Reviews: Books about Steamboats and Rivers

Steamboats in generalSteamboating on the Mississippi RiverSteamboat DirectoriesSteamboating on the Missouri RiverSteamboat RacingSteamboating on the Ohio RiverPicture BooksSteamboating on the West Coast RiversDelta QueenSteamboating on other RiversBooks about specific boatsSteamboating in New EnglandMark TwainFor little Steamboaters

Steamboating in general:

Steamboats on the Western Rivers (Louis C. Hunter) – 1993 This is the most comprehensive book about steamboats and their impact on economic and technological development. The author, Professor Louis C. Hunter, was born in 1898 and published this book the first time in 1949. If you want to have just one single book about steamboats, take this one. to buy this book, please use this link: this book at

The Western Rivers Steamboat Cyclopoedium (Alan L. Bates) – 1968 This is an excellent introduction in steamboat design and construction. The book is great for everyone who wants to understand the technology of steamboats, and of course it’s a perfect ressource for modelers. Alan L. Bates also has published a similar book about steamboat engines (see below). this book is available from

The Western Rivers Engineroom Cyclopoedium (Alan L. Bates) – 1996 This 60-pages-book is a phantastic guide to the steam engines and technology typically used on the paddlewheelers of the Mississippi River System. There are many pictures and also a complete engineroom layout drawing. If you are interested in this specific technology, this is the most comprehensive book about it. this book might be available from the used books section at

Days of The Steamboats (William H. Ewen) – 1967 A good, but short overview over all kind of steamboats, not only on the Western Rivers, but on Hudson River, Long Island Sound, Inland Seas and the West Coast Rivers. Has a lot of nice pictures and is easy to read. to buy this book, please use this link: this book at

Moonlite at 8:30 – The Excursion Boat Story (Alan L. Bates, Clarke C. Hawley) – 1994 Capt. Alain L. Bates and Capt. Clarke C. Hawley are telling the story of the great excursion boats, their passengers and crews, about the famous Streckfus Line and portraits of some great pilots. The book shows many good pictures and historic documents and gives in-depth information about this boats, specialized on excursions. This book is available through the Howard Steamboat Museum

Beatty’s Navy (Barbara Huffman) – 2003 This is the story of Capt. John Beatty. His primary profession was the salvage of sunken river equipment, but he did far more than that. His career began when steam paddlewheelers ruled the rivers and continued through the transition to diesel propeller towboats. He ranged the entire Mississippi Valley, excepting the Missouri River. At Cincinnati, he and his wife, Clare “Elsie” Beatty, operated terminal and switching services, warehousing, and even operated a couple of first-class floating restaurants. Price is $26.95 plus $5 shipping and handling. Available at Spancil Hill Publishing Co., 11 Ashland Cove Rd., Vevay IN 47043 USA. Checks or money orders accepted (make payable to Spancil Hill).

McBride’s River (Alan L. Bates) – 2003 This is the heartwarming story of a riverboat family spanning a hundred and forty two years of American river history from the days of Steamboat Gothic to the present. From the glamourous George Washington McBride, through his son, the hard-working, hard playing, hard luck Leo Birch McBride and his son, the thrifty George William McBride to two more generations of highly capable rivermen, the Ohio River at Louisville has indeed become McBride’s River. This book is available through the Howard Steamboat Museum

The River’s in My Blood (Jane Curry) – 1983 I’m still very much excited about finding this book. It’s a collection of interviews with steamboat pilots talking about almost everything concerning steamboating with special chapters about social life and work life on the steamboats and about the characters of different pilots. If you really want to know how it was to be a steamboat pilot you must read this book. find this book at

The Steamboaters (Harry Sinclair Drago) – 1967 The author writes about the history of steamboats from the early sidewheelers to the gib packet boats, which also includes e. g. the Klondike gold rush.

Pilotin´ Comes Natural (Captain Frederick Way, Jr.) – 1943 Captain Frederick Way, Jr., tells his story of becoming a river pilot. Beginning with his first ride on the steamboat Queen City at the age of 10 he writes about his ups and downs as a steamboat clerk and cub pilot until passing his examinations to get a pilot´s license. The book ends with Captain Way´s first piloting job on the Betsy Ann in 1923.

