The SPRAGUE was the largest steam sternwheel towboat ever built for inland river service. The boat was launched in 1901 and went into service in 1902. She operated until March 5, 1948, when she was decommissioned at Memphis and from there first went to Baton Rouge, then to Vicksburg where she stayed permanently.
The Sprague, 1947 (photo by John Alan Steward, courtesy of Heather E. Colautti)
She served as a river museum until in 1957 the boilers were removed, and she became a theater with old-time showboat performances and a tourist attraction. In 1974 the Sprague burnt down to the main deck. The hulk was beached out on the shore of the Yazoo River and left there until 1979 when she sank in high water. The hull eventually was dynamited in 1981. Today only some small remainings of the once so mighty towboat can be seen at Vicksburg (also see “Sprague” at The Steamboat Traveller).
Listen to the steam whistle of the Sprague:
The steam whistle of the Sprague was probably the biggest steam whistle on any steamboat. Capt. Tom Greene once commented this whistle in a letter: “The Sprague’s whistle is the biggest damned whistle you ever saw.”
Though the Sprague most likely wore a couple of different whistles during her lifetime, one is on display at the Ohio River Museum in Marietta, Ohio (see picture).