1916-1917, and Argosy and Science and Invention in 1919.

Brown created every cover from January 1934 through May 1937 of Tremain's Astounding Stories and did about half of the covers through November 1938. After Gernsback lost Wonder Stories and his main artist Frank R. Paul stopped doing covers for that magazine, Brown did every cover from August 1936 through August 1940, with the exception of the August 1937 issue, which was done by H. W. Wesso.


Steamboat pilot house illustration for a story in the pulp magazine MAMMOTH ADVENTURE, May 1947. Sunken steamer in the distance on the river behind the pilot at the wheel.

recent acquisitions

A 1905 color insert for LIFE magazine inked and painted by artist Albert Levering. Here's Sam Clemens (Mark Twain) in a playful caricature as a pilot steering the steamboat "American Humor."

The lettering in RED was YELLOW in the original; very hard to "read" against white so I converted those letters to red to make them more readable and agreeable.


The Literary Digest, August 17, 1929


A roustabout named "Pig Meat," who had bet his shoes on the Betsy Ann, refused to give them up. He swore that both boats had won. Many others said the same thing, and, indeed, 'twas a very tricky finish to a neck-and-neck race—the closest packet race ever seen, according to historians of the big river.

A Cincinnati Times-Star writer breaks into verse about it:

Heads you cash, tails you lose,
Dis darky don't give up his shoes!
If Tom Greene's bow was de winning boss,
De Betsy's stern-wheel was de first to cross!

And then, relapsing into prose, he explains that "the Tom Greene's bow crossed the line ten feet ahead of the Betsy's but the Betsy is forty feet smaller than the Tom, and so the Betsy's entire length, including her wheel, crossed the line thirty feet ahead of the Tom Greene's sternwheel. That was enough of a technicality for the roustabouts to make a grand palaver over. They will argue the question on the riverboats the rest of their lives. The Tom Greene received the formal cup of victory, but the Betsy Ann received her full mead of applause and honors."

Just at this time last year, THE DIGEST chronicled a race between that little thirty-year-old speed queen, Betsy Ann, and another of her larger modern, rivals, the Chris Greene. That revival of old-time Mississippi Steamboat racing was such a success that this year the Betsy Ann was pitted against the Tom Greene, and 100,000 people saw the race, which was accompanied, we are told, by an incidental music of sirens, drone of diving airplanes, raving of rival roustabouts, and barking of dogs and radio-announcers. Charles Ludwig, the writer we have already quoted, continues his account with this piece of word painting:

A Niagara of spindrift dashed over the bows of the two steamboats as they battled their way nose and nose over the twenty-two-mile course from the Cincinnati levee to New Richmond, Ohio.

The Tom Greene generally was in the lead from five to thirty feet, and the race was so close that at one time the two boats were locked side by side for a moment, attracted by the suction their wheels created.

It was at first announced that the race would end at the dam below Richmond, and here, with both steamers tugging their mightiest, the boats were running about even, the Greene being perhaps a few feet ahead.

Then, it was declared that the contest would not be officially concluded till the boats reached New Richmond, a mile farther up the river. This last mile afforded the keenest rivalry between the boats. Sometimes the Betsy would make a spurt, and then the Tom Greene would forge ahead. It was an even race in this final stage, too.

The Tom Greene managed to cling onto her slight lead, and finished ten feet ahead, amid cheers from the passengers, the blowing of whistles, songs of Boy Scouts, and shouts of the crowd on the shore.

W. C. Culkins, vice-president of the Chamber of Commerce and secretary of time Ohio Valley Improvement Association, and Slack Barrett, of the Barrett Lines, were the official judges. The race was so close that Barrett, who had taken along a measuring line, was prepared to use it on the two gang-planks of the boats to convince Betsy Ann followers of the accuracy of the decision, but this was not necessary.

The time for covering the twenty-two miles was two hours and nineteen minutes.

Weather was ideal when the race started from the Cincinnati levee shortly after 5 P.M. There were crowds on both boats. Mrs. Mary Greene, widow of Capt. Gordon C. Greene, and the only woman steamboat captain and pilot on the river, was in command of the Tom Greene. But Mrs. Greene acted chiefly as hostess to the passengers, and her son, Capt. Torn Greene, had charge of the actual operation, assisted by his brother, Capt. Chris Greene. Captain Chris and his boat, the Chris Greene, defeated the Betsy Ann in the memorable race a year ago.

