Belle of Louisville Photos
See also, Belle of Louisville Illustrations

avalon 1950s photo

Before she was the BELLE OF LOUISVILLE, she was built in 1914 as the ferry and day packet IDLEWILD. In 1948 she was renamed AVALON (above), and in 1962 became the BELLE OF LOUISVILLE, as we know her today.

The photo above is from a 1950's Louisiana calendar. The photo is labeled, "Avalon in a bayou near Plaquemine."

contemporary paddlewheel steamboat

This RPPC ("real photo postcard") of the Avalon says McGregor, Iowa . . . am not positive it was actually taken there, but it's a neat image, one of the best in black and white between the boat's Idlewild phase and future incarnation as the Belle of Lou'vull.


BELLE of LOUISVILLE "cooling down"

The BELLE OF LOUISVILLE "cooling down" after an evening cruise in the early 1990's as the warm vapors escaped into the cold night air through the stacks, the pilot house stood well illuminated by lights. I took this with a tripod as a time exposure and it came out pretty satisfactorily.


Belle of Louisville, 1979 watercolor by Dong Kingman

1979 watercolor of the BELLE OF LOUISVILLE on the Ohio River at Louisville, Kentucky.

The following is abridged from the Wikipedia biography (Wikipedia):

Dong Kingman 1911-2000 was a Chinese American artist and one of America's leading watercolor masters. As a painter on the forefront of the California Style School of painting, he was known for his urban and landscape paintings. Dong Kingman was born Dong Moy Shu in Oakland, California, the son of Chinese immigrants from Hong Kong. At the age of five and a half he traveled with his family back to Hong Kong, where his father established a dry goods business. He began his formal education at the Bok Jai School, where he was given a school name in accordance with Chinese customs. Hearing that he aspired to be an artist, his instructor gave him the name "King Man" (lit. "scenery" and "composition" in Cantonese). He would later combine the two names into Kingman, placing his family name first in accordance with Chinese naming conventions, creating the name Dong Kingman.

Kingman returned to the United States in his late teens. In 1929 he attended the Fox Morgan Art School while holding down a variety of jobs. It was at this time that he chose to concentrate on watercolor painting. His critical breakthrough occurred in 1936, when he gained a solo exhibition at the San Francisco Art Association. This exhibition brought him national recognition and success.

During the 1950s, Kingman served as a United States cultural ambassador and international lecturer for the Department of State. In the 1950s and 1960s, Kingman worked as an illustrator in the film industry, designing the backgrounds for a number of major motion pictures including "55 Days at Peking", The Sand Pebbles and Hollywood's Technicolor film of Rodgers & Hammerstein's musical "Flower Drum Song."


Belle o' Louisville fish eye lens view of sternwheel and Letter from Senator Marlow Cook

Wonderful fish eye lens view of the BELLE of LOUISVILLE's sternwheel by photographer Zimmer and a 2014 Letter from the late Senator Marlow Cook

Marlow Cook's Belle of Louisville recollections
The LOUISVILLE Courier-Journal
Feb. 8, 2016

We were saddened to hear last week of the death of U.S. Sen. Marlow Cook, who also served in the Kentucky legislature in the 1950s and as Jefferson County judge-executive in the early '60s.

During his time as county judge, he made a decision that impacts our waterfront to this day - he purchased the steamboat Avalon and rechristened her the Belle of Louisville. The Belle, a National Historic Landmark, is known internationally and draws visitors from all over the world to take a step back in history as they cruise the Ohio River on her decks.

When the Belle celebrated her 100th birthday in 2014 with the Centennial Festival of Riverboats at Waterfront Park, we asked Sen. Cook to record his memories about the Belle and her auspicious beginning in Louisville, and his response was this letter to the community.

David K. Karem
Louisville Waterfront Development Corporation


To the citizens of Metropolitan Louisville,

Over one-half century ago, I was elected county judge of Jefferson County, a position in which I presided over county government outside the city limits of Louisville. It thrills me that today you have a consolidated government, so that there is no longer a need for a separate county government.

I wanted to join you today [for the Belle Centennial Celebration], but I am 88 and lacking the Belle's steel hull, I'm not as healthy as she is.

It's true that former Mayor Charles Farnsley came to my office and talked me into buying the steamship Avalon. It's also true that my wife Nancy's nickname at Connecticut College was "Belle," and that when I heard the auctioneer say that I had bought the vessel, I knew the Avalon's new name had to be "Belle of Louisville."