Backing Hard Into River History (James V. Swift) – 2000 Although this book is not only about steamboats it´s an invaluable source of information about the rivers. James V. Swift was a long time editor of the Waterways Journal and is still writing steamboat columns. His book is partly a biography and partly a book about river history.

Steamboat Calliopes (Leslie C. Swanson) – 1981/1983 Leslie C. Swanson played the calliope on five steamboats including the Delta Queen and the Mississippi Queen. The first chapter of the booklet is telling the history of the steam calliopes. The second and third chapter are continuing with the author´s career as a calliope player and his return to the calliope in his later years. The booklet includes a lot of photos. out-of-print; might still be available from Leslie C. Swansons family for $5.00 (postpaid within the US). e-mail to:

Here Comes The Showboat (Betty Bryant) – 1994 Betty Bryant´s family owned and operated the Billy Bryant´s Showboat on the inland waterway of the Ohio River from before the First World War until 1942. The book tells her story of her twenty years of touring with the showboat. to buy this book, please use this link: this book at

Steamboat Directories:

Way’s Packet Directory (Frederick Way, jr.) – 1994 Famous steamboat pilot Frederick Way, jr. has published this collection of almost 6000 descriptions of steamboats. There are also some beautiful pictures in this book. If you have to do some research about old steamboats, there is no way around this book. Fred Way also compiled a directory of tow boats (see below). to buy this book, please use this link: this book at

Way’s Steam Towboat Directory (Frederick Way, jr., Joseph W. Rutter) – 1990 Frederick Way, jr. als has published a collection of over 2700 descriptions of steam towboats. There are also many beautiful pictures in this book. to buy this book, please use this link: this book at

Lloyd´s Steamboat Directory and Disasters on the Western Waters 1856 (James T. Lloyd) – 1979 (Reprint by The Ohio River Collection) The Lloyd´s Directory is a great source of early steamboating on the western rivers. The main part describes steamboat disasters until 1856. There are also several lists of landings, distances, steamboats in 1856 and more. to buy this book, please use this link: this book at

Steamboats Today – A Pictorial Directory (Tom Rhodes, Harley Scott) – 1986 This is a pictorial directory of North American steam vessels (not only western rivers). Each vessel is shown in a photo with its history, location and technical data.

Steamboat Races:

The Great Steamboat Race between the Natchez and the Rob´t. E. Lee (Roy L. Barkhau) – 1952/1962 You could read a lot about the most famous steamboat race between the Natchez and the Rob´t. E. Lee but not everything is close to the truth. Roy L. Barkhau tried to write the true story about the race doing a lot of research in local newspapers and archives. Added are photos, facts about the boats, crews and captains and a lot of more informations about the race.

She takes the Horns – Steamboat Racing on the Western Waters (Frederick Way, Jr.) – 1953 The most famous steamboat race took place between the Natchez and the Rob´t. E. Lee. But there have been many more races which Frederick Way, Jr. recalls in this book. Racing didn´t only mean two boats racing against each other. Racing also meant to break the speed record of another boat and get the trophy, the gilded deer antlers.

Picture Books:

Mississippi Stern-Wheelers (Frederick Way jr.) – 1947 This is a big-sized picture album, compiled by Fred Way, jr. with many beautiful steamboat pictures.

Cap´n Hughes´ Steamboat Sketchbook (Jesse P. Hughes) Captain Jesse P. Hughes was a long time pilot and master for the Greene Line Steamers. But he also went to an art school. This book contains more than 30 pencil sketches by Jesse P. Huges with additional informations about the boats and details from the Way´s Directory. Foreword by Captain Frederick Way Jr..

Portraits from the Past – Steamboats on the Western Rivers (Neal R. Fink) – 1977 This books contains about 18 black and white drawings by Neal R. Fink with additional informations about the boats.

Packets on Parade (Marilynne Bradley) – 1980 Marilynne Bradley tells the story of the St. Louis based Eagle Packet Company still existing as Eagle Marine Industries. The book contains 12 water-color illustrations of Eagle Packet Boats painted by the author.

