Welcome to the
Keith Norrington River Room Exhibit
Norrington Collection Index
Part One: Poster from Becky Thatcher and Goldenrod Showboat; model of the J.M. White; gingerbread piece from Streckfus Str. J.S. Deluxe; cabin arch from Str. Erastus Wells (later City of St. Louis); chandelier from Str. Gordon C. Greene; signs from Becky Thatcher; "Casey" Assistant Museum Curator.
Part Two: Tin steamboat model; model of Str. Mississippi (now Becky Thatcher); one wall of the River Room; portion of the stage curtain from Showboat Majestic.
Part Three: A Cub Pilot at the wheel; artifacts from Civil War gunboat Cairo; piece of cabin arch from Str. Robt. E. Lee (1866); painting of Str. Tell City by Capt. Jesse P. Hughes; sheet music cover.
Part Four: Keith Norrington, Museum Curator; sign from Str. Island Queen; poster from Str. President (gift of Capt. Doc Hawley); young visitors looking at a model of the towboat United States (made by Miss Ruth Ferris, 1967, for display aboard the Becky Thatcher).
Part Five: Table made by boat carpenter on Eagle Packet Co., St. Louis; closeup of the J.M. White model made by Capt. Fred Way, 1937; Mississippi model and "Eagle Boat Store" photo; painting of Str. Mississippi by Forrest Steinlage; steamboat lights.
Part Six: More steamboat photos.
Part Seven: Meet Keith Norrington, the curator of this museum. Also, a few words about the history of the Becky Thatcher.
Top row: Poster from Becky Thatcher and Goldenrod Showboat; model of the J.M. White, gingerbread piece from Streckfus Str. J.S. Deluxe; cabin arch from Str. Erastus Wells (later City of St. Louis).
Left: Chandelier from Str. Gordon C. Greene; signs from Becky Thatcher (in stairwell).
Below: "Casey" Assistant Museum Curator.
|Top row: Tin steamboat model; model of Str. Mississippi (now Becky Thatcher).|
Below: One wall of the River Room; portion of the stage curtain from Showboat Majestic.
A Cub Pilot at the wheel; artifacts from Civil War gunboat Cairo.
Piece of cabin arch from Str. Robt. E. Lee (1866),
painting of Str. Tell City by Capt. Jesse P. Hughes;
sheet music cover.
Clockwise from top: Keith Norrington, Museum Curator; poster from Str. President (gift of Capt. Doc Hawley); young visitors looking at a model of the towboat United States (made by Miss Ruth Ferris, 1967, for display aboard the Becky Thatcher); sign from Str. Island Queen.
Clockwise: Table made by boat carpenter on Eagle Packet Co., St. Louis; closeup of the J.M. White model made by Capt. Fred Way, 1937; Mississippi model and "Eagle Boat Store" photo; painting of Str. Mississippi by Forrest Steinlage; steamboat lights.
Jeff Spear and Jerry Sutphin with Delta Queen artifacts from Ohio
River Museum, 1997.
Keith Norrington in the Ohio River Museum, Marietta Ohio.
Keith and Becky Thatcher, Marietta, Ohio, Sept. 1997.
Keith on Belle of Louisville, Oct. 1998.
Keith and Becky Thatcher in Sept. 1998.
Str. Mamie S. Barrett, West Alton, Missouri, Oct. 1978.
Keith throwing the lead line on towboat W.P. Snyder, Jr., Marietta, Ohio.
Capt. Buck Leyhe's desk, Midship Museum, Str. Becky Thatcher, St. Louis, 1967. Photo by Miss Ruth Ferris, museum designer and curator.
Pilothouse from Str. Golden Eagle, Missouri Historical Society, St. Louis, Oct. 1976. Currently dismantled and in storage (1999) :-(
Capt. W.H. "Buck" Leyhe's rolltop desk, Eagle Packet Co., Golden Eagle River Museum, St. Louis.
