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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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Jim, Joe and Harry: 1900

Jim, Joe and Harry: 1900

Memphis, Tennessee, circa 1900. "Mississippi River levee from the custom house. Steamboats James Lee, Harry Lee and City St. Joseph." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

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Frisco Bridge

That is the Frisco Bridge in the background, built in 1892, still in use today as a railroad bridge. At the time of the photo, it was the only bridge across the Mississippi at Memphis, now there are four.

Small but ornate

The wharfmaster's office reminds me of a carnival ticket booth.


I always assumed that enclosing side-wheels was done as a safety precaution, given the extra foot traffic around them. It never occurred to me that it might have been to muffle their sound. But the anti-splashing aspect seems logical, too.

[I always thought it was to keep them from getting wet. - Dave]

Wide Load!

It is interesting how wide the James Lee looks in comparison to the other two river boats. I have seen photographs here on Shorpy of other sidewheelers and they have never looked as wide as this. Another thing is the blended sides. Most sidewheelers are sort of squared off at the wheels. The sides of this one wrap around and the stern looks to be quite broad as if it starts just aft of the sidewheels.

Enclosed Paddle Wheels

It was pretty much the default setting to enclose the wheels on sidewheel steamers. I imagine this was done more to keep the afterdecks from getting splashed than to reduce noise. Note the lack of enclosures on the sternwheel boats.

James Lee

I've never noticed an enclosed paddle wheel before.

Is this a feature reserved for luxury vessels? I wonder how much of the sound of the wheel was actually muffled?

SHORPY OLD 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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