Steamboat Paintings by Robert Rucker, page 2


Rucker - Donaldsville, Louisiana

I gather that the subject was supposed to represent Confederate soldiers checking the passes held by African American slaves who were coming or going across the Mississippi River during the Civil War.

Catalog No. 12
Checking Passes at Donaldsonville, Louisiana
Oil on canvas; 30 x 36 inches
Signed lower left:
Robert Malcolm Rucker

This historical panorama was suggested to Rucker by Major General O.J. Daigle, whose home town was Donaldsonville. Donaldsonville in Ascension Parish was a former state capitol of Louisiana. The city profited from the commerce made possible by the steamboats, becoming a main commercial artery at the junction of the Mississippi and Bayou Lafourche.

From the 2003 publication
DOWN ON THE LEVEE - Robert Malcolm Rucker, Painter of Louisiana
Published in 2003 by the Jean Bragg Gallery, New Orleans, Louisiana


Robert Rucker oil painting of a Steamboat with 1920s Sedan in the Foreground

Robert Rucker oil on canvas painting of a Steamboat with 1920s Sedan in the Foreground
20 x 30 inches
Bill Hood & Sons Art & Antique Auctions
Delray Beach, Florida


Robert Rucker Belle Pike at the Bluff

Robert Rucker
Belle Pike at the Bluff
Oil on canvas
16 x 20 inches
Catalogue No. 46


an original Robert Rucker watercolor

Just arrived yesterday, an original Robert Rucker watercolor of one of the steamboats named OUACHITA. The dealer in Mississippi described the frame that her husband made for it:

"The frame is made out of old Cypress wood. It's called a box frame. This wood is very hard to come by, it used to be plentiful but all the trees have been cut down. The only cypress wood obtainable now is not this deep red color."

Posted in Mississippi June 03, 2016 by Daniella DiRienzo

There's Something Stunningly Beautiful About Mississippi's Cypress Swamps
Mississippi is full of natural wonders, and among those wonders are cypress swamps. These swamps are filled with trees, some dating back more than 1,000 years. The cypress trees are unique in the fact that they produce roots known as "knees," which protrude from the surface of the water. The swamps also provide the perfect habitat for a wide variety of wildlife.


Down on the Levee Rucker art with the exceptional painting of the "Light-house tender" LILY

Steamboat painting: the light-house tender LILY on page 28
From the 2003 publication
"DOWN ON THE LEVEE - Robert Malcolm Rucker, Painter of Louisiana"
Published in 2003 by the Jean Bragg Gallery, New Orleans, Louisiana


Robert Rucker FAMILY REUNION with a steamboat that appears to be the MABEL COMEAUX

Robert Rucker's FAMILY REUNION with a steamboat whose name appears to be MABEL COMEAUX in the distance on a Louisiana bayou and a Cajun cottage in the foreground.


Robert Rucker's Christmas-themed night time painting

Merry CHRISTMAS EVE by Robert Rucker

Below is a caption(take 3) that is somewhat improved from the one I sent at 9:35 .

Robert Rucker's Christmas eve themed painting with a subtle Star of Bethlehem in the sky to the right of center. A steamboat at a shore landing which Rucker may have given the name name EMPIRE which is semi-legible on the paddle box. Fourteen folks lower right, mostly African Americans, adults and children, two of the men standing appear to be wearing Confederate uniforms. A fiddler and a banjo player sit in the foreground to the left of the fire where a fowl is cooking on a spit, a covered wagon dominates behind the group.

This is Number 31 of 500 small prints with a picture area measuring 4.90 x 6.95 inches (there was a 1.10 inch white margin all around not included here, signed in pencil under the image). Rucker signed his name in the lower right of the picture itself but the printer cropped it quite a bit along the bottom although it is sort of legible. He may have printed these as enclosures to be mailed with his Christmas cards to friends and collectors.


Robert Rucker Oil on Canvas, Steamboat at Sunset

Robert M. Rucker (American, Louisiana, 1932-2001) oil on canvas depicting a steamship at sunset with bright, vivid colors. Signed lower right "Robert M. Rucker". Excellent condition. Sight - 17 1/2" H x 23 1/2" W. Framed - 22 5/8" H x 28 5/8" W.20th century.

21st May 2011 Auction - Knoxville, Tennessee

Robert Rucker Oil on Canvas
Steamboat at Sunset

Low Estimate: $2,000.00
High Estimate: $3,000.00
SOLD for $4,830.00.



Artist Robert Rucker's father Edward Augustus RUCKER was captain on two steamboats: the HALLETE and the H.M. CARTER

Robert Malcolm Rucker (March 28, 1932 - March 7, 2001) was a Southern impressionist painter born in New Orleans, Louisiana. At the age of sixteen he opened his first art gallery in the French Quarter section of New Orleans. Having been born the son of Edward Augustus Rucker, a noted Louisiana steamboat captain, many of Rucker's works focus on the southern countryside of the Mississippi Delta. Following a long day of swimming in the Mississippi River, Rucker developed a severe case of poliomyelitis at the age of seventeen. As a result of his illness, the Louisiana Department of Education funded Rucker's education at the John McCrady School of Fine Arts located on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Later following his graduation, Rucker worked briefly as a medical school illustrator for Tulane University School of Medicine. Rucker is known as one of Louisiana's most renowned artists. He is known to have generated thousands of paintings during his lifetime. He is the father to three daughters Lynn, Yvonne, and Janet. In 1997 Rucker was named a "Louisiana Legend" by the Louisiana Public Broadcasting. On March 7, 2001, Rucker died of a heart attack.

