Julia Belle Swain Photos


JULIA BELLE SWAIN tied up at an island in the Mississippi near Galena, Illinois. Captain John Vaughn took me out in his outboard motor boat so I could take photos of the BELLE from the water.


Julia Belle as River Queen TOM SAWYER 1972

JULIA BELLE SWAIN as the "RIVER QUEEN" at a Missouri River landing with Director on swinging stage giving a shout out to the costumed extras to instruct them what he wanted them to do in the next scene to be filmed for TOM SAWYER, 1972 — a musical adaptation of the novel by Sam Clemens. Filmed on the Missouri River with the little nearby village of Arrow Rock, Missouri standing in for Hannibal, Missouri.



Attached portrait of young Captain John Vaughn (circa early 1990's) as the wheel of the JULIA BELLE, a close up detail of the pilot wheel (with a brass plate which is difficult to read but I was able to make out the words BARKER BARGE LINE - LOCKPORT, LOUISIANA in this photo).

The wheel had originally been in the pilot house of the lower Mississippi steam ferry CITY OF BATON ROUGE that was built in 1916 and the engines from the ferry were installed in the JULIA BELLE in 1971. The ferry CITY OF BATON ROUGE has served as the wharf boat for Dennis Trone' boats JULIA BELLE SWAIN and TWILIGHT on the Mississippi LeClaire, Iowa.

An article in the Chicago Tribune from 1990 (link to that story below) said that the island west of Galena where Captain Vaughn tied up the JULIA BELLE is called "Mark Twain Island" (!) Don't remember being told when I was there.

May 06, 1990|By Edward Baumann, Special to The Tribune.
A Trip Back To Twain's Day In Comfort,

The photo of the JULIA BELLE steaming off into the distance was another picture I took from LeClaire the morning I got back from the JULIA BELLE cruise to Galena.


John Vaughn's distinctive silhouette is recognizable through the pilot house windows.


Took this of the portside stack and running light on the JULIA BELLE SWAIN while she was tied up at an island west of Galena, Illinois.

Have always liked the detail in this image which you seldom see in photos taking in more or all of these steamboats.



Attached files made from two negatives I haven't seen in years that I took of the JULIA BELLE. The full length profile I shot when Captain John Vaughn took me out in the river in his outboard motor boat while the JULIA BELLE was tied up at an island west of Galena after Dennis Trone took the touristas to town in a mechanized barge.

I stayed behind with the jolly good crew . . . you can see a couple of them on the main deck posing. That was a real treat to roam about the boat with no passengers other than myself. The other photo I took early the next morning at LeClaire, Iowa as the Julia Belle began her voyage back up river to Galena again. Wish I had booked that cruise also, could not get enough of traveling that way.



An excellent photo taken of the JULIA BELLE SWAIN for a 1997 feature article about the Upper Mississippi in MIDWEST LIVING magazine. This particular image was not included in the article but is copyrighted 1997 by the magazine's publisher Meredith Corporation.


Square version of the JULIA BELLE SWAIN at La Crosse that I took in Oct 2007, think that was her last season before going into moth balls for some years.

Julia Belle Swain

The Captain of the Julia Belle Swain piloting north of LaCrosse, Wisconsin during a supper cruise I took in Oct. '07. - Dave


Howard Keil kindly shared the attached photo taken aboard the first steamboat to be named JULIA BELLE SWAIN which was originally built as the sidewheeler CHAS. E CESSNA in 1913 in Florida.

The Swain family was involved in her construction and when she got into financial difficulties they repossessed her in 1916, moved her to the Illinois River and renamed her the JULIA BELLE SWAIN.

This original JBS was lost in a fire while she was in winter quarters on the Monongahela in Dec. 1931.

From Howard's messages:

I saw your collection (online) so I thought I'd send this. Leona McMurry was a distant relative—this picture was in with many of pictures from my grandmother Marie Meyer-Keil.

I have somewhat been keeping up with the rebuilding of the new Julia Belle on Facebook—glad she's not deteriorating anymore. I especially like the fact that she's got the old steam power—not like the look-alike type boats.

Howard Keil

Julia Belle Doug Connell from Bridge 29 June 2006 X 2 EXP

Last December, Doug Connell, local historian of La Crosse (which is Ralph Du Pae's hometown and the Murphy Library) kindly shared the attached files of photos he took of the Julia Belle at La Crosse in 2006. I first saw them on Flickr, the online photo resource.

Since Doug advised (below) to put these photos to use, it would be appropriate that they be included in our next museum upgrade.

Know you will reduce them to fit your page format when the time comes.

Link to Doug's book True Tales of La Crosse below.

