Steamboat Photo Postcards


Paul L. (Excursion boat, 1907-1923)

Built at Oshkosh, Wisconsin by George Ryan in 1907; valued at $15,000. Ran on the Lower Wolf River and the Fox River

On May 28, 1910, she capsized at the dock in Oshkosh, where a load of coal that was being unloaded overbalanced the boat, caused a $300 loss in cargo.

In 1922 she was made into a barge that sank at Appleton in 1923.


Belle of Calhoun 1906 on a Detroit Publishing Postcard

Sternwheel Packet
Built at the Carondelet marine ways and completed at the St. Louis wharf in 1895 Became the JULIA in May of 1899; original name restored in 1905 Burned in winter 1930-1931 at Alton Slough

Original owner St. Louis and Clarksville Packet Company, Frederick W. Schwartz (president); Captain T.B. Sims owned her in 1897; 1898 owned by J.W. Fristoe, Frank P. Hearne and Captain Byrd Burton; May 1899 sold to Memphis and Vicksburg Packet Company; name changed to JULIA; 1905 owned by the St. Louis and Calhoun Packet Corporation, Captain Lee Cummings and name reverted to BELLE OF CALHOUN; 1913 owned by Captain H.W. Sebastian

Way's Packet Directory Number 0516

The BELLE OF CALHOUN was named for Miss Anna Wood, chosen as the "belle of Calhoun County, Illinois" in a contest run by the Hardin Herald. She later married Zollie Block. In 1895 the Waterways Journal ran a contest for the most popular packet crew members out of St. Louis. The BELLE OF CALHOUN hauled off all honors. On May 27, 1896 she was badly damaged by the tornado at St. Louis and sank up to the cabin; was raised and repaired. October 1914 she sank four miles above Alton with 4,700 barrels of apples. Her head was on shore and the stern in 20 feet. About 800 barrels were lost. Again she was raised and repaired. In October 1929 she once again sank about three miles above Hannibal, Missouri and was raised.



Monongahela and Ohio Packet Company promotional postcard plus 2 photos

Monongahela and Ohio Packet Company, a West Virginia corporation, was organized in May, 1906. Capital stock authorized, $60,000; issued, $37,000. Operated a fleet of 3 steamers on the Monongahela River. Purchased the property of the Pittsburg and Morgantown Packet Company, and during 1906 operated from Pittsburg to Brownsville, Pa., and Morgantown, West Virginia. In 1907, on the removal of the old Baltimore and Ohio Railroad bridge below Fairmont, West Virginia, extended its line to the latter point. Traffic consisted of general merchandise.

Sidewheel Packet

Way's Packet Directory Number 2693

Built at West Brownsville, Pennsylvania at Axton Yard, 1898 for Pittsburgh, Brownsville and Geneva Packet Company, which consolidated July 1902 with the "Mason Line" to become the Pittsburgh, Brownsville and Morgantown Packet Company; named for Captain Isaac C. Woodward.

Her texas was lengthened aft in November 1898. She ran Pittsburgh-Morgantown, twice weekly 1898-1911. She ran one trip through to Fairmont, 1912, and ran excursions at Fairmont, October 1913; sold to New Albany, Indiana and converted into an excursion boat, renamed VIRGINIA.

COLUMBIA Columbia (Packet, 1902-1903)

Sidewheel Packet

Way's Packet Directory Number - 1249

Built in 1902 at West Brownsville, Pennsylvania at the Axton yard for the Pittsburgh, Brownsville and Morgantown Packet Company with Captain John L. Reno (master, 1903) on the Monongahela River. She burned at Pittsburgh on Friday, January 16, 1903 at 3 p.m when a pot of roofing tar which was being heated aboard boiled over and set her afire. The Pittsburgh fire department responded and saved the hull.


Steamboat COLUMBIA on the Illinois River, postmarked 1914


This just in . . . real photo postcard . . . post mark date is unreadable

Sternwheel Packet
Way's Packet Directory Number 5339

Built at Jeffersonville, Indiana by Howard, 1897
St. Louis and Tennessee River Packet Company (1897)
Kansas City-Missouri River Navigation Company (circa 1907-1908)

Built for the St. Louis and Tennessee River Packet Company; original price $8500; home port or owner's residence circa 1897 was St. Louis, Missouri. Under Captain Shep Green, she entered the Nashville-Evansville trade in opposition to the Ryman Line. She was in the boat parade from St. Louis to Memphis in 1907 when President Theodore Roosevelt went down the Mississippi River. During a storm at St. Louis in July 1907, she hit a pier at Eads Bridge and was damaged considerably. She was snagged at Little Blue Bend, Missouri and lost on September 11, 1908.

paddlewheel boat

Attached is a real photo postcard of THE NEW KLONDIKE which ran on Flathead Lake in Montana in the early 1900's. Dayton is a little village on the west side of the lake and Riggins was the photographer. He may have taken the photo at the outset of an excursion and then printed the cards while the boat was gone so he could sell them to the passengers as they left. Nice tidy little boat, wish we could see more of the sternwheel.

