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photo forensics

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    photo forensics

    The attached photo shows the main cabin of the CITY OF CINCINNATI. The photo, in my opinion, contains several clues that allows us to determine the month and approx. year it was taken. Study it and guess when you think it was taken.
    Attached Files

    *Photo forensics/This is a 'goodie*
    Steamboating colleagues:
    Again thanks to Jim Reising for another dandy linked to his photo postings with questions invoking "steamboat forensics." I don't know much but will give it a go from here.
    First, I went to the 2nd photo of the CITY OF CINCINNATI obviously, I think, steaming down river possibly [?] at/near Madison, Indiana on a full-blown summer day. The unusually large crowd of passengers on her decks indicates to me this no doubt one of those celebrated 'Meet the boat' trips back then usually on a Sunday at the astonishing price of .50 cents per person. Naturally refreshments and food aboard purchased separately unless the family groups packed a picnic hamper. The 'Meet the boat' trips with one boat CITY OF CINCINNATI meeting the returning boat possibly here the CITY OF LOUISVILLE to transfer passengers over for the return run either back to Cincinnati or down to Louisville. That was even then a long day on the river from AM to, at times, late PM if there was a river navigation issue or a problem with the boat itself. Some accounts mention fog, storm etc. with the boat not returning until the wee hours of the morning. I would offer a guess this picture(s) possibly on/around the year 1899. In later years the then L&C LINE continued these 'Meet the boat' excursions with the then new sidewheel CINCINNATI of 1924 and the veteran QUEEN CITY.

    Usual night boat costs were $3.00 one way, $5.00 round trip. Heck, you can't even buy a beer today for the cost then of a river trip on the night boats.

    The first photo a picture of gentility in the main cabin. Again, I opine summer from June to late August or September. In this photo I see no evidence of any iron pot bellied stove with stove pipe running up to the overhead. There appears hanging a pot of blooming flowers. Possibly fresh flowers but I would guess hanging that high requiring one of the cabin boys to water it, it 'could' be artificial silk flowers even then. Possibly evidence of ceiling fans from above.

    The gauzy mosquito netting on the chandeliers typical of summer months. The large bulbs outside of the netting for illumination with other wall lights along the sides. This netting common to keep dust, insects off of the chandeliers. In summer here and in the south house flys, other insects would land on gold picture frames, brass/gilt/silver light fixtures leaving 'insects spots' hard to remove by whomover doing the cleaning. The long cabin carpet from the 'Ladies Cabin' and not rolled up for the season. Many boats did roll up long carpets until fall; others left the carpeting down. In those days cheap human labor with lots of hand brushes, elbow grease the answer to all. When you think of the hard work keeping these boats relatively clean, scrubbed, dusted inside another negative to "old time romantic, wonderful steamboat days." Don't know if I'm even near what Jim knows but this my thinking. Again, what do I know?

    R. Dale Flick
    Old Coal Haven Landing, Ohio River, Cincinnati. Returned home from Michigan on Sunday.


      I don't think anyone can argue with what Dale has opined. Spring flowers hanging in a basket from the overhead and a cabin that looks as if the first passenger hasn't even walked over the carpet yet all point in the direction that the boat is pretty new. There's also that Gibson Girl sitting in her glory that helps to pin point the time. With that being said, I'm going to add my two cents worth and say it's right around the month she came out April, 1899.


        Dale and Frank both get a GIANT SNICKERS bar! I agree with both of them....the picture was taken in hot weather. Look at the skylight windows, most of them are open and the transom windows over the cabin doors, a lot of them are also open. The silk mesh over the chandeliers leads me to believe, just as Dale said, an insect problem, but I believe they are there for protection from Mayflies. If that's the case then the month was probably mid-June thru the end of July. Can't you just see the Mayflies swarming towards those bright lights when the boat stops at a country landing at night.....if you've ever lived through swarming Mayflies, you know they'd never get that crystal glass clean again.
        I checked the river stages for June and July for 1899, 1900, and 1901 and the CINCINNATI was running from the middle of June until about the end of July when low water forced a lay-up.
        Now to pinpoint the exact year is not as easy. Like Frank I zeroed in on the lady sitting n the cabin. Her hat screams 1900 as does her shirtwaist blouse.
        So from this I say this picture was taken late June or early July, 1900 or 1901. We'll never know for certain, but it's fun to guess.
        By the way, if you're interested the fare for a round trip....Louisville to Cincy and return was all of 25 Cents!!!!! I'm sure meals and berth were extra.
        So get a quarter and meet me before the 3PM departure time at the L&C wharfboat at the foot of 3rd St, we'll take a steamboat ride. As the newspaper said "the CINCINNATI has a good band and is very popular with the public".


