Music Illustrations, Sheet Music

Belle of Alton Oval Vignette DeSaturated HALF size

Oval vignette detail derived from the sheet music cover (below).


Murphy Library's photo of the Belle of Alton for comparison to the sheet music cover (below).
Photo Courtesy of Murphy Library at the University of Wisconsin - La Crosse
Steamboat Collection Photographs

This is one of the best of the reprints made by the Mississippi Lime Co. of Alton. Original sheet music would have been published circa late 1860's. After looking at the Murphy Library's photo of the boat it seems that either artistic license was taken by the draughtsman or the boat was remodeled at some point. The art work shows a "double decker" cabin without a Texas under the pilot house. It's doubtful but possible that the Texas could have been embellished later by encircling it with a promenade deck but the only photo shows the boat with the standard single cabin with Texas above.

Belle of Alton 1868-1873
Built 1868 by Howard Ship Yards, Jeffersonville, Indiana; home port St. Louis, Missouri
Her machinery came from SOUTHWESTER
Her machinery went to CARONDELET. Alton and St. Louis Packet Company, Captain John A. Bruner
Officers and Crew: In 1870 New Orleans-Grand Encore, J.P. McKinley (master), William A. Hurd (clerk), William W. Marsh (engineer)
Operated on the Mississippi, Ouachita and Black Rivers
Way's Packet Directory- 0511:
Burned at Algiers, Louisiana, laid up, March 28, 1871. Her engineer, William W. Marsh, was jailed in New Orleans charged with arson, later released on $6,000 bond. At trial he was honorably acquitted. Hull was used as a barge. Hull burned at Vicksburg, November 18, 1873.


Sheet music "The Good Ship WHIPPOORWILL" 1915


Words by Coleman Goetz Music by Walter Donaldson
Published by Shapiro Bernstein &Co. 1915

Sheet music cover with artwork representing a stylized head-on graphic of a large packet boat with smoke from the stacks curling over a full orange moon

The lyrics are not as catchy as the ones that were written for the hit song STEAMBOAT BILL five years earlier where the fictional boat WHIPPOORWILL was introduced but below are some excerpts that are more than sufficient:

"There's a boat that leaves the town
When the golden sun goes down
As she leaves the pier
How the crowds all yell and cheer
In Dixie . . . on the good ship Whip-poor-will
When the whistles blow . . .

See those folks Virginia reelin'
While those paddlewheels are wheelin'

There's the captain and the crew
I will introduce you to each and ev'ry one
And know you'll have some fun
Get ready, hear the funny tunes they play

recent acquisitions

One of my favorite reprints made by the Mississippi Lime Company (Alton, Illinois) of the sheet music cover for the "Martha Jewett Polka."

Beautiful graphics and lettering.

In 1852 the Martha Jewett was built in the Soap Hollow boat yard north of Holliday's Hill [1852] above Sam Clemens hometown, Hannibal, Missouri. She was burned and lost at Cairo, Illinois on January 3, 1859.
Captain David H. Silver
She ran on the Missouri, Mississippi and Tennessee Rivers.

- From Way's Packet Directory No. 3774

In April 1856 she ran bi-weekly between St. Louis and St. Joseph.
39 years after she burned (1895), her roof bell was installed in the belfry of a Presbyterian church at Cairo, Illinois.

recent acquisitions

City of Alton (Packet, 1860-1883)
Built in 1860 at Madison, Indiana
Dismantled at St. Louis, Missouri in 1883
Captain Mitchell; Captain Barnes (master, 1861)
Traveled on the Mississippi River; Tennessee River

Fred Way's Packet Directory No. 1045;
First home port, Alton, Illinois. Ran St. Louis-Alton. One of the first acts of derring-do in the Civil War was when 10,000 muskets and other munitions were removed from the St. Louis Arsenal under cover of night and taken to Alton, Illinois aboard this boat in April 1861 while sympathy for the South was running high in St. Louis. The boat landed at Alton before daybreak, the munitions were transferred to awaiting freight cars of the Chicago and Alton Railroad and delivered to Springfield, Illinois where the Illinois troops got their arms. She was with Grant's fleet during the Tennessee campaign and ran between St. Louis and Memphis after the war.

