- Historic Sites
A Whistle Good-bye
December 1966 | Volume 18, Issue 1
The golden age of steamboating. the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, was epitomized by the splendid passenger packets that combined luxury and the excitement of travel in a manner rarely equalled by any other form of transportation. But no longer. By the time I set out to photograph the steamboat in the United States and Canada, only seven of them survived. One was the Keewatin , a Great Lakes liner operated by the Canadian Pacific Railway. In this picture she is down at the stern because her coal bunkers are lull for the trip across Lake Huron to Fort William on Lake Superior. As her interior details show, she belonged to the era of the Grand Hotels and the four-stacked “greyhounds of the sea.” Since these photographs were taken, Canada has passed a law requiring that metal replace wooden superstructures on all passenger vessels within the Dominion’s waters. This action spelled the end for five ships which no service can afford to remodel: the Keewatin and her sister, Assiniboia , as well as the last three boats on the St. Lawrence, the Richelieu , Tadoussac , and St. Lawrence . Now only two overnight steamers are left, both in this country: South American , operating between Buffalo and Duluth, and the steel-hulled Delta Queen .
The Mississippi and the Hudson each developed a distinctive style of passenger steamboat. Today the original Mississippi bouts have all but vanished, but the Hudson retains the classic Alexander Hamilton (above). On the Mississippi system there are two steamboats, the Belle of Louisville and the Delta Queen , both stern-wheelers, but the (Ji*gf n was built for service on the Sacramento River in California, and the Belle was a ferry. Now the Queen is the only passenger vessel on which one can travel extensively on our inland rivers; her cruises have been so successful that her owners. Rreene Line Steamers of Cincinnati, plan to build a new steel steam packet in nineteenth century style. And the Belle of Louisville , with her pilothouse relocated amidships, her stacks lengthened, and a Texas deck added, bears some resemblance to the great Moating palaces of the past.