Portraits of the Riverboats (William C. Davis) – 2001 Historic boat pictures are compiled in this book. Each boat and river town has a large description added. to buy this book, please use this link: this book at

Mississippi River:

Steamboating on the Upper Mississippi (William J. Petersen) – 1968 / 1995 William J. Petersons book is almost as comprehensive as the one above, but concentrating on the upper Mississippi. It is a doctoral dissertation about steamboats. The authors father was associated with the Diamond Jo Line Steamers in Dubuque, Iowa, so Peterson is familiar with steamboats business from boyhood days. Book was first published in 1937. to buy this book, please use this link: this book at

Upper Mississippi River History: Fact – Fiction -Legend (Captain Ron A. Larson) – 1998 Captain Ron A.Larson´s book starts with the early French explorers. He covers the history of paddlewheel steamboats from the first one until the last remaining steamboats of today on the Mississippi River. The book provides a lot of information about the upper Mississippi River such as paddlewheel steamboats, railroad bridges, log rafts, wing dams, locks and dams of today, river navigation aids and river towns. Added are river pilot stories about names or landmarks along the upper Mississippi River. You will find more than 200 pictures and illustrations. Captain Ron A. Larson, U.S.M.M. Ret., was working on the upper Mississippi River on towboats between St. Louis and St. Paul with an occasional trip on most of the other navigable rivers. Now during retirement he still does part-time piloting on river excursion boats as the Mississippi Queen, the Delta Queen, the Valley Queen, the Mississippi Bell, the Jubilee and the Mark Twain. to buy this book, please use this link: this book at (paperback) or hardcover

The Mississippi Steamboat Era in Historic Photographs (Joan W. and Thomas H. Gandy) – 1987 great if you are looking for old pictures – not only of steamboats but also from the steamboat era at all. I like this book very much because it gives you a great overview over this time history. to buy this book, please use this link: this book at

Beyond the Bridges – Rediscovering America´s Waterways (Jerry M. Hay) – 2006 Are you planning to go on your first river cruise on a steamboat? This is the book you have to read! You´re an experienced river cruiser? Read it! Author Jerry M. Hay has spent more than 40 years on the rivers. He travelled the whole Mississippi river in a canoe. He explored the Wabash and White rivers for publishing river guide books. Jerry tried out nearly every kind of watercraft. And he spent a couple of years as a river historian abord the paddlewheel steamboats Delta Queen, Mississippi Queen and American Queen. In this book Jerry does not only share his funny river stories we have listened to on the steamboats over and over always longing for more. Learn more about Gilligan Goose who became famous in a children´s book. Did you ever see a Boeing 727 in a river? What kind of important delivery did the John Deere tractor make during high water? The book also provides loads of valuable information about the history of travelling on the rivers from flatboats to modern towboats, about reading the rivers, about river navigation, about the anatomy of a river or about the language of the rivers. Jerry M. Hay´s favorite quote is, “I don´t make the same mistake twice. I´m too busy making new ones.” This book is definitely not one of his mistakes but a wonderful resource of information combined with some of the most funniest river stories. to buy this book at Amazon, please use this link: Beyond the Bridges: Rediscovering America’s Waterways

And for those who prefer to listen to Jerry M. Hay, he also compiled his favorite river stories on the CD “Life on the River”. 80 min (Door decorating – The Butterfly Disaster – John Deere in the River – Dover Fisherman – Tater Gun – Steamboat in a Cornfield – Gilligan Goose (7 stories) – The River Rat – Eddie Arnold – Airplane in the River – Stuck in a Lock – Rubber duck race).Also available from Jerry Hay:

Between The Saints: Louis and Paul (Kathy Flippo) – 2003 This is for everybody wondering what river life is like. Author’s captain husband spent 50 years on the river. She spent much time on towboats and tells all (almost). Describes river towns and displays pictures of hundreds of boats; focus is on the Upper Mississippi.

Steamboats on the Mississippi (American Heritage Junior Library) – 1962 Written for children this book is a good overview over almost all aspects around steamboats. It has many nice pictures.

Tales of the Mississippi (Ray Samuel, Leonard V. Huber, Warren C. Ogden) – 1955 This book contains a collection of tales of the Mississippi in 19 chapters and more than 300 illustrations and photographs. The authors tried to write something new about the Great River instead of a conventional history book. So you will find deeper informations about the discoverer Hernando DeSoto and the legendary Mike Fink, what made the Rob´t E. Lee and the Natchez race, the river gambler George Devol known as the hardest head on the Mississippi or the answer to the question what made the Mississippi River once flew upstream and a lot more.