Some people thought that a government should not own a steamboat. Nancy's father told me that his friends at the Pendennis Club told him I "would never be re-elected to anything." Hundreds of people called my office saying I was crazy to waste tax money that way. My golf pal Pee Wee Reese, former great Dodgers short stop, advised me to get a big pigs feet jar from a bar and fill it with pennies. Then I was to place it on my desk and tell every complainer to take out seven cents, the cost to every taxpayer of the county.

Two friends of mine, both good Democrats, Henry A. Triplett and Daniel B. Boone, filed suit against the Republican county government to hold the purchase void. During the litigation, there were no funds appropriated to restore the old boat, but volunteers called every day offering services to help us rebuild her.

Buying the Belle had brought hundreds of people on the western river system out from under the rock. People from Tell City, Ind., offered to supply lumber for the paddle wheel. Local industrialist Wendell Smock gave us a steam calliope so folks could hear its music miles from the river. H. Clyde Glass donated his mechanical know-how to the restoration.

A river rat first class, C. W. Stoll, worked hard on the boat and then he organized a great Steam Boat Race with the Delta Queen to be held every Derby Week. The day before the first big race Nancy and I were on the Belle. She was forward and I was aft. The stern wheel began slowly turning, over went the lines, and we moved. I ran to join Nancy. We looked at each other with tears in our eyes and yelled, "It works!"

Yes, Kentucky's highest court eventually ruled that we had the power to buy and own the Belle. I still remember hearing of the decision from Cecil Davenport and Mark Davis, who had argued the case with their boss County Attorney E.P. "Tom" Sawyer.

I arrived in Louisville as a kid of 16. I did not know it, but it was the best day in the rest of my life. I married a Louisville lady and we have five great children. Jefferson County, Louisville and the Commonwealth of Kentucky are a dream come true. I can sing the National Anthem without a problem but when I get to "weep no more my lady" in My Old Kentucky Home, I cannot sing without tears in my eyes. Good luck with the Belle over her next 100 years, and thank you all so much.

Marlow W. Cook
Oct. 6, 2014


Decal for the STEAMER AVALON

Souvenir decal of the STEAMER AVALON published by Goldfarb Novelty Company of Jersey City NJ U.S.A. 4.25" paper backing; the sticker itself is about 4 inches in diameter.

The print is sharp and brightly colored. The yellow cast over the image comes from the glassine overlay overlay which I haven't removed yet. The lettering is more likely white without the "veil" of smog.

The graphic of the boat looks like it may have been recycled from prior use on a decal promoting one of the Streckfus steamboats like the J.S. This boat doesn't resemble the AVALON as much as it does an Streckfus excursion boat.

In April, 1947, the steamboat IDLEWILD was sold to J. Herod Gorsage of Peoria, IL. There she got her second name AVALON in February, 1948.

She was sold in 1950 to THE STEAMER AVALON INC. of Cincinnati, Ohio, to serve as excursion boat. In 1962 the boat was sold to Jefferson County Fiscal Court and renamed the BELLE OF LOUISVILLE, based in Louisville, Kentucky.



Beautiful sharp color photo of BELLE OF LOUISVILLE "By Bo" from wikimedia

Credit: By Bo - Belle of Louisville, CC BY 2.0,

Kevin Mullen

A photo I took of Kevin Mullen, Master of the BELLE OF LOUISVILLE in the pilot house. Kevin gave me off duty tours twice during the early '90's but I'm not certain if this was an afternoon in Sept 1990 or a morning in 1993. The DELTA QUEEN tied up for the night at Louisville in during Sept of '93 and the crew had a big party at a place along the Louisville waterfront. I got up first thing the next morning and walked down to the BELLE. Glad the boat is being so lovingly taken care of. They added a new air conditioning system to the main cabin/ballroom which makes it pleasant for party goers during the humid seasons.

Kevin might recognize something in the picture that would remind him which year it was. Since this was before I was taking digital photos I had to scan a print and improved upon it as much as possible in Photoshop.