The youthful Capt. Frederick Way, owner of the Betsy Ann, was aboard his boat and Capt. Charles Ellsworth was in. charge, with Wirt Jordan as chief engineer. Officers of the Betsy claimed that at the New Richmond dam they were about three feet in the lead.

George Wise, twenty-five, youngest chief engineer on the river, was in charge of the engines of the Tom Greene. Wise said that about the middle of the race a steam pipe under the floor of the engine-room sprang a leak, which made it impossible to use maximum pressure and the inquiring reporters heard the rush of the steam.

The Betsy carried the colors of Pittsburgh, and there was a delegation of Pittsburgh newspapermen aboard to report the race.

"You Pittsburghers will have to build a faster boat now if you want the river championship," they were told, but the Pittsburghers still seem to think the venerable Betsy Ann, much older than the modern Greene-line boats, never yet has been beaten fairly.

The Island Queen, with a crowd aboard, followed the racers up the river. Airplanes hovered above and many speedboats followed the racers.

Roustabouts named "Chalk Eye," "Six Bits," "Little Breeches," "Whisky," "Broad Ax," and "Big Un" were discoursing on the hot finish, of the race. And "Six Bits" sang happily:

"De Torn Greene am de debit's boat,
All she do is load and tote.
If Betsy know'd this
She'd staid in po't!"

But "Chalk Eye," remembering how the winning Chris Greene "threw water in the Betsy's face" last year, chanted thus:

"Jes' now we had another race;
No water was throwed in Betsy's face;
Betsy evened up the deal;
She throwed water on Tom Greene's wheel!"

The stacks shook as the stokers fed the roaring fires under the boilers, and pieces of unburned coal came flying out of the smoke to rain down on the decks, we are told by Charles J. Mulcahy in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, and he goes on to give us some quaint details of the race, thus:

The rocky bank at New Richmond was packed with people waiting to cheer the winner. So close was the finish, they could not tell which boat to cheer, so they argued about it instead.

The brick levee that slants down from Front Street, Cincinnati, was fairly swarming with taxicabs, and a crowd of several thousand persons had gathered at the top of the rise to watch the start of the race.

The steam calliope on the Island Queen was industriously snorting and bellowing something that sounded like " Ten Miles From Home." After that it played "I'll Get By."

Some one on the Tom Greene thoughtfully interrupted this song by ringing the ship's bell. Eighty-three times be rang the bell. The bell is fifty years old. Considering its age, it makes a lot of noise. Before it was bolted to the deck of the Tom Greene, it was on the steamer Montana.

At five the Betsy Ann cast off her lines and backed out into the stream. She came ahead slowly and stopped opposite the mouth of the Licking River that separates Covington from Newport, Kentucky.

At 5:10 the Tom Greene cut loose with her chime whistle—two blasts. The Tom Greene has the most famous whistle on the Ohio River. It whistles a B-flat chord. You can pick out the tone on a piano—F, B-flat, D and A-flat, or something like that.

"Something like that" is good—so good that THE DIGEST prudently disclaims responsibility for Mr. Mulcahy's chord, although it may be a perfectly good rendering of the Tom Greene's harmonic hoot.

Reading on:

It used to be on the old steamer St. Laurence and on some other boat before that Capt. Gordon Christopher Greene liked it so well he offered to buy it for $500. The owners laughed at him. He thereupon bought the packet Courier, keel, hull, masts and all, just to get the whistle.

Capt. Tom Greene leaned over the rail a few seconds after this famous whistle blew.
"Let go the stern line," he said.

The Tom Greene slid away from the levee. She backed a little, then came ahead again, jockeying to clear the Island Queen. It required some expert maneuvering.

The Tom Greene's whistle then sounded three short blasts and the Betsy Ann moved up, heading for the Central Bridge, that links Cincinnati and Covington.

The Tom Greene pulled abreast the Betsy Ann and a young man in a gray suit fired a cannon, which up to this time had stood unnoticed on the top deck of the Tom Greene. It wasn't much of a cannon; it fired ten-gage shotgun shells.

