Steamboat Artwork Group 4

‘New Orleans’

Quote: ~
Opposite the city the levee is so broad as to furnish a landing-place for all the bulky merchandise in which the trade of New Orleans mainly consists. The broad space is literally buried under the wealth of the Great Valley. Bales of cotton, hogsheads of sugar, barrels of pork by the thousand, are arranged in long lines, piled up tier upon tier. Thousands of busy hands are engaged in loading and unloading, handling and removing this merchandise, whose volume, in the busy season, never appears to be diminished. There are cities whose entire commerce exceeds vastly that of New Orleans; but nowhere is so great an amount of commercial activity presented at a single view as on the levee of the Crescent City. The aspect of the levee at night is even more striking than by day. The fire-baskets on the bows of the steamers throw a red light over the scene, by the aid of which the stevedores and laborers pursue their work. In the back-ground, lit up by the ruddy glare, the spacious ware-houses and cotton-presses loom up, while in the distance the domes of the Odd-Fellows’ Hall, Saint Charles and the Saint Louis, and the church spires stand sharply out against the clear sky.
Credit: ~ Harper’s Weekly, March 30, 1861.

‘Cincinnati, Queen City of the West’ ~ 1876

The Ohio River basin was a crossing point for Native Americans traveling south. Shawnee peoples were early inhabitants of the region. It is believed that Robert Cavelier, sieur de La Salle, was the first explorer to arrive as early as 1669. Part of the Northwest Territory that the newly formed United States government received from England at the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, Cincinnati became a strategic jumping-off point for settlers forging a new life in the wilderness.

Benjamin Stites founded the first settlement, Columbia, near the mouth of the Little Miami in 1788. Another settlement was laid out in February 1789 by John Filson and called Losantiville, and a third, North Bend, was established a short distance down the Ohio. Fort Washington was built near Losantiville in 1789. The next year, General Arthur St. Clair, newly appointed governor of the Northwest Territory, renamed the village Cincinnati after the Society of the Cincinnati, an organization of American Revolutionary army officers. Cincinnati was chartered as a town in 1802 and as a city in 1819.

Cincinnati emerged as a center of river commerce and trade after 1811, when the first steamboat west of the Allegheny Mountains, the New Orleans, arrived on its downriver voyage from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The mass migration of Germans in the 1830’s and Irish in the 1840’s increased Cincinnati’s population to 46,338 people. The river trade boomed as the South paid cash for foodstuffs produced in the city, and in 1852 more than 8,000 steamboats docked at the Cincinnati landing. City merchants protested the cutoff of Southern trade at the outbreak of the Civil War, but the city’s role as a recruiting and outfitting center for Union soldiers sustained the economy.

Cincinnati residents were leading Abolitionists. James G. Birney, who published the abolitionist newspaper The Philanthropist, and Dr. Lyman Beecher of the Lane Theological Seminary were foremost Northern antislavery activists. Dr. Beecher’s daughter, Harriet Beecher Stowe, lived in Cincinnati from 1832 to 1850, where she wrote much of her best-selling novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin.

The city of Cincinnati was as a major stop on the Underground Railroad, a secret network aiding fugitive slaves en route to sanctuary in the free states or Canada prior to 1861. African Americans have been prominent in Cincinnati’s history since its founding.

In this scene, the packet America backs away from the public landing bound for New Orleans. It is too large to pass beneath the John Roebling suspension bridge in the background. This historic 1,057-foot span, designed and built by John Roebling and completed in 1867, connects Cincinnati by road to its sister city, Covington, Kentucky, across the river. Bridges hastened the decline of the large packets.

John Stobart is a leading maritime artist, with an extraordinary ability to render realistic lighting, day or night. Prints are available in Limited Editions. Please contact Maritime Heritage Prints for further information about this print.

‘Night Run to Friar’s Point’

Founded is 1836 as a major steamboat port in the heart of the cotton-belt, Friar’s Point was named after Robert Friar who owned a woodyard and supplied passing steamboats. Located in the Mississippi Delta, Friar’s Point is the only Delta river-town in the State of Mississippi that the mighty Mississippi River did not “eat or leave” during the steamboating era. The fate of many Delta towns was either to be undercut and destroyed, or abandoned by the river when diverting “cut-offs” left them “out in the country.”

During the Civil War, Friar’s Point was occupied by Union troops, serving as a major staging point for operations during the struggle to control the Mississippi River from Vicksburg to Baton Rouge. General William T. Sherman and Admiral David Porter were sent under the orders of General Ulysses S. Grant to rendezvous at Friar’s Point. Forty-five Union gunboats as well as transport steamboats arrived there on their way to Vicksburg, assembling some 20,000 troops in preparation for the attack.