Sheet Music DIXIE NIGHT Chas Repper

"Dixie Night" sheet music cover- 1921
Charles Repper, composer and librettist

Nice graphic design with inventive lettering below a moonlit riverscape with silhouette of steamboat with some lights on and a cotton "boll" below the composer's name.

sheet music steamboat illustration

I found this on a web search from an antiquarian book dealer in the Netherlands, pretty exciting. Stephen Foster's immortal celebration of a boat (I understand it was originally called the Glen D. Burke but I have a waybill where the name is shortened to Glendy Burke so it may have been rechristened with the nickname by "popular demand").

By Stephen C. Foster

De Glendy Burk is mighty fast boat,
Wid a mighty fast captain too;
He sits up dah on de hurricane roof
And he keeps his eye on de crew.
I can't stay here, for dey work too hard;
I'm bound to leave dis town;
I'll take my duds and tote 'em on my back
When de Glendy Burk comes down.

Ho! for Lou'siana!
I'm bound to leave dis town;
I'll take my duds and tote 'em on my back
When de Glendy Burk comes down.

De Glendy Burk has a funny old crew
And dey sing de boatman's song,
Dey burn de pitch and de pine knot too,
For to shove de boat along.
De smoke goes up and de ingine roars
And de wheel goes round and round,
So fair you well! for I'll take a little ride
When de Glendy Burk comes down.

Repeat Chorus

I'll work all night in de wind and storm,
I'll work all day in de rain,
'Till I find myself on de levydock
In New Orleans again.
Dey make me mow in de hay field here
And knock my head wid de flail,
I'll go wha dey work wid de sugar and de cane
And roll on de cotten bale.

Repeat Chorus

My lady love is as pretty as a pink,
I'll meet her on de way
I'll take her back to de sunny old south
And day I'll make her stay
So don't you fret my honey dear,
Oh! don't you fret, Miss Brown
I'll take you back 'fore de middle of de week
When de Glendy Burk comes down.


1851 Waybill from the GLENDY BURKE on page one of the sheet music.


Sheet music cover for STEAMBOAT RAG by Ernie Burnett Copyright 1911
Published by SYNDICATE MUSIC CO. 3818 LaClede Ave St. LOUIS, MO 1914

A 1911 piano roll of the ragtime melody is played on a player piano which is finessed by foot and hand controls during performance at this link:


Steamboat Rag (Burnett) Ampico Lexington 88n

Published on Feb 21, 2013
Golden Age recut of Universal 88n # 66794B (Burnett)


Sheet music over for L&C Waltzes dedicated to the CITY OF LOUISVILLE, Way Number 1095 sidewheeler 301 feet long built at Howard Shipyards in 1894. Owned by Louisville & Cincinnati Packet Co., operated on the Ohio River between Louisville and Cincinnati. 72 staterooms, slept 160, could carry 1500 passengers on excursions. Set speed records between Louisville and Cincinnati upstream (9 hours 42 minutes) and downstream (5 hours 58 minutes) Lost in the ice at Cincinnati, Ohio on January 30, 1918.



The rendering of the clouds in the sky on this cover for Helen Walker's song is the most distinctive feature of the art work. The clouds have something of an "Art Deco" design and may have been derived from the illustrations of Arthur Rackham.

Walker's theme and writing is extremely conventional and evidently derived from listening to the many nostalgic songs of Stephen Foster and other sentimental composers and lyricists. Foster's "Old Folks at Home" (best remembered as "Swanee River") included the key phrase "all the world is sad and dreary everywhere I ROAM" which handily rhymed with HOME.

Sheet music - 1922
Forster Music Publisher Inc.
235 South Wabash Ave

Tempo - "Slow Waltz time"

Dear old Mississippi Steamboat
As you slowly leave the pier,
You awaken in my mem'ry thoughts of one I love so dear,
She is waiting always waiting,
and no longer will I roam
Dear old Mississippi Steamboat take me home


I can see the old plantation,
Fields of sugar cane and corn
I can picture Dad and Mother
And the place where I was born,
They are waiting, always waiting
and no longer will I roam,
Dear old Mississippi Steamboat take me home


SHOWBOAT sheet music album - 5 songs by Kern, Wodehouse and Hammerstein II

SHOWBOAT sheet music album of selected songs copyrighted 1927 that Jerome Kern composed for the musical. The fifth and last song in the album is Old Man River. This soft cover publication is undated but published sometime after the 1951 release of MGM's movie SHOW BOAT. The photo on the cover is of MGM's COTTON BLOSSOM full scale prop steamboat boat and the man in the top hat in the foreground is Howard Keel as Gaylord Ravenal.


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.