The Tom Greene's whistle sounded again—one long pull and a short one. The man fired the cannon again. He appeared to be shooting at the pilot of the Betsy Ann. He also appeared to be missing him.

This failed to discourage him, however. Throughout the race he continued to fire at such objects as presented themselves—three airplanes, carrying cameramen—a fleet of speedboats—a man with a blue and orange tie. No hits.

As the boats, still neck and neck, steamed past the Ohio River Yacht Club, a tall, elderly gentleman threw his bat far out from the rail of the Tom Greene. It was a black derby. Black derbies, it developed, do not float well.

On up the river the packets went, between banks lined with spectators. Many of the watchers cheered as the boats went by. Others whistled. A few fired revolvers into the air. A few others shouted questionable advice to the rival captains, who ignored it.

The man with the cannon, it seemed to this observer, shot at practically all the spectators who offered questionable advice.

We learn with relief that he hit "practically none of them."


A roustabout on the Betsy Ann screamed and pretended to be hit by a stray shot, but nobody had enough confidence in the cannoneer to believe it. The roustabout, piqued because the passengers doubted him, threw a whisky bottle at the Tom Greene. The bottle was empty.

A small battalion, of newsreel-cameramen added greatly to the excitement of the race by climbing all over the two boats, taking pictures of everything and everybody.

Some of them had microphones and batteries and miles and miles of tangled cables for recording the sound of the paddlewheels, the hissing of the steam, the swishing of the wash along the sides.

They also recorded the music of the accordion some one thoughtfully brought along and the music of a banjo.

The man with the banjo may have been the character from the song, "Oh, Susannah," popular when the California gold rush was on.

The song went:

"I jumped aboard the Telegraph,
My banjo under my wing."

The Telegraph was the finest packet on the Ohio in those days. She had a gold anchor hanging on her bell-rope for a handle. It hangs from a beam in Capt. Tom Greene's cabin now.

In the, main cabin of the Tom Greene, where 250 passengers were eating dinner while the race progressed, was Capt. Mary B. Greene, acting as hostess.

She didn't pilot her son's boat after all, unless you count the time she took the wheel long enough to be photographed.

Arch and Drew Edgington piloted the winner. They're brothers. Their father, George Edgington, had seven sons and all of them became steamboat masters. Old Man Edgington built a packet and called her the Seven Wonders, in honor of his numerous sons.

When, under the able guidance of Drew Edgington, the Tom Greene slid in alongside the vanquished Betsy Ann at the end. of the race, a great delegation of townsfolk came aboard. Among them was Lou E. White, New Richmond undertaker, who had with him the loving cup put up as a trophy by the business men of the town.
Under the gifted, but highly confusing, direction of some seventy-five photographers, he presented the cup to Capt. Tom Greene. White was acting for C. H. Bogart, New Richmond Mayor, who couldn't be found.

All the prominent guests and officials and whatnot left the packets at New Richmond and returned to Cincinnati by auto or speedboat to attend a banquet in. the winner's honor on the Hotel Gibson roof.

Capt. Fred Way of the Betsy Ann told the judges after the race that he thought the Betsy was the real winner, though he would, of course, accept the decision of the judges, we learn from the Cincinnati Times-Star.


"Captain Way told us after the race that a photographer who took a picture as the boats passed the dam below New Richmond said the Betsy Ann was three feet in the lead," W. C. Culkins, one of the judges, stated. "Captain Way said, however, that he would abide by the decision of the judges, and, though he felt badly over the close decision, he was a good sport, and walked over and had his picture taken with the officers of the Tom Greene. The race was so close that we judges had to find out who was really in the lead by drawing a line across the two stages that projected over the bows of the boats."

Capt. Frederick Way showed the reporters the old-fashioned bar, with its foot rail still in good condition, on board the Betsy Ann. But it was bone-dry.

The bar, at which Southern gentlemen used to sip mint juleps when the Betsy ran, in the lower Mississippi trade, is forward on the main deck, but is arid and is used as an office now.

Last year the Betsy Ann lost to the Chris Greene the golden antlers she won in races in Southern waters. Now the Betsy sports another fine set of golden antlers, which shine brilliantly in the sun. They were a gift from friends.

