I agree: really understanding copyrights is not easy at all. (and we're only talking about US copyrights here; if you go internationally, it's even much more complicated).

One thing is very clear, though: Owning a picture, even if it's an "original", does NOT automatically mean you're holding any copyrights - no matter whether you've bought the picture, received it as a present from the photographer himself, found it in the trash or what ever else.

Copyright holder is the creator, i.e. the photographer or his ancestors. Only these persons can legally grant the right to use, publish or distribute the work. (other rules apply for work for hire, but basically it's very similar anyway).

When talking about Delta Queen pictures, i.e. from later than 1923, it's very likely they're copyright protected in some way. How, whether and why is very complicated and in many cases you won't even be able to figure out at all whether a picture is protected at all or who might actually legally hold copyrights - for details see Wikipedia, capter "Duration of copyright" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Copyri..._United_States

That's why for steamboats.org it is almost impossible to deal with this issue and to make sure that copyrights are clearly figured out for every single pictures that might be posted on this website ... Sad, but true ...