          *Open transoms/'Gibson girl'/1900?*
          Morning, Jim & Frank,
          Ummm, lots of additional 'steamboat forensics' in Jim's iniitial posting of the photos, questions and it seems to go on and on. This is fun! Yes, I also noticed the "skylight windows mostly open" as did Jim. The "Mayfly" infestation from mid-June to July about the same down here as up at the lake house in Michigan. And they do leave a mess as do regular house flys, spiders. Spiders the worse with those spots hard to wash off. The fine photo of the boat's cabin show things pretty new, fresh painted, glossy and I will toss my ring to the year 1899 as Frank mentioned. I still hold the flower basket/pot hanging from way above is possibly artificial. Yet many other photos show steamboat cabins with fresh cut flowers, potted plants, plant vines dangling from walls and above. Capt. Mary B. Greene loved plants/flowers on the GREENE LINE boats that appear in many photos of their day.

          The 'Gibson girl' lady [Artist Charles Dana Gibson] conviently posed possibly 1900/1901 as Jim opines. No doubt the cabin photo taken with the reading table and, no doubt, one big Bible dramatically opened to indicate the boat, company, officers and crew were a "Christian boat" as termed then with a subtle nudge to consider traveling on this line. I have no doubt many an evening or rainy afternoon or evening that new piano was used for general hymn singing, popular music after the boats band played. Do you think there was possibly dancing off that beautiful carpet on the hard floor of the men's cabin? Unmarried young women and even older did NOT dance in public with strangers on a steamboat or ship. There would have been somebody as a chaperone.

          Incidentally, I did some digging finding that wire mesh window screening, after some early years of experimentation, didn't formally receive a U.S. Patent for manufacture until the year 1900. Before that, believe it or not, people in cities and out in the county lived with no screens other than make-shift cheese cloth type covers for windows, doors. Insects had free access in and out of houses/buildings. How many of you here old enough to remember those sticky fly trap tapes people hung from the ceiling that looked like movie film tape to catch flys? My grandfather's food business had them hanging all over with lots of dead flys stuck to the goo on the tape which, I think, for a long time was arsenic base. Window screening one of the much-needed marvels used in buildings, offices, residences, dormitories during building of the Panama Canal. Those early warnings about "catching your death from 'vapors or augue and the night air' at night really from insects, fly bites.

          Seems the price for a summer Sunday 'Meet the boat trip' often varied as we see from $1.75, .50 cents, .25 cents. Yes, the L&C LINE then also offered 'deck passengers' a rate with no cabin or meals. Even the 'California Transportation Co.' did this with their early boats on the Sacramento and later the then new DELTA KING/DELTA QUEEN.

          Thanks Jim and Frank. Sure, I'll meet you "...before 3:00 PM at the L&C wharfboat...foot of 3rd St, we'll take a steamboat ride." Now, I ask, when will Jim offer another gem like this for steamboat forensics? This what needs. Cheers!
          ~*PS.*~ How many here recall the days of the 'Spider man' working on the DELTA QUEEN from summer to late autumn and the first frost with his broom, bucket of soapy water, rags on duty around the decks washing off spider, fly specks and webs from the overheads, outside decks, railings? That in my time was a L-O-N-G time ago and I'm sure Jim and others here saw/remember the 'Spider man.' Well, what do I know?

          R. Dale Flick
          Old Coal Haven Landing, Ohio River, Cincinnati.