"We'll win those rocking-chairs from you, too!" shouted a perspiring Negro coal-heaver of the Tom Greene, as he came out of the firing pit and pointed to the large antlers. But the antlers were not involved in this race, and the Betsy steamed on with them after the race.

The Tom Greene's narrow margin of victory over the Pittsburgh veteran makes for the enrichment of river traditions and furnishes material for more boat races no less than for argument, in the editorial judgment of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, which continues:

There must be a graceful bowing to the decision of the judges on the part of the regional supporters of the loser and insistence that the wheel-spoke handle that separated the packets at the finish line is reason for a new challenge and another race.

An end so close and a race so stoutly contested have seldom if ever been seen on the rivers. When the Chris Greene won over the Betsy last summer, there were six boat-lengths of open water between the steaming packets. In the classic days races were longer and the separations greater; the Robert E. Lee was four hours ahead of the Natchez in the famous meeting of 1870 on the 1,250-mile run from New Orleans to St. Louis, the race to which rivermen look when fast time on the inland waters is in question. Eyelash finishes are usually for the race tracks and not for the streams.

In the result there is honor for both boats and for the cities which they represent. The rivalry between the Betsy and the Greene line is healthy and makes for a growing appreciation of the rivers as mediums of sport as well as commerce. The report that a hundred thousand spectators lined the banks and urged on both boats indicates vastly more than merely local interest. They had great sights to witness—the belching smokestacks, the sweating crews, the energy-inspired captains, the daring pilots and, best of all, the boats themselves racing side by side with no choice between them for the whole twenty miles of the course. It is of such epic spectacles that folk lore is made. Much will be heard of the 1929 race of the Betsy and the Tom Greene. Pittsburgh will desire another meeting, regretting most of all that the home waters do not furnish a straightaway course of sufficient length to make a race possible right here.

In a reminiscent and pensive mood over the faded glories of the rivers, the Louisville Courier begins an editorial with an old quotation:

Gangway, catfish! Cross dat bar.
We's a-comin' on de Guidin' Star.

As the black smoke rolled from the twin stacks of the Betsy Ann and the Tom Greene, racing upstream from Cincinnati to New Richmond, the mist of sixty years or more rolled back and revealed to crowds of pleasure-loving moderns in airplanes, motor speedboats, an excursion steamer, and on the banks a revival of one of the most thrilling sports of their grandsires along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.

Oh, I wouldn' be a fireman,
He wuks down in de coal;
Ah'd ruther be de gamblin' man
An' wear a ring o' gol'.

The "gamblin' man" was absent as the Betsy and the Greene puffed and strained and shivered from stem to stern, but one might well picture his ghost, attired in a tall beaver hat, high collar and black stock, ruffled shirt bosom, lavender frock-coat and checkered trousers, strapped under his boots, leaning over the rail and waving a roll of bills at the rival boat, offering wagers.

This was no gambling event nor yet a commercial scheme, the winner to get the business, but purely a contest of speed between friendly rivals.


A "Retro-fashions" page from Youth's Companion magazine 6 April 1922. Apparently the young readers of this periodical were both boys and girls. The emphasis in the illustration is on the fancy ante-bellum apparel worn by the ladies on the levee rather than on the steamboats behind the ladies and gents.

LIFE_December 22, 1958_WhenJazzWasYoungArmstrongAndBeiderbeckeForNORI


"Fine Art" painting as illustrations by Morton Roberts This is the second to the last piece of artwork: Louis Armstrong and Bix Beiderbecke on the New Orleans levee in 1920.

Morton Roberts obviously referred to the Keystone stereoview Number 119 "Cotton! Cotton! Cotton! Levee, New Orleans, Louisiana" of the roustabouts resting on cotton bales while they waited for their next assignment of heavy lifting. Roberts got his steamboat reference from another photo or photos. Maybe I'll come across the source one of these days and add it to this demonstration.

LIFE Magazine
December 22, 1958
Special 2 in 1 Holiday Issue

Beginning on page 64

When Jazz Was Young:

Eleven paintings by Morton Roberts and vivid recollections of old time musicians evoke days when America's own art form was born in New Orleans and rode north of the river.