Missouri River:

Steamboat Legacy (Dorothy Heckmann Shrader) – 1993 This is the story of the steamboat familiy Heckmann and their boats on Missouri River and Gasconade River. It’s a wonderful historic documentation about life and business in the steamboat era from the viewpoint of the operators of many steamboats. to buy this book, please use this link: this book at (paperback) or hardcover

Steamboat Treasures (Dorothy Heckmann Shrader) – 1997 Steamboat Legacy told the story of the Heckmann family by the diaries of Mary Miller Heckmann the authors grandmother. Steamboat Treasures covers the next generation based on the publications of her uncle Steamboat Bill Heckmann, the Mark Twain of the Missouri river.

Steamboat Kid (Dorothy Heckmann Shrader) – 2000 Steamboat Kid is the third and final part of the trilogy of Dorothy Heckmann Shrader. The author tells her own story about her life on the big excursion boat John Heckmann which was her father´s dream and obession.

Wild River, Wooden Boats – True Stories of Steamboating and the Missouri River (Michael Gillespie) – 2000 The book tells about steamboating in general and exspecially on the Missouri River mostly quoting from historic sources. There are chapters like “Steamboat Design & Operation”, “Working on the River”, “Sudden Death” or “Up the Wild Missouri”. Added are about 20 illustrations and photographs. The illustrations include a map of the Missouri River and its tributaries, a typical deck layout or a map containing steamboat wrecks between Jefferson City and Kansas City. to buy this book, please use this link: this book at

For Wood and Water – Steamboating on the Missouri River from Saint Louis to Fort Union, Dakota Territory 1841 – 1846 (Mark H. Bettis) – 2000 Mark H. Bettis is presenting the journals of Captain Joseph Aime Sire from 1841 to 1846. Those journals give an excellent impression of steamboating on the Missouri River in its early years.

Ohio River:

Heading Home (John Malone, Riverman Press) – July 2007 Tom Malone, son of Irish immigrants, leaves his parent’s home in Brownsville, PA, on the Monongahela River to sign on as a deck hand on the towboat SHARK right at his 18th birthday, while Civil War still was disrupting the country. The SHARK was operated by the Brown Line and at that time was chartered to supply fuel for the Navy, pushing coal from the Pittsburgh area to Tennessee. Tom worked his way up, eventually obtained his mate’s license, serving as such on the ALICE BROWN, and married the young Baptist Roxa of Antiquity, OH. Heading Home is a wonderful novel, based on facts from the author’s family history. Along the way it provides a rare and very interesting view on the Civil War from a rivermen’s perspective. It very lively shows how catholic Irish immigrants as well as a Baptists communities lived on the country side of the Ohio Valley in the mid-19th century. It’s fun to read this story about the life on and at the river, about love and family bonds, about the religious matters in these days. Don’t expect too much technical details about steamboats and the work of the rivermen, though; that’s not the focus of this novel. I highly recommend reading this wonderful 140 pages book. It is exciting, entertaining and takes the reader back in time, giving a very lively insight. The author, John Malone, was born in Sewickley, PA, now living in North Carolina. The protagonists of this book, Tom Malone and his wife Roxa, are the great-grandparents of John Malone. Heading Home is John’s second book after “Farewell Forever” which tells the story of Tom’s parents, emigrating from Ireland to America. Buy John Malone’s “HEADING HOME” at

Ohio River Images: Cincinnati to Louisville in the Packet Boat Era (Russell G. Ryle) – 2000 Russell G. Ryle a descendant of the North family, Rising Sun IN, describes the life on the Ohio River during the packet boat era using photographs of the family archives. This is mostly a picture book. The chapters show boats of the packet era, cities and towns along the way, Cincinnati to Louisville by packet including river navigation charts, cargoes and commerce, fun on the river, the big ice of 1917/1918, floods, dams that tamed the river and the river of today. to buy this book, please use this link: this book at

Along the Ohio River: Cincinnati to Louisville, Postcard History Series (Robert Schrage and Donald Clare) – 2006 Rabbit Hash historian Don Clare worked together with Robert Schrage on this wonderful collection of postcards, showing the history of the Ohio River from Cincinnati to Louisville. On more than 120 pages most aspects of river life are covered, and even though there is one chapter specifically dedicated to steamboats, paddlweheelers appear all over the book. You’ll find pictures of old locks and riverfronts, buildings and landscapes, and a lot of famous as well as rare picture postcards of steamboats. Don’t expect much text in this book – the pictures mainly speak for themselves, and the captions comming with each postcard are probably not meant to contain any new or absolutely historically correct information for the knowledgeable reader. to buy this book, please use this link: this book at

The Ohio River Handbook and Picture Album (The Ohio River Collection, edited by Bejamin F. Klein) – 1969 A great source about the Ohio River, not only about the steamboats there, but also topics like locks and dams and navigation.

