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Our holdings include hundreds of glass and film negatives/transparencies that we've scanned ourselves; in addition, many other photos on this site were extracted from reference images (high-resolution tiffs) in the Library of Congress research archive. (To query the database click here.) They are adjusted, restored and reworked by your webmaster in accordance with his aesthetic sensibilities before being downsized and turned into the jpegs you see here. All of these images (including "derivative works") are protected by copyright laws of the United States and other jurisdictions and may not be sold, reproduced or otherwise used for commercial purposes without permission.

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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Sternwheeler Staples: 1910

Sternwheeler Staples: 1910

Circa 1910. "Packet steamer Jas. T. Staples." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

On Shorpy:
Today's Top 5

Character limit?

Wonder what they thought was gained by the elimination of the letters m and e from the name James. If they needed the room, perhaps use a smaller font size or lose the period at the end of the name. What kind of a computer were they using anyway?

[At the time, "Jas." was the common and familiar abbreviation for James. Frequently seen in signs, advertising and even signatures. -tterrace]

Wooden stern wheelers survive?

Responding to StephanJ or anybody else interested in old steamboats: check out the Arabia Steamboat Museum - the engine and thousands of objects on display -very interesting time capsule

River boat operations

There's no more entertaining way to learn about the details of river boat operations than to read the first half of Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi. I mean, read it ALL, but in the first half he gives a lot of details about how river boats (and the river!)worked. It makes these river boat pictures all the more fascinating to study.


They also had very shallow draft, and wooden construction was amazingly flexible. They could ride over 'most anything.

Of course, the ability to read the river and the weather made all the difference between a successful pilot and one who was less than successful.

Hull Design

Olympus 2313 I've wondered the same thing about water coming aboard these steamboats. I have no doubt that they ran into plenty of rough water on the big rivers but if you take a close look the design of the hull, which is flared to throw the water away from the vessel and the overhang of the main deck which would further prevent water from coming aboard, I'm guessing that they were remarkable dry in spite of having such low freeboard.

Low in the water

I'm always amazed at how so many of those riverboats rode so low that their open, bottom decks appear to be only inches above the water line. Did they never encounter any water with the least amount of turbulence, even on the very broad rivers that might be whipped up by strong winds?

Ghost Stories

There was a wonderful commentary about the ghost of Captain Staples being seen on board the steamboat back in 2010.

No Juleps?

That's a strikingly different view of steamboat travel -- actual utilitarian work, transporting freight. Belies the romantic notion of white-suited gentlemen sipping sloe gin. I think I like this view better.


Did any of those wooden stern wheelers survive?

Or at least the complete engine installation? In some museum or other?

Dramatic Demise of the Staples

Built in 1908, the ship could carry a cargo of 2500 bales of cotton. It was owned by Captain Norman A. Staples, son of James T. and Mary Staples. Staples ran into financial problems in 1912, and his creditors took possession of the ship in December 1912. Staples then took his own life with a shotgun on January 2, 1913. One week after his death, on January 10, 1913, his former steamboat was destroyed in a boiler explosion about four miles away from where Staples was buried. Twenty-six people were killed and twenty-one injured in the disaster.

SHORPY HISTORICAL PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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