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Captains uniform

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    Captains uniform

    Was there a standard Captian or pilots uniform used by the old steamboat captains? I have seen pictures from long coats with top hats to military style uniforms.

    Hi Dan & gang:
    Good question about "uniforms used by the old steamboat captains." I don't know the whole answer other than through the 1850s, and possibly later, uniforms as such were unheard of. Fred Way touched on this years ago in one of the S&D REFLECTORS. As you say, "long hats etc." were photographed. It was my understanding that the custom of uniforms as we know them now began with the East Coast steamboats; this was borrowed from the U.S. Navy. Uniforms for steamboat officers came, in part, around 1870 by financier, stock manipulator and steamboat magnate Jim Fisk on the East Coast. This during the days when Jim Fisk, Jay Gould and the Vanderbilt interests were battling it out. There were steamboat officers back in the old days who lived out their entire long career without a uniform or cap, period.

    Cincinnati was a center years ago for clothing and uniform manufacturing. 'Pettibone' and 'Cincinnati Regalia' were two well-known companies here. Tom Schiffer may recall others as would Shipyard Sam. These companies at one time housed large portfolios or sample books with artist renderings of maritime and other uniforms with fabric samples and name of the steamboat or steamship line with insignias and logo usually embroidered in gold. Some of the metal insignia and ornamental work was contracted out to concerns in Germany and shipped here.

    The above mentioned fabric industries here linked to fine paper making lent, in part, the term 'Ragtown' for Cincinnati. That's about all I know or remember--which isn't much.

    R. Dale Flick


      Pettibone also made Railroad uniforms and either made or provided metal buttons for Railroad and Streetcar Companies Uniforms.


        Here is a picture catalog of the Cincinnati Regalia Co., year unknown. Thanks Judy for sending the picture :-)

        (click on the picture for full size view)
        Click image for larger version

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          I seem to recall reading somewhere that the Anchor Line introduced the first uniforms for western rivers steamboat officers.


            Dear Dan, Judy & Hank:
            Interesting thread on 'Steamboat uniforms' and Judy's photo copies from CINCINNATI REGALIA incredible. Thanks to both Judy and Franz for posting. I noted the prices listed for the gold lettering. Looked here in directories/phone books etc. and see they are no longer listed in business--that I can find. They were located in the old 'Textile Building' here at 4th and Plum St. at one time. I remember back in the dark ages seeing the building with the tailors/embroiders at their machines working on various items.

            Great insight on the old ANCHOR LINE and their introduction of steamboat uniforms. I know so little about that great steamboat line and would like to learn more. They were some company if the Joan W. and Thomas H. Gandy book THE MISSISSIPPI STEAMBOAT ERA Keith pointed me to at the Howard Museum gift shop is any indication. The L&C LINE here by the 1890s already had officers/crew in uniforms, which can be seen in some of the old photos of the CITY OF LOUISVILLE etc.

            R. Dale Flick


              Dale and everyone,

              I read, pretty recently, an article on the Cincinnati Regalia Co. going out of business...cannot now recall where I read it!

              In 1977, I wrote them asking for their catalog. Richard Bissell had written of the Cincinnati Regalia Co. catalog in his book "My life on the Mississippi Or Why I am Not Mark Twain". The company replied to me that they had no catalog, but furnshed a number of price sheets and crude photocopies of their wiork. Most of the work at that time (and at the time of the company's closing) consisted of regalia and paraphernalia for Shriners and Masons -- fezzes and embroidered aprons, etc. I seem to remember reading in the article about the closing that lodge memberships were down and that those who cared about owning/wearing regalia already had all they needed or wanted, and that the masonic regalia was passed from genration to generation.

              Capt. Doc Hawley posits that the steamboat uniform came about on Western Rivers from the Watchman's uniform. The watchman is required to wear "a cap or armband with the insignia "WATCHMAN" embroidered on it so as to be redily identifiable". Capt. Doc says that other officers became somewhat jealous of the wathman's cap or uniform, and that the other officers' caps and uniforms evolved from that. An interseting theory or legend, and one that may or may not be true.

              Non-military uniforms and caps of this type are still available in uniform shops in port cities and online. I would suspect that most of the actual embroidery and specialty work is now performed in countries other than the U.S.

              That's my two cents worth!



                Dale, et al:
                Sorry to hear that Cincinnati, Regalia and others are now out of business. There was another, Fecheimer Uniforms who did that sort of thing in Cincy years ago. There is a relatively new outfit, Elegant Treasures, in Cincinnati that can embroider anything you want on shirts, caps etc. Those of you who have seen my shirts with MISSIE depicted on them or "Rabbit Hash Yacht Club" have seen their work. They can be reached at 513 489 4962. Dale, I seem to remember that there was such an outfit located in the Pugh building on 5 th street near the Taft Museum


                  Dear Bob & Tom:
                  The thread here on 'steamboat uniforms' gets longer and longer with great interest. Bob, your "two cents worth" is on the money in my book and most interesting.

                  Yes, Tom, there were, as you know, a number of clothing manufacturers here in the old days. I recall--vaguely--they were centered more to the west on 4th St. here. That area was something of the garment district for Cincinnati. I'll run down the name of the company located in the Pugh Building next to Taft Museum [*Now being converted to expensive condos with a view of Lytle Park, Mt. Adams and the river.] My aunt, now in her mid 80s, was an officer manager for that company but I can't recall if it was 'Pettibone' or not.

                  Bob is correct about much of the present regalia work being done out of the country [*Asia] using new high speed computer weaving processes. Keep your eyes open next time any of you visit a big flea market as some of these gold/silver embroidered steamboat/steamship insignias are now appearing on the market. Also keep an eye open for such items as: steamboat/steamship cutlery, dishes, cups, serving implements and even old stateroom keys from boats and ships. I've uncovered a few white porcelain pieces with the letters L & C imposed over each other. Can't trace for sure if any are from the old L&C LINE here. Tom, glad to know there's a concern here carrying on the business.

                  R. Dale Flick