Thrills of the Historic Ohio River (Frank Grayson, reprint edited by Barbara Fluegeman Huffman) – 2001 Frank Grayson wrote his river stories as a weekly river history column for the Cincinnati Times-Star in 1929. His column soon proved so popular that they were collected and published in book form later that same year. Mentioning more than 500 boat names this book is an invaluable information on early river transportation and steamboating.

Other Rivers:

Red River Steamboats (Eric Brock, Gary Joiner) – 1999 This is a great book about the Red River: the Great Raft, Opening the River, Civil War times, rise and fall of the post-war steamboat commerce. Has many wonderful pictures, 128 pages with more pictures than text. to buy this book, please use this link: this book at

Steamboats on the Muskingum (J. Mack Gamble) – 1971 J. Mack Gamble was a second generation riverman from Marietta, OH. He was a founder and the first president of the Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen, a historical organization that keeps the tradition of river steamboating alive. At fifteen J. Mack Gamble started writing for the Waterways Journal. Steamboats on the Muskingum was derived largely from his M.A. thesis. The book contains many photos and a list of steamboats on the Muskingum River.

Bartholomew´s Song: A Bayou History (Rebecca DeArmond-Huskey) – 2001 Rebecca DeArmond-Huskey is telling the history of the Bayou Bartholomew and its environs. The book includes a large chapter about steamboating the Bayou with a list of steamboats documented on Bayou Bartholomew. The second part of the book consists of family histories. 96 photos are added. buy it at

Steamboats on the Fox River – A pictorial History of Navigation in Northeastern Wisconsin (Don C. Mitchell) – 1986 This book is more a picture book containing lots of photos and reprints of postcards of steamboats on the Fox River, WI. Added is a list of steamboats on the Fox and Wolf Rivers, a chronological history of the Fox River region and many more informations. to buy this book, please use this link: this book at

West Coasts (California, Washington, British Columbia, Alaska):

Paddlewheelers of Alaska and the Yukon Paddlewheelers of Alaska and the Yukon – Graham Wilson – 1999 This 112-pages-book is full with wonderful historic pictures (more than 100!), which obviously was the main reason for Wilson to publish this book. The pictures are telling the story of the gold rush to the Klondike with focus on the involvement of steamboats in this short period of history. It covers the steamboat route from Victoria, Portland, Seattle to St. Michaels at the mouth of the Yukon River and from there upriver to Dawson City. It covers the foot trail via White Pass or Chilkoot Pass and later the Whitepass and Yukon Route Railroad, but mainly of course the steamboat traffic on the Yukon River from Whitehorse to Dawson. That includes boats racing, winter river traffic and steamboat desasters on the Yukon. When you’re looking for a fast, enjoyable read abou this era with many great pictures, you’ll love this very affordable ($9,95) book. to buy this book, please use this link: Paddlewheelers of Alaska and the Yukon

Paddle-Wheel Days in California (Jerry MacMullen) – 1944 Jerry MacMullen is telling the history of the paddlewheel steamboats in California. The book contains some photos. Added is a list of steamboats of the California rivers, a list of California steamboat builders, a table of distances and river landings and a list of California ferry vessels.

Sternwheelers up Columbia (Randall V. Mills) – 1947 Randall V. Mills´ book is telling the history of paddlewheel steamboats on the Columbia River and its tributaries. Added are some photos, a detailed list of steamers of the Columbia River system and a table of distances.

Steamboats on the Chena – The founding & development of Fairbanks, Alaska (Basil Hedrick, Susan Savage) – 1988 Steamboats on the Chena is telling the founding and development of Fairbanks, AL. Steamboats were the main transportation for goods and people. The book contains some charts and photos and a list of steamboat landings at Fairbanks or the Chena.

Pacific Steamboats – From Sidewheeler to Motor Ferry (Gordon Newell, Joe Williamson) – 1968 This is a pictorial history book of the West Coats´s boats and boatmen with many photos.

