Bits and Pieces
Life on the River
Civil War Boats
Wheeling W. Va.
Western River Steamboats and
Post Card Collecting
James E. York
...While in San Francisco during the war, I
saw the former Sacramento and .San
Joaquin River packet steamer PORT OF STOCKTON, which
the Navy was using to quarter submarine personnel.
Although the packet boats of the rivers of the Pacific
Slope differ from those of the Gulf System in several
notable respects, their design is very similar. I
then and there decided to add these steamboats to
the scope of my collection.
.....To become more familiar
with the steamboats of the Sacramento, San Joaquin,
and Colorado Rivers, I bought a copy of "Paddle
Wheel Days in California", by Jerry MacMullen,
published by Stanford University Press. This book
lists all the steamboats that have operated on these
.....Post cards of passenger
packets are hard to obtain, because these boats have
disappeared from western rivers. The era of the packet
began in 1811, when the NEW ORLEANS was completed
at Pittsburgh, under the direction of Nicholas J.
Roosevelt. The last passenger packet ceased operation
as such on the Mississippi River System in 1937. With
few exceptions, all post cards of passenger packets
are old cards.
.....A fairly recent
term on the river is that of "tourist" boat.
This type of steamer is essentially a passenger packet,
but is not on regular runs, hauling both passengers
and freight. The tourist boat operates only during
the tourist season, and hauls only passengers, and
is not necessarily on a particular run. At the present
time, the GORDON C. GREENE, owned by The Greene Line,
is the only such boat in operation on the Mississippi
System. The Greene Line has purchased the stern-wheel
Sacramento River steamer DELTA
QUEEN, (formerly owned by The River Lines of San
Francisco) and is having her rebuilt for service as
a tourist boat on the Mississippi River.
.....The PETALUMA (No.
3), is a small freight packet, was the only steamboat
left in commercial operation on the rivers of California
in 1944. At that time, there were six former California
river packet boats in U.S. service. I do not know
the post war fate of these six steamers, except of
the DELTA QUEEN as mentioned above and of her sister
the DELTA KING, which was sold to Chinese interests.
The PETALUMA (No. 3) is owned by The Petaluma and
Santa Rosa Railroad Co. She operates between San Francisco
and Petaluma, California on Petaluma Creek.
.....The passenger packets
were very important to the growth of the interior
of the United States, particularly so before the Civil
War. Before the building of the railroads, they were
the only reliable link between the interior of the
country and the outside world.
.....I believe that anyone
interested in the early history of the United States
would find almost any of the books written about the
old days of the western river packets very interesting.
I believe that anyone, interested in starting a collection
like mine, should read several of these books. When
you find the first such book in your public library,
you will probably find a list of other books used
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