This evocative painting of a sternwheel packet boat heading downriver to Friar’s Point, perhaps from Memphis, is beautifully lit. The warm glow of the boat’s lighting contrasts with the grim-looking undercut tree, a dramatic reminder of the river’s relentless power, and the danger of drift logs, able to peirce a boat’s hull.

John Stobart is a leading maritime artist, with an extraordinary ability to render realistic lighting, day or night. Prints are available in Limited Editions. Please contact Maritime Heritage Prints for further information about this print.

‘Natchez Under-The-Hill’

The site of Natchez, according to archaeological evidence, is the ceremonial village of the Natchez tribe (pronounced “Nochi”). The flat-topped ceremonial mounds built by the Natchez show the influence of moundbuilding cultures to the north in the Middle Mississippi River Valley.

In the late 18th century Natchez was the starting point of the Natchez Trace overland route, from Natchez to Nashville, Tennessee through what is now Mississippi, Alabama, and Tennessee. Flatboatmen and keelboatmen, usually from what is now Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana (and called “Kaintucks’), often floated their goods downriver to Natchez, before selling up and making the perilous trek north along the Trace to their homes.

There were two sides to Natchez; the respectable ‘on-the-hill’ community flush with the Antebellum mansions and estates of plantation owners, and the notorious ‘under-the-hill’ community, where drinking, gambling, music, dancing, fighting, and murder were commonplace. Here, steamboatmen, raftsmen and other river traders mixed with card-sharks, thieves, musicians, prostitutes and muderers.

Natchez sits on a high bluff above the Mississippi River. Access to the riverbank landing is via a steep road called Silver Street. In this scene, a freight-laden wagon climbs up in the foreground. This hilly terrain is in marked contrast to the flat lowland found across the river surrounding the city of Vidalia, Louisiana.

‘Lynxville Landing’

Lynxville, Wisconsin was originally Haney’s Landing, named after John and James Haney, who built the first log cabin and ran a trading post dealing in wood and furs with the Indians. The town was surveyed and laid out in 1857, and re-named Lynxville after the steamboat Lynx which brought the surveyors. The landing was well located in deep water at a bend called “The Devil’s Elbow”, such that Lynxville became a reliable landing place for the larger packets plying between St.Paul and St.Louis.

Artist Frederic Kimball Mizen (1888-1964), was Chicago based, and specialized in landscapes and portraits, often including American Indians.

Originally faded, this impressive picture has been carefully restored by collector Dave Thomson.

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‘Benton, White Cliffs, Montana’ ~ 1878

The Benton was launched near Pittsburgh on the Ohio River in 1875. Built as a mountain steamer with a spoon-shaped bow, she drew only 18 inches of water without cargo. Fully loaded with 394 tons, this well-designed sternwheeler drew four feet. Ideally suited to the treacherous waters of the western frontier, her reputation for successful navigation was such that she was nicknamed “The Old Reliable.”

Nevertheless, her owners sold her in 1887. She worked on the lower Missouri River, where she stubbornly survived repeated mishaps in one year. She sank and was recovered four times, before meeting her demise colliding with a bridge pier in Sioux City, Iowa, later in 1887.

Gary R. Lucy is known for his historical accuracy and his eye for detail. Prints are available directly from the artist in Missouri. Please contact the artist at for further information about this print.

‘St. Louis: The Gateway of the West’ ~ 1878

Located below the mouth of the Missouri River, St. Louis was the geographical staging post for the frontier. Pierre LaClede established the first trading post in 1764, at the foot of what is now Market Street. Immigrants began arriving after the war of 1812. The riverboat Independence initiated steam navigation on the Missouri River in May 1819, and by 1848, St. Louis claimed to be the third ranking port in the United States in terms on tonnage, behind New York and New Orleans. St. Louis flourished as mountain men, fur trappers, explorers, and settlers moving west, all passed through the city.

The 1849 Gold Rush provided a boom for Missouri River steamboat captains and for the pilots, who were often paid as much as two thousand dollars per month. St. Louis recorded almost four thousand steamboat arrivals in 1858, a record number consisting of packet boats, sidewheelers, freight boats, and sternwheelers. Truly, the heyday of the steamboating era.

John Stobart is a leading maritime artist, with an extraordinary ability to render realistic lighting, day or night. Prints are available in Limited Editions. Please contact Maritime Heritage Prints for further information about this print.