Captain Mark Doty, Ginnifer Goodwin, Josh Dallas and Jonathan Kite on the "lazy bench" in the Belle of Louisville where 40 years ago (September 1972) Keith Norrington took a photo of Bert Fenn, Ruth Ferris, Doc Hawley and Alan Bates. Photo May 2012, the Louisville Waterfront site. News excerpt:

News and Events
May 10, 2012

The Belle of Louisville had a great Great Steamboat Race this year. Not only did she win the race, she also hosted actors Ginnifer Goodwin and Josh Dallas of the tv show "Once Upon A Time," and Jonathan Kite of "Two Broke Girls." As part of their tour of the boat, Captain Mark Doty showed them the Pilot House and explained Belle navigation. Josh Dallas was born in Louisville and raised in Southern Indiana.

Belle of Louisville in MADISON X 2

Here is the Belle of Louisville making a cameo appearance in the 2001 movie MADISON, filmed on the Ohio River at Madison, Indiana. The movie is based on a true story of APBA hydroplane racing on the Ohio. The story revolves around the career of veteran Madison, Indiana racer Jim McCormick (portrayed by James Caviezel) who piloted the powerboat "Miss Madison" to victory in 1971, winning the APBA Gold Cup.

Madison has sponsored powerboat racing since 1911 and began holding an annual race called the Madison Regatta in 1929. Beginning in 1954, the race became affiliated with the American Power Boat Association, held annually in July. Though Madison has a population of only 12,000, the Regatta maintains its place in the Unlimited Hydroplane American Boat Racing Association series, whose other races are held in Seattle, Detroit, and San Diego, among others.

Caption adapted from this wikipedia article: Wikipedia


Lucky photo of the Belle of Lou's sternwheel with water and steam taken in Sept 1990.


Jim Hale just alerted me to this video on the rebuilt engines aboard the Belle of Louisville completed by Atlas Engineering to state of the art quality using laser technology and skilled technicians.

Atlas Rebuilds Century-Old Steamboat Engines
"At almost a century old, the Belle of Louisville gets engines reconditioned for next 100 years"
Click on the following link to read an article about the rebuilding of the BELLE's engines on the website



The head-on view I took from the tower of Life-Saving Station #10 built in 1929 at Dubuque which is moored permanently next to the BELLE on the Ohio River at Louisville and serves as docking boat, ticket office and offices for staff, officers and crew of the BELLE.

The Spirit of Jefferson

Life-Saving Station #10 is a lifesaving station built by the United States Life-Saving Service located in Louisville, Kentucky.

It was named a National Historic Landmark in 1989. It resides on the wharf at River Road and Fourth Street.

LSS #10 was later renamed the MAYOR ANDREW BROADDUS in honor of a former mayor of Louisville.

LSS #10's historic purpose was to house rescue crews to rescue those who fell victim to the rapids of the Falls of the Ohio.

Louisville was the first place where a lifesaving station was placed in western waters.

The first life station was placed on the river in Louisville in 1881 and has had a presence there ever since.

LSS #10 was built in 1929 in Dubuque, Iowa. It has a steel hull, and is 98 feet (30 m) long, a beam of 38 feet (12 m), a Hold Depth of 5 feet (1.5 m), and has 623 Net Tons.

It has two decks, and a 15-foot-tall lookout tower.

It has much of its original interior fabric, and is considered in good condition.

It is the only floating lifestation and the last inland waterway lifestation for the United States Coast Guard still in existence, and one of the few reminders that the U.S. Life-Saving Service ever existed.


Dave Thomson on the BELLE OF LOUISVILLE in Sept 1990, photo by Keith Norrington.


Photo for the month of November, 1992 from the 1992 Official Tall Stacks Calendar
Credit: Elder Photographic Inc.


Cropped from scan of 35mm color slide purchased on eBay.The name written on this slide mount is Mary Etta (Marshman) Williams-Welch (30 Nov 1927 - 8 Oct 2015), daughter of Donald Ray Marshman Senior of Crawford County Ohio and Dovia Lou (Graves) Marshman of Lenior City, Tennessee. Mary attended elementary school in Crestline Ohio and junior high and high school in Galion Ohio where she was a 1945 graduate of Galion High School.

More Belle of Louisville pages at this site:
Centennial of Steamboats to honor the Belle of Louisville's 100th Anniversary
Photos of an accident that damaged Belle of Louisville bucket boards in 2009
Belle of Louisville Illustrations page
Belle of Louisville and Delta Queen in a 1963 steamboat race

Videos of the Belle of Louisville:
Search YouTube for Belle of Louisville videos - click here!


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.*