Robert's father, Edward Augustus Rucker was captain on the following two steamboats:

HALLETTE Sternwheeler
Way's Packet Directory Number 2515

Built in 1887 at Jeffersonville, Indiana at Howard Ship Yards Original price, $11,500.
197 tons. Her machinery came from the ALEXANDRIA.
She was named for the daughter of H.C. Stringfellow, a Shreveport plantation owner.

Navigated the Mississippi and Red rivers

Home port/owner's residence of the Red River Line circa 1887 was New Orleans.

Pine Bluff (Arkansas) Packet Company (1899)

In 1902 she ran the New Orleans-Atchafalaya-Des Glaizes trade

commanded by Captain E.A. Rucker (Edward Augustus Rucker) with Oscar Smith, clerk in place of the steamer JULIAN POYDRAS.

In 1905 she brought cotton out of the Yazoo for the Parisot Line.

Way's Packet Directory Number 2493
Built in Jeffersonville, Indiana by Howard, 1901
155x28 x 3.5.
Compound Swain engines
Owned by Carter Packet Co., and ran New Orleans-Ouachita-Black rivers.

On a trip up Red River sank at Alexandria, Louisiana, June 1905.

Was in New Orleans-Baton Rouge trade under Capt. H.M. Carter, when she exploded her boilers near Bayou Goula, upbound, Nov 20, 1908. Capt. E.A. Rucker (Edward Augustus Rucker) was the pilot on watch. Ten or more were killed as a result of the explosion.


Robert Rucker's Steamboat NATCHEZ No. 8

The Steamer Natchez No. 8
JULY 31, 2020


If you reside in New Orleans or have occasion to visit the fabled Crescent City, allow yourself ample time to follow the call of the calliope and take a leisurely walk to the Toulouse Street Wharf, where you will find the beautiful sternwheel steamboat Natchez, built in 1975 and designed by the late Capt. Alan Bates, the previous writer of this column.

The Natchez is the ninth steamboat to bear the name; all of its predecessors were sidewheelers except one, which we will feature this week along with a recently discovered image made from a glass plate negative.

An elegant sternwheeler with graceful lines built by the renowned Howard Shipyard on the Ohio River at Jeffersonville, Ind., the eighth Natchez was launched in 1891 at a cost of $43,000. With a wooden hull measuring 225 feet in length by 40 feet in width, the new vessel was powered by engines having 20-inch cylinders with an 8-foot stroke. Steam was supplied by three boilers.

Inasmuch as Capt. Thomas P. Leathers, the colorful captain and owner of the previous steamboats named Natchez (including the sixth one, which raced the Robt. E. Lee 150 years ago from New Orleans to St. Louis in 1870), was well up in years, the command of the new steamboat went to his son, Capt. Bowling S. Leathers. The young captain's wife, Blanche Douglass Leathers, was the daughter of a wealthy Tensas Parish (La.) planter who regularly shipped his cotton on Leathers' boats. Marrying in 1880, Blanche moved aboard the Natchez (No. 7) with her husband and learned the river under his tutelage, receiving her license in August 1894.

Blanche was known for being a no-nonsense manager who ran a tight ship and proudly perpetuated the family tradition of steamboating. When her famous father-in-law passed away on January 13, 1897, as the result of being struck some months earlier by a bicycle while crossing St. Charles Avenue in New Orleans, advertisements appeared in newspapers listing Capt. Blanche as master and Bowling as clerk of their riverboat. It is reputed that Capt. T.P. Leathers, nicknamed "Old Push" in honor of the Pushmataha Indian tribe, never set foot aboard the eighth Natchez, the last steamboat in the Leathers' fleet.

In November 1896, the big sternwheeler sank just above its namesake city of Natchez, Miss., with 1,700 bales of cotton and 8,757 sacks of seed aboard, the cause attributed to dried hull seams. Quickly raised and repaired, the boat was soon involved in another incident when, in early February 1897, it hit the bank at Cottonwood, some 20 miles below Vicksburg, knocking down the jackstaff and twin stages, as well as causing the towering smokestacks to topple. The steamer again sank—this time at Ford's Crossing, 12 miles below Natchez—in November 1899, but was raised and placed back into service.

By 1902, Blanche and Bowling Leathers had retired from the river. Capt. William A. Duke had become master of the boat, with T.C. Sachse serving as clerk. The vessel received new boilers in July 1914, but less than a year later was sold, in May 1915, at auction by a U.S. Marshall for $6,500 to Capt. Duke. The boat was operated in the New Orleans-Cariola-Grand Lake trade with minimal success, often being laid up for long periods, before ultimately being dismantled in 1918.

Capt. Blanche Leathers, who had once been described by newspaper reporters as "The Angel of the Mississippi," died on January 25, 1940. Further information regarding the current steamboat Natchez (No. 9) is available at
Editor's note: For questions or suggestions regarding the Old Boat Column, Keith Norrington may be contacted by e-mail at



Robert Rucker FAMILY REUNION with a steamboat that appears to be the MABEL COMEAUX

Robert Rucker's FAMILY REUNION with steamboat MABEL COMEAUX in the background, a Cajun cottage in the foreground, all on a Louisiana bayou.
Also included a file of "Fair Mabel" in an oval vignette that I just made.

Sternwheel packet
Way's Packet Directory Number 3672

Built in 1891 at Jeffersonville, Indiana by Howard Ship Yard
She was known as the "Fair Mabel."

Captain E.J. Comeaux

T.K. Voorhees and J.V. LeBlanc, clerks

She ran New Orleans-Donaldsonville-New Hope. By 1902 she was running New Orleans-Bayou Lafourche. Was laid up at McDonoughville above Coyle's coal yard when she was caught out there and went over on her side. Dismantled in 1909.


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.