From: Douglas Connell
To: David Thomson"
Sunday, December 16, 2012

I was happy to hear that you liked those bridge views of the Julia Belle from 2006 and I hope you can put them to use.

True Tales of La Crosse : Unusual Stories from Old Newspapers of La Crosse, Wisconsin
compiled and edited by Douglas Connell (La Crosse, Wis. : D. Connell), 1994

Compiled from old La Crosse newspapers, this popular book brings together over 200 interesting, unusual and bizarre stories from La Crosse's past not deemed suitable for a general history book about the city.

The chapter topics are animal kingdom, children, domestic disasters, fun & games, ghosts, grief & sorrow, naughty folks, odds & ends, transportation, weather.


Six widescreen frame captures of the JULIA BELLE SWAIN as the "RIVER QUEEN" from the 1973 musical film version of TOM SAWYER. The movie was filmed on the Missouri River at Arrow Rock, Missouri. Captain Dennis Trone is at the wheel in the pilot house upper right. In 1971 Cap'n Trone designed and supervised the construction of the JULIA BELLE at the Dubuque Boat & Boiler Works where she had the distinction of being the last boat to be built there.


Don Taylor (director)
Mark Twain (based on his novel)
Robert B. Sherman (screenplay and lyrics)
Richard M. Sherman (music for the songs)
John Williams (musical score)

Starring: Johnny Whitaker (Tom Sawyer)
Celeste Holm (Aunt Polly)
Warren Oates (Muff Potter)
Jeff East (Huckleberry Finn)


I saw the Mormon history film "Joseph Smith" movie in 2005, the first year it was screened at the Legacy Theatre in Nauvoo, Illinois. The JULIA BELLE SWAIN is immediately recognizable as the steamer "MEMPHIS" as it would have been in 1844. The online version on YouTube (link below) is evidently the revised 2011 version of the movie which is quite different than the one that I saw.

Attached one screen capture (top) of the JBS paddling away in the river and below that two photos taken while the JBS was tied up along the shore during a break in filming.



Joseph Smith: The Prophet of the Restoration is a 2005 film that focuses on some of the events during the life of Joseph Smith, founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, which was both filmed and distributed by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). The film was shown in the Legacy Theater of the Joseph Smith Memorial Building from its opening on December 17, 2005 until early 2015, and opened in several LDS Church visitors' centers on December 24, 2005. The film used 65 mm film and is currently being projected digitally. It also took advantage of the new and developing digital intermediate process. In March 2011, the church released a revised cut of the film, which is available to watch in select visitors' centers and online at Youtube. The steamer MEMPHIS circa 1844 was portrayed by the JULIA BELLE SWAIN, filmed on the Upper Mississippi River in 2005.



Dennis Trone's JULIA BELLE SWAIN was remodeled to play the first "prestige" steamboat that Sam Clemens steered: the ALECK SCOTT when he was cub pilot under Horace Bixby.

This was for the TV movie of Mark Twain's LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI, filmed on the Illinois River and first broadcast on PBS in November 1980.


The riverboat TWILIGHT

Dennis Trone's TWILIGHT, a riverboat that is diesel electric driven with twin propellers and is very reminiscent of Trone's original JULIA BELLE SWAIN (1971) in appearance. Here are the TWILIGHT's stacks and pilot house in a gorgeous photograph by photographer Janice Kuntz for the month of July from the 2017 TWILIGHT calendar.

Riverboat Twilight
Carrie and Kevin Stier

Built at LEEVAC shipyard in Jennings, Louisiana, the TWILIGHT was completed in April 1987.

The main deck has a length of 126 feet and breadth of 30 feet.

Her full load draft is 5' 6".

The propulsion is twin screws, diesel-electric drive.

The main propulsion engines are Cummins KTA-19, 510 horse power each, driving 450 KW generators.

The propeller shafts are driven by a General Electric traction motor. The propellers are Columbian bronze, 5 blade, 48" diameter.

The fuel capacity is 3000 gallons in 2 integral tanks.


The TWILIGHT is exceptionally fast for a vessel of her type and handles quite well.

Using the 65 horse power bow thruster and the twin screw configuration, this vessel can easily pivot 360 degrees in its own length.

She has even been known to pull the occasional water skier.



Unmistakable JULIA BELLE SWAIN on '92 Illinois license plate

I've had this '92 Illinois license plate for a long time - finally got around to scanning it. The JBS probably ran the Illinois River out of Peoria around that time.

Visit the Julia Belle Swain Foundation to find out how you can help!


With the exception of images credited to public institutions,
everything on this page is from a private collection.
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