The Belle of Louisville in morning fog, Madison, Indiana, May 1976.
Page of pictures of Str. Mississippi, aboard the Midship Museum, Str. Becky Thatcher.
Str. Becky Thatcher, Marietta, Ohio.
River Queen sinks in St. Louis, Dec. 1967.
River Queen, formerly the Gordon C. Greene, sinks.
Eagle Boat Store Counter, Midship Museum, Str. Becky Thatcher, St. Louis. Now displayed at Golden Eagle River Museum, St. Louis.
Str. Mississippi, St. Louis, 1963.
The Delta Queen, Belle of Louisville and Becky Thatcher all have a special place in their hearts for Keith Norrington. Keith has been a lifelong collector and has also served on the board of the Howard Steamboat Museum. He lives on the Ohio River and is fortunate to see steamboats every day.
Keith on the Belle of Louisville, 1998.
A Few Words about the History of the Becky Thatcher
from Keith Norrington
The BECKY THATCHER is the former Str. MISSISSIPPI (#3) of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Her steel hull was built here at Jeffersonville (next door to New Albany) in 1926 at the Howard Shipyard. The new hull was taken to Paducah, KY where the upperworks of the second MISSISSIPPI were "scooted" over onto the new hull. This feat was accomplished with the only casualty being one pane of broken glass in a door!
The MISSISSIPPI operated as a towboat and inspection boat for the Mississippi River Commission until decommissioned on April 19, 1961 at Memphis, when she was replaced with a new diesel towboat, MISSISSIPPI IV. That vessel is now retired (soon to become a museum at Vicksburg)and replaced with MISSISSIPPI V.
Sold at auction in 1963, the MISSISSIPPI went to St. Louis for a brief time and then was taken to Hannibal, Missouri in 1964. She was used for tours and a gift shop. Sold in March, 1966 to Mr. Frank Pierson (who also owned the GOLDENROD SHOWBOAT) the MISSISSIPPI was towed back to St. Louis where she became the BECKY THATCHER. She was used as a restaurant, steamboat museum, gift shop and bar. The boilers were removed in 1969 to make space for "The Boiler Room Bar."
The BECKY broke loose in a storm on June 28, 1969 and sailed down the river (safely clearing two bridges) with some 100 restaurant patrons aboard. She crashed into the Monsanto dock on the Illinois side of the river, knocking down a pipeline. Alongside the BECKY was a replica of the SANTA MARIA. The wooden vessel took the brunt of the crash and was sunk. The BECKY suffered damage to her railings and sternwheel. The owners were sued by Monsanto in whose favor the court ruled.
In 1974, the BECKY was seized and foreclosed upon by the Bank of St. Louis. She was sold at auction for $125,000 to Ohio Showboat Drama, of Marietta, Ohio. There were numerous "snags" but the boat finally was towed to Marietta in August of 1975. Her main deck, where the Boiler Room Bar and Midship Steamboat Museum & Gift Shop were located became a showboat theatre. She was opened in 1977.
Over the years there have been NUMEROUS problems with the operation, mainly due to finances involving the theatre. A succession of restaurant operators leased the second and third decks. The BECKY sank in 1984 after being moved across the river and tied up over a lot of jagged concrete pieces where a dam had been blown out in 1968. As the water fell the concrete punctured the hull. The boat was raised and the hull was replated in 1985.
Ohio Showboat Drama sold the boat several years ago for $65,000. The new owners did a lot of MUCH NEEDED renovation work because Ohio Showboat Drama, in my opinion, never took very good care of the boat and let it get into terrible shape.
The Str. MISSISSIPPI / BECKY THATCHER has always been a special interest of mine. The late Miss Ruth Ferris, noted river historian of St. Louis, was designer and curator of the Midship Museum on the boat and she was my "mentor" of steamboat history from the time I was 13 years old (in 1967) until her death in 1993 when she was nearly 96. She had also served as curator of the River Room at the Missouri Historical Society in St. Louis for many years.