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J.M.WHITE and Others........ooooooh Gross

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    J.M.WHITE and Others........ooooooh Gross

    Spittoons on the deck. Look at these familiar pictures of the JM WHITE. I have often wondered how they keep those spittoons on the deck from blowing away. Pity the poor cabin boy who had to empty them every morning.
    The second picture shows the water cooler, look below it...a spittoon. Can you imagine getting a drink of water from one of the two community cups while the person next to you hacked up a big hocker? Hope his aim was good.
    Look at the end of each table lined up down the main cabin, a stratigicaly placed spittoon.
    All boats of the era were similarly equipped. What gross habits they had back then.
    Attached Files


    I'd hate to have had spittons on the BELLE's decks Tuesday as we traveled through a veritable wind tunnel!!!


      Yep,Judy, the wind can blow up in that area of the river. I remember one time on my houseboat coming down from Madison when we hit a wave the spray would blow over the top of the boat. Looked like one of those movies of WWll destroyers in the North Atlantic. I was a fun trip......blew my flag to shreds.
      I remember one time when I was on Her Majesty on the Lower Miss the wind was blowing so hard it took all your weight to force open the main cabin doors and you could hardly stand on deck outside.
      Wonder what the JM WHITE did with all those spittoons when the wind blew like that.


        *J.M. WHITE spittoons/Communal drinking cups*
        Steamboating colleagues,
        Jim, thanks again for your great photos, intriguing questions eliciting, I hope, another round of discussions. I don't know about some of you, but I vividly recall as a kid seeing both brass and white or blue/white porcelain spittoons on the floor or by the bars of the old German beer bars and gardens here in Cincinnati. The men stood to drink or even eat at the bar with a separate 'retiring area' for the women with tables, chairs. Families could eat in the separate area. That went out pronto with the then new Public Health Laws here in Cincinnati. The 'toons I saw were filled somewhat with water to weight them down. Some even were already weighted with the insert 'toon basin that could be taken out, dumped, washed. Some fancy German bars here had an actual tiled water trough running on the floor in front of the bar with the shiny brass foot rail. I'd opine the 'toons on the WHITE also somewhat weighted down with water. The strong wind factor a goodie. The communal drinking cup leaves no doubt as to the then tranmission of diseases. You either had a strong immune system then or you didn't last long. They did know/understand about tranmission somewhat of cholera, possibly Yellow Feaver and Typhoid. Polio was rampant. Influenza another killer. Records, letters, memoirs comment on the somewhat 'common to crude' people witnessed on steamboats here along with their poor manners at table on steamboats. The English and continental Europeans were apppalled most of all but did like the then 'American Plan' with all steamboat meals included in the fare. European boats/ships held to the 'European Plan' where passengers paid for meals separate a la carte. The DK/DQ held to this same program on the Sacramento River.

        All of those 'toons, drinking urns, dishes, crockery, cooking equipment on steamboats handled by the army of 'cabin boys' usually all Black or even some 'chambermaids.' Heck, some of us even remember the traditional white porcelain chamber pots with a lid and handle under the bunks in many of the cabins on the DELTA QUEEN. Human labor and elbow grease the answer then. I often wonder just how sanitary dishes, cutlery, cooking equipment was in those days? Even the grandest of the great sidewheel cotton boats with glorious main cabins were noted to be more than a little dingy, dusty, dirty within a few years. Not all travelers extolled the beauty of the great cabins in the cotton packets. I could go on and on but will mercifully stop at this point. Again, what do I know?

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


          I've been doing research for my next DVD project for the Howard Museum and I've been reading up on their largest customers.....the Anchor Line, Lee Line, St. Louis & Tennessee River Packet Co, L&C/Mail Line. I believe it was the Anchor Line that had the "restaurant plan" for meals. I guess you paid for the meals as you went along.
          but what do I know?


            *JIm's DVD project/Steamboat food plans*
            Steamboating colleagues,
            Jim, having viewed your first DVD steamboat project, my eyes bugged reading above RE: your continuing project with references to: LEE LINE, ANCHOR LINE, U.S. MAIL LINE/L&C LINE etc. In doing so I am sure you will take off the 'rose colored glasses' RE: prevailing opinions of "romantic, beautiful, wonderful old time steamboat life" you and I have mentioned in conversations before. Records, financial notes mention that even the great ANCHOR LINE was entering its final years to decline by the year 1895. Believe-it-or-not, the higest years of steamboat operation was the 1850s. But that's another story.

            For a fine insight on the famed LEE LINE, I direct you to the four serialized articles written by Jim Lee, family member, appearing with David Tschiggfrie's editor talents in installments of the S&D REFLECTOR from 2015 to 2016. You can go on line with your search engine to type in LEE LINE and see what pops up. Jim's research, family memories focus on the plan the LEE LINE, and other lines, had to institute the 'European Plan' for passengers paying for meals aboard al la cart and not included in the flat rate of their passage. The matter received wide attention, discussion with other steamboat companies, individual owners etc. with many holding to the old ways. It became a hot issue in late steamboat days of operation due to the rapidly escalating costs. There were the two lines of thought: provide all meals with the passenger tarriff or charge for meals. Other steamboat lines here, on the East coast, Great Lakes had the same issue. The great Hudson River night boats charged extra for meals as did other. Many passengers ate ashore before sailing only purchasing breakfast aboard before the boat docked from the one night run. The LEE LINE also explored the issue of baggage handling by porters or crew in addition to the wages wearing 'Porter Badges' with numbers. The term in those days for porters/roustabouts handling passenger luggage was "smashing bags."

            The legendary food on the great cotton boats was true--to a point--but often heightened by later writers. Boats offered wonderful meals with some 30 dishes and 15 desserts at a sitting with tureens, bowls, platters laid down the center of the long tables. The Chief Steward, Captain and shore office used the old ploy of piling on the food heavy the first two days; then slacking off knowing the passengers--most of them--had their fill. Many observers/writers commented on the quality, or lack of, with steamboat food. There was no concern for most at the lack of balanced meals, healthy offerings in that day of self-indulgence. Most who wrote mentioned all the steamboat meals "very heavy with fat and grease." Even our own late Capt. Alan Bates, as mentioned, said/wrote. "Most of the boat food was slop not better than a second rate boarding house ashore. They could cook anything with lots of lard, sugar, flour, salt and pepper." It was an era of gross inequality from the very well fed to the impoverished and immigrants. It was not a kind, loving era contrary to what many romantics believe. The passengers with the money in the ornate steamboat cabins with meals always the minority then to the 'deck passengers' below fending for themselves often with no meals, beds or any shelter on the lower deck. After the U.S. Steamboat laws came in in 1850/1852 things changed but not without protests, political lobbying by steamboat owners and stock holders. Sound familiar?

            In later years professional food and travel writers on DELTA QUEEN trips wrote about their first "disappointment aboard" thinking they would find tables laden with steamboat foods endlessly like in Mark Twain days. In the end they praised the limited food, desserts on the DELTA QUEEN. The DQ food decidedly 'southern' in flavor until later years when the menu varied from year to year from 'southern' to 'California cuisine,' 'Cajun cooking,' 'American cuisine' etc. Keep us posted on your project. Again, what do I know?

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