The caption for the attached painting was a quotation from Louis Armstrong regarding the young Bix Beiderbecke. At the time both musicians played cornets. It wasn't until the mid-1920's that "Satchmo" Armstrong switched to a trumpet.

"I had my first job with Fate Marable's band" (beginning in September, 1918 on one of the Streckfus steamers that conducted excursions around the harbor of New Orleans).

"In 1920 I was 19 and Bix was 16. He just sit there on the levee and listen to me blow and then go home and go to work. Listen, I mean work. I told him just to play and he'd please the cats but you take a genius and he's never satisfied. Later on we'd meet when we played the same town. After we closed the door on the cats we'd get together and have a ball. If that boy had lived, he'd be the greatest." Bix passed on in 1931 at age 28.


Attached scan of an un-numbered page from the 15, May 1945 issue of the Saturday Evening Post In the book of Louisiana and Mississippi plantations that I have there's no exact match for the plantation house so it may have been an idyllic fantasy of a Southern house on the Mississippi River. The steamboat is a fairly generic sidewheeler also but the whole image has charm. The scan enhanced the artwork as it appeared in the magazine quite a bit, now it's "more better." The style of the painting is reminiscent of the backgrounds painted by Disney artists for animated films. Can imagine Alice and Dinah the cat under the tree just before the White Rabbit ran by with his watch saying "I'm late! I'm late! For a very important date!" (in "Wonderland.")

A partial transcript of the "copy" below the illustration:

"Pittsburgh Paints Look Better Longer

Near a great river shadowed by venerable, gnarled oaks, stands a gallant Southern home, ageless and serene. The spirit of warm welcome is ingrained in its architecture. Friendly as a handclasp, the high pillared porch is a harbor of hospitality. Wide, inviting doors are a silent apology for their ever being closed. The spacious hall leads to a sweeping staircase, as graceful as the train of a bride's gown. Mellowed by the light of countless candles and soft southern nights, blessed by years of kindly sunlight, the great homes of the South have an aura of romance. Old mahogany is rich with the priceless patina of time and use. Graceful mirrors recall the gracious days and gala nights when they reflected a stately era of rustling silk, fine linen and gleaming silver. These are fortunate homes that never can he empty because they are well-peopled with memories. Their beauty belongs to all who share the love of home that is deep-rooted in our national character. At no time in history has this great American trait been more evident than now. We treasure our homes and the desire to protect them is common with us all.

. . . We take pride and great satisfaction in making finer products for those who know that a few cents more paid for quality paint is a wise investment.

Time has proven that Pittsburgh Paints do look better longer.


Copyright 1948 Pittsburgh Plate Glass Co.. Pittsburgh, PA

cotton levee
Magazine illustration of Memphis levee by W.J. Aylward 1915.


The artist's initials in the lower left corner A.R.W. stand for Alfred Rudolph Waud (1828-April 6, 1891) an American artist and illustrator, born in London, England. Waud was famous for the sketches he made as an artist correspondent during the American Civil War. It is possible that Waud also wrote the story that accompanied this but "the artist" is referred to by another narrator so either Waud was getting creative or there was a journalist on board with him. There were several other drawings that were made into engravings for this voyage of the CITY OF CAIRO in July of 1871 adventure but the attached artwork is the only one of the boat itself in an "action" scene. We have other examples of Waud's work elsewhere among our illustrations including ON THE MISSISSIPPI which included the NATCHEZ on Sept 2nd 1871, which was also from the periodical EVERY SATURDAY in which he was indeed given a "double credit" as both "Our Special Artist AND Correspondent."

The Murphy Library has some photos of several boats named the CITY OF CAIRO but they were all built after the one in this story was active on the Mississippi. Fred Way lists the boat in this story as Number 1055 in his Packet Directory. This CITY OF CAIRO was built in 1864 at Metropolis, Illinois and completed in St. Louis. She was sidewheeler 272 feet long and rand St. Louis—Memphis for the Memphis Packet Co. Lost in a fire at New Orleans in 1873.

In the following story there are references in the text to things that are going on in the illustration including the clerk escaping from the boiler deck via the suspended "gang-plank" (stage) and an irate Priest shaking his fists at his parishioners in Lake Providence, Louisiana who failed to come to the rescue of the boat and him after the CITY OF CAIRO suffered an accident

The wrecked cotton packet JUDGE WHEELER mentioned in the article was built in 1870 and exploded 45 miles north of Vicksburg in February 1871 with 600 bales of cotton on board.