The ladies and little girls in white dresses and big hats make it interesting. There's a fellow on the dock talking to one or more passengers on the boiler deck above. A moment frozen in time . . .

paddlewheel boat

Here's a new pair of real photo postcards just in. The towboat ELINOR was built in 1905. On the first card the following was written in the right margin:

"Chief Engineer on the Boat since built 4 years ago 1909"

So that was consistent with the boat's history. The cards had been glued in an album apparently and there's black paper from the album pages stuck to the back of both of them. The only fragments of writing that I was able to read were on the second card (the first apparently had nothing written on it).

"Savannah, Illinois" on the top was the place it was evidently sent from and the words "yours, Dad" on the bottom signing off.

Probably the 2 cards were mailed together in an envelope so they didn't have to be addressed or postage attached to them.


A charming snapshot just added to my collection with the towboat ELINOR in the background; two young girls are standing in the foreground and a young man on the shore bending over the bow of a skiff he's holding onto in the middle ground. The snapshot is dated 1935 and on the back it is stamped MOEN PHOTO SERVICE - LA CROSSE, WISCONSIN (on the Mississippi River where this photo was probably taken).

paddlewheel boat

Latest real photo postcard off eBay at an unusually reasonable price, what a treat for a change. It's the SUSIE, designed by the Howard boatyards and shipped up to the Klondike disassembled and built up there. The SARAH and the HANNAH were Susie's sister ships (see citations from websites below), all 3 designed in the classic Western Rivers style to transport gold seekers during the Klondike Gold Rush. Iowa steamboat captain W.H. Bledsoe went up there and was sued for "breach of promise" . . . sounds like he "jilted" some lady he proposed to. I don't think they're doing much of that any more.

Interior Alaska

The Sarah, Susie, and Hannah were the queens of the Yukon River steamboats.

Ordered by the Alaska Commercial Company, they were built in Indiana and shipped to Unalaska where they were reassembled.

The 222-foot sternwheelers had 1,000-horsepower engines.

They served with style, from rich mahogany-paneled dining rooms to their monogrammed bed linens.

The boats were designed to carry 150 passengers, but sometimes as many as 500 persons were aboard.

Those without cabins slept where they found space

Excerpt from:
By Jerry E. Green

BLEDSOE, W.H., (Mississippi River)
1877, Born, Iowa (Federal Census, 1920, Iowa).
1900, Captain Bledsoe was from Davenport, Iowa. In 1900 he was pilot on the SUSIE with Captain Dolson (Waterways Journal, May 12, 1900, p 10).
1901, The Davenport Republican for Aug.11, 1901 has an interesting article regarding his being sued for breach of promise regarding his time in the Klondike.
1908, Master of the ST. MICHAEL (S&D Reflector, March, 1978, p. 43)

paddlewheel boat

I've also attached a postcard of the STACKER LEE which was a rather plain utilitarian steamer although the fancy style lettering of her name on the stern perks her up a bit.

steamboat photo

Won this postcard on eBay. The highest I ever paid for one during bidding war, don't even want to remember how much it cost. Great picture of 3 boats at the Kanawha Dock, West Virginia. GEO. MATHESON, J.B. LEWIS and IRON AGE. Nice houseboat in lower right too.

recent acquisitions

This is the best of a set of three vintage photo postcard/snap shots of this mishap that I bought some years ago.

In the margin under the photo is written: "Feb-6th 1918"

On the verso is written:

"Str Liberty caught in ice against (old) bridge across Sunfish Creek. Boat had been put in creek for safety from flood waters."


Excellent real photo postcard of a boat which Fred Way said was "an attractive example of marine architecture." High praise indeed.


Frederick Way's Packet Directory Number2376
Sternwheel lighthouse tender

Built Jeffersonville, Indiana., at the Sweeney Yard, 1888.

150 x 26.5 x 3.7. Engines, 12's- 5 ft.

Two boilers. An attractive example of marine architecture.

Served the government lights on Ohio River and tributaries replacing the LILY. Capt. Owen F. Jolly was master in early years, then Capt. Leslie T. Hill, native of Aberdeen, Ohio was on her until the end. Harry Layfield, New Richmond, Ohio, went aboard as a striker engineer 1903, became chief 1912 and left her in 1917. William Handley was engineer for 22 years.
Decommissioned when the GREENBRIER was built in 1925, and sold to John Lyons, Middleport, Ohio. He moored her under the ice piers there, and in a flood she broke away and was lost.


NEW Photo U.S. Lighthouse Tender GOLDENROD


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.