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Submitted by site visitor Barbara Madden

Ironton, Ohio Tribune of May 23, 1944
About a college thesis written by Margaret Davis, on the history of show boats

Billy Bryant's Showboat
The James E. York Postcard Collection

“I’m happy but I’m not contented” was Billy Bryant’s response to an inquiry regarding his like or dislike of the new Bryant Tent Show now showing at Huntington. We were among a group of Irontonians who attended the tent show the other evening and witnessed the presentation of ”Little Nellie of the Ozarks.” This week the troupe is presenting “Uncle Tom’s Cabin.” We imagine Billy really told the truth when he said he was “happy but not contented.” No doubt the change from showboat to tent-show has been a hard one for Billy and his family after so many years on the river. They probably miss the beautiful Ohio, Mississippi and their tributaries which their boat plied for many, many years. But Billy is making the best of the bargain with his family and other members of the troupe is following the old adage “the show must go on.” One odd thing is that the tent show is located within throwing distance of the wharf where the former Bryant Show Boat is moored. It was purchased for a wharf boat by a Huntington concern and floats proudly at the Tenth street landing, standing by, while the show goes on inside the tent. Billy and his Tent Show has been given a warm welcome by old friends and new. Children of river villages and towns will miss the caliope playing as the Bryant boat used to ‘round the bend for an annual visit. That was one of the sure signs of summer in our town.

Miss Margaret Davis should be one of those that attends Billy Bryant’s Tent Show, then she can write a postscript to her already splendid thesis on show boats. Miss Davis has delved deep into the history of show boats and the people who have carried on the show boat visits to river towns and villages the past many, many years. Her paper started to be a thesis for her Master’s Degree but is packed with so much first-hand information and data of importance, the thesis will probably be published in book form one of these days, we hear. No doubt it will be vastly interesting. She has visited the boats and interviewed the owners and troupes, so her writing is not hear-say by any chance. She has presented the thesis before a number of organizations and we hear it is one of the finest of its kind ever written. Congratulations, Miss Davis. But the romance of the river is lacking in the Bryant Tent Show presentation. Miss Davis will probably be just as grieved over this fact as we were, for she has learned to love the boat and the river through her contacts in preparing the lengthy paper.

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Information from Carol Szwedko who is in the possession of the 1951 book

Phillip Graham.

Carol purchased the book from an on-line used book seller and found it was autographed by Capt. Bill Menke.

The Golden Rod was built in 1908-1909 by the Pope Dock Company for W. R. Markle. She is 200 ft. long and 45 ft. wide. (the largest showboat ever built) She had 21 boxes on two levels clustered about the stage and all around the front of the balcony. Her capacity was 1,400 (later cut to under 1,000 to avoid certian additional taxes.

On the outside she was very plain,the least ornate of all the showboats. But on the inside she was the most highly decorated of them all. Ceilings and walls were studded with 2,500 lights clustered in intricate designs. Gilt friezes and highly wrought brass decorated balcony and box railings.

Draperies and upolstery were of red valour, and the floor was richly carpeted. Full length mirrors exaggerated the size of the spacious auditorium. The stage was large and was elaborately decorated in frieze and gilt and was equipped with 3 drops and 8 sets. Markle used his unlimited credit to install every convience known to the river.

At first she was called W.R. Markle`s New Showboat, but his sister suggested the name Golden Rod. A special steamboat the W. R. Markle was built to do the towing.

In 1913, Markle lost the Golden Rod by forclosure. (he was a gambler and lost all his money) She was sold at auction for $11,000.00---less than a fourth of the original cost.

Markle who had set new standards for the showboat world, got a job in Pittsburgh on the water front, as a night watchman, for $10.00 a week.

In 1922 the Golden Rod was purchased by Capt. Bill Menke. With steam heat for the winter and a cooling system for summer, she played a 12 month season.

The Golden Rod received so much publicity as "The World`s Greatest Showboat" that they did not need to advertise much. A simple anouncement of her arrival in the local papers, and framed posters set up on the warf or nearby street were all they needed.

The steamers; [1912] Liberty, [1894] Wenonah, and Crown Hill succesively towed the Golden Rod. During the summer of 1930 she was tied up above Aspinwall, Pa. (note: at the Montrose Hotel, in O`Hara Twp.) for a stand of 17 weeks. In 1931 she was back for 17 more weeks.

In the summer of 1937 she went to St. Louis for repairs, and there she stayed at the Locust St. Landing. (she was still there in 1951 when this book was published.)

GOLDEN ROD Plays Pittsburgh
From 1930, July and August issues of the Pittsburgh Sun Telegraph
and Post Gazzette.

While in Pittsburgh in July of 1930 the GOLDEN ROD docked at the Montrose Hotel Landing on the Allegheny River.

July 21st, the season's opening play was "Tilty Ann". This was preformed by the boat's regular company of show boat actors.

Cast for this season: Misses Grace Robertson, Charlotte Vetter, Marie McLain, Messers. Frank Anton, Carl Replogle, Roy Sheets, Raymond Rameau and Clinton Cole.

Aug. 12th, the "The Hoodlum" opened.
Aug. 17th, "Lena Rivers" opened.
Aug. 24th, "Driven From Home" opened.

GOLDEN ROD Moves to St Charles, Mo.

By 1988 the Goldenrod needed extensive repairs. The city of St. Charles bought the showboat from Pierson's heirs and moved it to St. Charles in 1990.

Ample Entertainment Inc., a group of celebrated Broadway producers who have
won more than 25 Tony awards, leased the Goldenrod and conducted extensive
repairs. The Goldenrod's premiere St. Charles performance was on May 10, 1991.

Today the Goldenrod Showboat continues its prestigious tradition of
presenting quality dining and professional entertainment year round.

GOLDENROD's Lady Ghost Wears A Red Dress


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