Some editing of the article was required due in part to the poor quality of the online source material which was difficult for both myself and "Omni PagePro" to transcribe. I was only able to obtain page 285 from this article on eBay from which the attached illustration was scanned.


pages 284 - 286


SEPTEMBER 16, 1871.


It was a hot afternoon in July when we hurried aboard the steamer CITY OF CAIRO.

She was advertised to leave Vicksburg for Memphis at precisely five o'clock p.m. At precisely six o'clock p.m., the CITY OF CAIRO pushed out in the river, and paddled away down stream in the direction of New Orleans.

Stopping, however, at a little railroad station on the bank opposite and below Vicksburg, the CITY OF CAIRO passed a social hour, so to speak, with the trim-looking, wharf-boat there, and then turned around, puffed back to the Vicksburg levee, and went to discharging the freights which she had brought from Memphis on the last trip.

Between ten and eleven o'clock we went to bed, and awoke next morning to find the CITY OF CAIRO with her nose on a desolate bank, commanding a view of about three rods of alluvial wilderness in the foreground and a dense tog swallowing up the river and all nature beyond. We had left Vicksburg some time in the night, and had been overtaken by this fag after a voyage of about five miles.

After breakfast the mist cleared away enough for the boat to feel its way by soundings, and when at last the day turned out bright and sunny, we paced the mouth of the Yazoo, and landed at Milliken's Bend.

Here the river has been busy in its work of obliterating traces of the late war. The spot where "the brave troops fought proudly," as the phrase goes, has not yet caved away, but the earthworks and the ten and eleven o'clock we went to bed, and awoke next morning to find the CITY OF CAIRO with her nose on a desolate bank, commanding a view of about three rows of old levees which served for works, are gradually going down the Mississippi to form sandbars for the peaceful water-fowl of lower latitudes.

It took us three days and three nights to reach Memphis. There is no reason why I should go over the long, tedious voyage in detail. We made, I believe, four hundred landings in all. The banks presented the same sunny monotony day after day, and the nights were the same dreary lapses of heat and half-sleep. Little is left of Napoleon, Arkansas which used to have the reputation of being the wickedest town on the Mississippi ; but the streets once vocal with the "sharp note of the pistol and the pleasing squeak of the victim" have all caved into the thee. Napoleon may be said to be wrecked on a sandbar a few miles below, on the opposite side of the river where the caving earth is being deposited. Even the Arkansas River, which used to empty all its waters into the Mississippi in the neighborhood, has broken into the White River, miles above, and has left the town to its fate. Napoleon is in fact a mere suburb of its former self. Helena, farther up the Mississippi, and in the same State, presents a thriving appearance. Remains of fortifications used in the late war, are still visible on the high ground back of the town, but the town itself shows no scars, at least to one passing on the river. Bell's Plantation and the picturesque wreck of the old steamboat JUDGE WHEELER, form, with the towns already mentioned, about the only interruption to the level sameness of the banks for the whole four hundred miles of our passage from Vicksburg to Memphis.

But we had excitement enough in one crowded boor on board the boat to make up for all the tameness of the shores. Up to the hour in question a faint show of diversion was furnished by a certain fat boy, who generally made his appearance on deck just after meal time. Here he would mingle freely with any group that had the energy to converse, find assist in the conversation, until yielding to post-prandial influences he would fall asleep sitting up. Then, too, there was a mild sort of excitement afforded on by three State-prison convicts, —an express robber, a poisoner and a cold-blooded murderer, who came aboard somewhere in Mississippi, and camped upon the baggage of your present chronicler, just outside of our stateroom door. They were negroes; and were on their way to work upon some plantation. Three men fiercely armed took turns in standing guard over them. The fine way in which the State institutions of Mississippi are I farmed out, could not, I think, have been brought to one's door with more exhilarating force. In comparison with any other Southern State, Mississippi has hardly debt at all, and why its citizens should be exposed to the humiliation, to say nothing of the demoralization, of having criminals turned out among them in gangs all over the country, does not appear to the pacing traveller. A private individual or company chartered the penitentiary and its inmates— a fact which speaks ill enough of the legislature; but this scattering of convicts all over the country, seems to me an outrage not only upon the dignity of the State, but upon the rights of the law-abiding citizen.

