Steamboat Paintings by Jack Woodson

steamboat illustration

Jack Woodson's atmospheric ROB'T E. LEE on some foggy mornin' Down South with a fisherman's little riverside cabin in the foreground. From the warm color scheme on the cabin and it looks like the risin' sun will soon burn off the fog.


Jack Woodson's WHIPPOORWILL.

Woodson evidently painted this as a piece of "calendar art" which could also be sold as a print in a standard 11 X 14 inch picture frame.

Woodson was primarily a nautical artist apparently who specialized in sailing ships at sea rather than riverboats. John Stobart's sea-going ship paintings also outnumber the ones he has done of steamboats on the Inland Waterways.


First published in 1910

by F.A. Mills Music Publisher

122 West 36th Street, New York City

Lyrics by Ken Shields

Music by Bert & Frank Leighton

As sung by Arthur Collins
On the 78 rpm Victor recording made in 1911
Number 16867-A

Sheet music specified that it was to be played in "Allegro moderato"

L Y R I C S:
Down the Mississippi steamed the WHIPPOORWILL
Commanded by the pilot, Mr. Steamboat Bill.
The owners gave him orders on the strict Q.T.*
To try and beat the record of the ROBERT E. LEE

"Just speed up your fire, let the old smoke roll,
Burn up all your cargo, if you run out of coal.
If we don't beat that record," Billy told the mate,
"Then the MAIDEN CARE'll beat us to the Golden Gate."

Oh Steamboat Bill, steaming down the Mississippi.
Steamboat Bill, a mighty man was he.
Oh Steamboat Bill, steaming down the Mississippi.
Gonna beat the record of the ROBERT E. LEE.
Up then stepped a gambling man from Louisville,
Who tried to get a bet against the WHIPPOORWILL
Billy flashed a roll that surely was a bear,
The boiler it exploded threw them up in the air.

The gambler said to Billy as they left the wreck,
"I don't know where we're going, but we're neck-and-neck!"
Said Bill to the gambler, "Tell you what I'll do.
I'll bet another thousand, I'll go higher than you!"

Oh Steamboat Bill, he tore up the Mississippi
Steamboat Bill, the pilot made him swear
Oh Steamboat Bill, he tore up the Mississippi
Explosion of the boiler got him up in the air

The river's all in mourning now for Steamboat Bill
No more you'll hear the puffing of the WHIPPOORWILL
There's crepe on every steamboat that plows the stream,
From Memphis right to Natchez, down to New Orleans
The wife of Mister William was at home in bed,
When she got the telegram that Steamboat's dead.
Said she to the children, "Blessed honey lambs,
The next Papa that you'll have will be a railroad man!"

Oh, Steamboat Bill, missing on the Mississippi
Oh, Steamboat Bill is with an angel band
Oh Steamboat Bill missing on the Mississippi
He's a pilot on a ferry in that Promised Land


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.