Paddlewheels on the Frontier – The Story of British Columbia and Yukon Sternwheel Steamers (Art Downs) – 1972 This pictorial book is telling the story of the sternwheel steamers in British Columbia, Cananda. Rivers covered are the Columbia, Kootenay, Lower Fraser, Cariboo, Skeena, Stikine and Yukon Rivers, the Arrow and Kootenay Lakes, Kamloops and Shuswap Country and Northern B.C.. Added are maps and many photos.

Delta Queen:

Long live the Delta Queen (Letha C. Greene) – 1973 Letha C. Greene managed the steamboat Delta Queen for several years after her husband Tom Greene, jr. died in 1950. This is a kind of diary of Letha C. Greene talking about her experiences on the excursion boat Delta Queen. Very nice to read and if you make a cruise in the Delta Queen today, you’ll find not much changed since Letha C. Green wrote this book in 1973. find this book at

Delta Queen – The Story of a Steamboat (Virginia S. Eifert) – 1960 Virgina S. Eifert has traveled 4000 miles on the Delta Queen to obtain first-hand material for her story about the Delta Queen.

The Saga of the Delta Queen (Captain Frederick Way, Jr.) – 1951 Captain Frederick Way, Jr., tells his story of the voyage of the Delta Queen from San Francisco Bay down the Pacific Ocean, through the Panama Canal, the Carribean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico into the Mississippi River. Captain Way made her ready for her voyage and brought her from New Orleans up to Dravo in Pittsburgh where she was renovated for her future use. The book shows many pictures of this voyage and the preparations. It also contains the original deck plans.

The Legend of the Delta Queen (Bern Keating) – 1986 This commermorative volume celebrates the sixtieth anniversary of the Delta Queen telling her story during her first 60 years (printend by the Delta Queen Steamboat Company).

The Delta Queen – Last of the Paddlewheel Palaces (August Perez & Associates) – 1981 This pictorial book does not only cover the history of the Delta Queen. It´s also containing photos of many of the old floating palaces. Added are many interesting and rarely seen photographs.

Log of the S.S. Delta Queen – Cincinnati to Kentucky Lake & Kentucky Lake to Chattanooga (Virginia S. Eifert) – 1965 – This is one of the logs of the Delta Queen written by Virginia S. Eifert covering Cincinnati to Kentucky Lake and Kentucky Lake to Chattanooga. Like a riverlorian Virginia S. Eifert is telling all you can see on those cruises referring to the river milage.

King & Queen of the River (Stan Garvey) – 1995 / 1999 Stan Garvey´s “biography” of the Delta Queen and the Delta King is a must for every steamboater. He´s telling the story of the two million dollar boats from their beginning til now. The book will be regulary updated. to buy this book, please use this link: this book at

Delta Queen (Charles Bowen) – 2001 A wonderful love story set aboard the steamer Delta Queen (novel). A perfect book to read aboard or the refresh your memories of a trip. You can´t stop reading it. buy it at

Clara Christensen´s River Talkin´ (Clara Christensen) – 2001 Clara Christensen worked as riverlorian on all three Queens, last on the American Queen. In her book she has collected her riverlorian talks with lots of informations about steambaoting and the towns along the rivers.

From the wake of our past come many moments to remember – Greene Line Steamers, Inc. celebrates its 75th Anniversary (Betty Blake Simcox) – 1965 This booklet was published by the Greene Line Steamers, Inc., to celebrate its 75th Anniversary. The book is telling the story of the Greene Line Steamers, Inc., showing lots of photos. A list of all Greene Line boats and a line of descent of the Greene family is added.

Other Boats:

Admiral Glorious Mississippi Excursions A History offers a glimpse of the history, development land transition during the Admiral’s colorful 75 years. Nonfiction. Anecdotes and illustrations galore. find this book at

Steamboat in a Cornfield (John Hartford) – 1986 Musician and steamboat pilot John Hardford tells the exciting story of the steamboat Virginia that took the wrong way while a flood and finally got stuck in a cornfield as it couldn’t return to the river by time. There is not much text to read, but many beautiful pictures and historical documents. find this book at

Steamboat on the River (Darwin Teilhet) – 1952 This is a novel about the steamboat Talisman based on facts. The Talisman was built at Cincinnati. It was to be the first steamboat going from Cincinnati to Portland Landing near Springfield, IL, on the Sangamon River in the year 1832 with the help of the later President Abraham Lincoln.