One afternoon, on the verge of the crowded hour I have alluded to, the prisoners were lying asleep upon my baggage, the fat boy was sitting asleep on the rail, and the majority of the passengers were gossiping drowsily in the shade on the forward guard. We had just left a landing on the Mississippi bank, and were going to Lake Providence, when there was a sudden scraping of the bottom of the boat, a jar that threw us all forward, a crash, an explosion, and a vast escape of steam. There was not a face that did not turn deathly pale. For a few seconds no one seemed to have power to speak or move. Then someone said, " We have struck a snag and it has gone through the boilers !"

The first impulse was now for every soul to jump overboard from where we were on the upper deck. There was a rush in that direction. At the railing, the united mind appeared to change in an instant, and the whole throng made for the stairs leading to the lower deck. Everyone hurried forward in the attempt to be as far from the boilers as possible when the explosion should come. And while we were expecting it to come, the scene was just simply terrific. Some mad person had secured a door of a state room and brought it down on the bow where I was, and then disappeared. I could do no more than gather up the door and stand ready to jump. There provided for, I surveyed the scene about me. At my feet, crouched behind a coil of rope, lay a negro "roustabout," too much terrified to move, but his gaze was so bent in the direction of the boilers that only the whites of his eyes were visible. Further along a lot of deck passengers and roustabouts were just launching the only available boat. The mate happening to see them, made them leave the boat and go to work putting out the fires under the boilers.

Some of the ladies were kept from jumping into the river by main force. The most distressful sight, perhaps, was that of the poor convicts; they were handcuffed together, and none of their three keepers had the means of unshackling them. The prison authorities had forgotten to send along the keys. The terror of the wretches was something sickening to see, especially after the keepers had tried to break the irons and had failed.

The whole upper part of the boat was enveloped la the escaping steam, out of which I saw the chief clerk emerging. He was a very dressy, gentlemanly person on ordinary occasions, but now he came abruptly, head first, in his shirt sleeves, through the back window of his office. He jumped out upon the gang-plank which hung suspended on a plane with the upper deck, and climbed down some ropes to the lower deck, preceded by his glossy silk hat, and followed halfway by the fat boy. This youth was on the point of going overboard after the clerk's hat supposing the clerk to be still under it, and in the safest place at such a moment; but his father caught him in the middle of his mad career and of his anatomy, and brought him back to the guard.

The humor of this scene had much to do in restoring me to my senses. Looking aft I saw the men working hard to put out the fires under the boilers and the engineers all at their posts. It occurred to me that if there were to be any further explosion the engineers would be apt to know it and would be getting out of the way. Events occur very fast at such a time. While I was standing still with a firm grip on my door, more people with everything but life preservers joined me on the bow. The life-preservers were all in the staterooms and no one seemed to care about venturing far into the cabin after them. The ladies were actually too scared to faint or scream. Once free of the idea of going overboard they stood stark and speechless on the lower deck. While they were standing there in this helpless way, a gentleman who had retired to the quarterdeck to strip himself as soon as the explosion occurred, strode forth in undershirt and drawers to view the situation; he came in plain view of the situation, retired gracefully, and put on his clothes again.

About this time my eye lighted upon our artist from whom the confusion had separated me. The artist was now intently watching the movements of the bartender, and the bartender was walking vigorously up and down in front of the bar, the only man on the boat, except probably the engineers, who had not left his post. He kept up his promenade for some time, and thee stopped as if something had struck him; something indeed bad struck him ; it was the thought of the money in his drawer. He went deliberately behind the bar, transferred the money from the drawer to his pocket, and resumed his walk. Sometimes his form would disappear in the steam, but he kept on marching to and fro in front of his bar till the panic was over.

I joined the artist and we went up into the cabin and found it still full of steam and unbearably hot. The carpet was torn and a part of the floor was blown up ; chairs, tamps, and tables were capsized, and everything high and low strewn with the bits of cotton which had served as padding to the carpet. Here I was much relieved to learn that we had not taken a snag into our boilers at all, but that we had run with full headway on to a sandbar, and a steam-pipe had been twisted off by the swaying and wrenching of the boat. When we found that the danger from fire was over, we ventured into our stateroom, which was in the immediate neighborhood of the broken steam-pipe. We found our pillows blown into a heap with our mosquito-bars, and diverse volumes of light literature, to say nothing of light articles of apparel, strewn on the floor and covered with hot water and Mississippi mud. If this had all happened in the middle of the night, we might have gotten scalded and been a great deal more scared than we were. If we had been roused out of an unquiet sleep by such an explosion accompanied by hot water I have in my mind's eye at least one person who would probably have gone overboard without waiting to secure a door as a floatation device or anything else.

In the course of time the anchor was cast and the water was blown out of the boilers. We were all the while in plain view of the people of Lake Providence, scarcely a mile away, but they made not the least effort to come to our aid. We lay at anchor most of the afternoon, yet no one seemed to have even the curiosity to approach us. We could see people watching us from the wharf-boat while the steam was escaping. They however gradually disappeared and we were left to our fate. We had on board the parish priest of Lake Providence; he was, like the rest of us, very much frightened at best, but he waxed much more indignant than any one else at the conduct of his parishioners. He vowed he would give them a little sermon on the subject, if he lived to get ashore. The chubby reverend gentleman had seized his valise at the first alarm, and rushed down on the lower deck, ready to go ashore, and he stood, as you will see him in the lower right hand corner of our picture, waving at his stolid, unheeding flock, until the steam was quite blown out of the boilers.

Assured that the danger was really past, we all met to compare notes. As is always the case after an accident, every one was more anxious to give an account of his own experiences than to listen to an account given by anyone else but in this sympathetic reunion we found that no one had been injured except a canary bird, a sweet songster belonging to the boat. The steam had killed it. At the time of the accident a small party were at dinner not far from where the pipe burst in the cabin. In regular order dessert was their next course; they took napkins instead and hurried away with them. As soon as the steam was out of the cabin the ladies, with one or two exceptions, retired and powdered their faces. Then they came back en the guards and contributed their sham to the general stock of experiences One lady said she had heard in such awful moments people always think and talk about death and religion. Now that hadn't been the way with her. She was thinking all the dine about her trunk full of new clothes, and whether they would get wet, or burn up. Finally the said her anxiety seemed to have settled upon one solitary dress made to wear north, —when, being assured that the danger was over, her mind traversed hack from the one dress to the other contents of the trunk, and thus through the trunk to her ordinary consciousness again. This metaphysical process, as I understand it, was just the converse of the German one which resulted in the elephant. The young lady you see, did not evolve the trunk from her consciousness, but her consciousness from the trunk.

Not twenty minutes before the occurrence of the accident an officer in former Confederate service had been telling of certain cool behaviors of his own, not only upon the field of battle, but on the occasion of a great steamboat explosion once upon a time. When the crash came on board of our boat, he jumped to his feet and disappeared. After all was over he explained that he had gone aft to see to the ladies. Now all the ladies he happened to know were in the party from which he so suddenly vanished. That evening when we had got under way again, and were all seated at supper, the boat went a little hard against the bank in making a landing. Our ex-Confederate again sprang to his feet and disappeared. Being questioned upon his return, he said that be thought it was his getting-off place. All the stories of brave conduct in the war which our friend had previously told at may have been true; but he never on the boat seemed quite brave enough to acknowledge that he was scared. The fact is we were all scared, as we had a right to be. Even the plucky bartender could hardly speak when he was first accosted on his solitary walk in front of his bar.

There was no one to blame for the accident. The sands and mud of the Mississippi will shift, and if a steamboat striking a bar with all its force wrenches off a steam-pipe, the engineers can do no more than ours did. They worked with all their eight and made their fire-men said coal-heavers work, and long before dark the damage was repaired and the engines were moving The current itself took us off the bar. The anchor was shipped, and we proceeded on our voyage. The accident furnished us with something to talk about all the way to Memphis. The story had to be told over and over to passengers whom we picked up on our way. To the newcomers we gave tithes of wonder and fear until we had nothing left in our store but individual bravery. At last we were a lot of gallant people who had been blown up without moving a muscle except in giving dauntless aid to unprotected women and children.


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.*