The Log of the Betsy Ann (Captain Frederick Way, Jr.) – 1933 In 1925 at the age of 24 Captain Frederick Way, Jr. got his first own steamboat as sort of a Christmas present by his father. This book tells the story of Frederick Way and the Betsy Ann until she was sold in April 24, 1932. Although this books was written ealier it´s some kind of continuation of “Pilotin´ Comes Natural”. Containing 18 photographs.

Belle of Louisville (Alan L. Bates) – 1965 / 1992 Alan L. Bates was hired as architect to supervise the restauration of the steamer Avalon purchased by Jefferson County, KY, in 1962. He is telling the story of the restauration, him becoming a mate and his experiences during the first seasons of the renovated boat renamed Belle of Louisville. There´s also a chapter about the first two races against the steamer Delta Queen. The book includes several boat plans, many photos of the first years of the Belle of Louisville and a glossary of river language.

Mark Twain:

Life on the Mississippi (Mark Twain) Easy to read and very interesting book (non fiction!) from famous Mark Twain, who also was a steamboat pilot for a while. In “Life on the Mississippi” Mark Twain tells the of him becomming a pilot at the time before American Civil War – first published in 1883. Everybody interested in steambots should read this one. And it’s my personal favorite. to buy this book, please use this link: this book at (paperback) or hardcover

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (Mark Twain) Paperback edition. to buy this book, please use this link: this book at

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Mark Twain) Paperback edition. to buy this book, please use this link: this book at

Mark Twain´s Steamboat Years – The Years of Command (Raymond P. Ewing) -1981 Biographic, narrating book about the Mark Twain´s steamboat years inlcuding photos of boats Mark Twain served on and more.

Steamboating in New England:

Death By Fire And Ice: The Steamboat Lexington Calamity – Brian E. O’Connor – 2022 The author tells ttory of the sinking of the Lexington, built by Commodore Vanderbilt, in Long Island sound in 1840. It was, and continues to be, the worst maritime disaster in the history of the Sound. The book was published in October 2022 by the US Naval Institute Press. to buy this book, please use this link: this book at

New England Steamship Company New England Steamship Company – Edwin L. Dunbaugh – 2005 Edwin L. Dunbaugh tells the story of overnight steamships between New York and ports in southern New England at the Long Island Sound from 1907 to 1942, a business that was dominated by the New England Steamship Company. 49 historic pictures, 66 pages of comprehensive listings and descriptions of the ships, technical and economic history, lively, reportage-like description of live on the ships. Total of 406 pages, hard cover. Dunbaugh takes you directly on the ships, let you smell the steam, see the luxurious interior as much as the small, spartanic staterooms, gives you a great impression of this long gone time period. Two observations especially fascinated me when reading this book: 1) It’s interesting to compare these overnight steam lines with the river packet boats, what they had in common and what was totally different. The New England Steamship Company e.g. also owned railroad lines, offering combined service ship and rail. What a difference to the competition between boats and railroads in the Midwest. 2) The analogy between the steamship lines and airline commuters today: The steamship lines ran between New York and some New England cities like Boston in a way that people arrived at their destination in the morning, doing business the whole day and taking the ship back home by night. How many business travellers today complain about these one-day-trips being a new phenomenon of modern times. This started as early as in the 1900s, with the steamship lines! The book is actually the third part of a trilogy, covering the time between 1907 and 1942, but you don’t necessarily have to read the first two books (” Night Boats to New England ” and ” The Era of the Joy Line “) before reading this one as the author also gives a brief overview of the time before 1907. to buy this book, please use this link: this book at

For little steamboaters:

Steamboats on the River – Coloring Book (Joseph A. Arrigo) – 1997 A nice coloring book for children of 4 years up. On 30 pages you find very detailed pictures of historic and still existing steamboats like the J.M. White, one old and the new Natchez, the Delta Queen, the Mississippi Queen and the American Queen. There are also pictures of the different kind of paddlewheelers like towboats, snag boats or train ferrys. You will also find pictures of details like the bell of the Delta Queen, her grand staircase, engine room telegraph, the whistle of the American Queen and a pilot house. The book finishes with a picture of Mark Twain and his boyhood home. All pictures have a short explanation. to buy this book, please use this link: this book at