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Queen and Commoner: 1906

Queen and Commoner: 1906

The Ohio River circa 1906. "Coney Island Co. sidewheeler Island Queen at Cincinnati." Let her not blind us to the more modest charms of the Guiding Star. 8x10 inch glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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Growing up in the Cincinnati area in the late 30s and 40s, I rode the Island Queen to Coney Island Park many times. I had no idea that there was more than one Island Queen, but it appears that they all seem to have been side wheelers, not the more common stern wheelers. In my case, I was much more excited about riding the "Queen" than attending Coney Island. I remember watching the Island Queen approaching the Cincinnati public landing, coming downstream from Coney. I think the steam calliope could be heard all over town! The side wheels would slowly stop, then reverse until she had stopped some what below the landing, then one side wheel would slowly reverse direction and she would slowly turn in place 180 degrees. Then she would move ahead and slowly maneuver to the landing. Beautiful! Once on board I would go to the lower deck to watch the fascinating machinery. There was a huge (at least it seemed huge to me) wood walking beam on each side that connected the engines to the paddle wheels, and they were painted white, trimmed in red, polished, adorned with several large red stars. If I remember correctly, there was an annual race against the Delta Queen. It was very sad to hear of her demise in Pittsburgh.

It didn't end well

My boyfriend's great grandfather, Fred Dickow, was the chief engineer on the Island Queen when it blew up while in port in Pittsburgh, PA. It's said that he lit a welding torch to repair a loose stanchion near some oil tanks causing a spark to ignite an explosion. He was a veteran engineer who had worked for the company for 30 years.

Bridges and Mansions

Riverboat interests were so strong in Cincinnati that all the bridges were built high enough so the smokestacks wouldn't need to be lowered, at least until certain high water or flood stages anyway.

The Island Queen was used to take patrons between the Cincinnati Riverfront and the Coney Island amusement park that remains today upstream on the Ohio River in the city's California neighborhood. In 1905 the 12 year old steamboat "Saint Joseph" from Mississippi was refitted and renamed the "Island Queen" that we see here. It was destroyed by fire in 1922. There's dozens of great photos of the old gal and her successors at:

More on stack heights

Although clearance under the later Cincinnati bridges at normal Ohio River water levels may not have been a problem, quite a brouhaha developed further upstream over clearance issues in 1847. The town of Wheeling Virginia (it didn't end up being in West Virginia until the 1863 split) built a suspension bridge to carry the National/Cumberland Road across the Ohio that impeded the passage of taller boats to further upstream ports like Pittsburgh under some river conditions. Hinged stacks could address the issue, but the steamboat operators (who favored high stacks for their boiler draft efficiency and ash/cinder/smoke dispersion benefits) didn't think they should have to bear extra equipment/crew/maintenance costs so bridge developers could save money by skimping on clearance height. Add in the desire of the community to avoid the negative infrastructure/condemnation process impact of higher and necessarily longer approach ramps through already developed areas and you had the makings of a lawsuit.

The steamboat operators were apparently able to convince the state of Pennsylvania that their having to fold their stacks would somehow limit the growth and economic viability of Pittsburgh, so the state championed the case against the bridge that was 50 miles downriver in another state. None other than E. M. Stanton (namesake of a certain serial Shorpy poster) represented the state of Pennsylvania in a landmark lawsuit against the Wheeling and Belmont Bridge Company, but even in losing produced a still important interpretation of the Commerce Clause of the U.S Constitution and clearly demonstrated the need for something like the Interstate Commerce Act, which Congress got around to enacting a quarter of a century later. Someone even wrote a book on the case. At one point, even Mother Nature appeared to weigh into the battle, and on the side of Pittsburgh by taking out the six year old bridge with a storm in 1854. It was rebuilt and survives to this day through laudable preservation efforts.

Dave's crafted photo of the Island Queen is one of the clearest I've see in terms of stack hinge and folding mechanism detail.

A regal beauty indeed

Wow! What a mighty Queen! And moving at a fair clip, judging by the wake, and the spray at the bow.

I always find it disturbing, though, when a ship's flags, and smoke, are blowing in the direction of travel, as they are here.

House on the Hill

The "House on the Hill" is actually two houses.

The front one is the Graziani House.

Its still there but with the fourth/fifth story tower visible in the photo has been removed.

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The one in the back is the Shinkle Mansion, on the other side of Second St. from the Graziani.

It was later donated to the Salvation Army for use as a hospital, and was demolished in 1920; replaced by a newer hospital building.

Gaurd dog!

Watch out for the little doggy when approaching the Guiding Star.

Church Steeple

The church to the left of the bridge is the Salem Methodist Church. It had the highest steeple in Newport, KY.
The Church is still standing and is known as The Stained Glass Theater and is used for community theater productions.
However, the steeple was demolished by a tornado in 1986.

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Re: Folding Stacks

Perhaps there were no "low bridges" across the Ohio River but there were certainly times of high water. A prior Shorpy post: Steam Under the Bridge: 1906, shows the sidewheeler City of Cincinnati having to fold its stacks in order to pass under a Cincinnati bridge during a period of high water. The Island Queen appears to have similar hinges and rigging to enable lowering its stacks.

Low clearance

There may not have been low bridges, but there were low hanging wires. The Island Queen hit one that knocked down her stacks in 1914.

The Guiding Star is most likely a wharf boat for a steamer of the same name. Guiding Star was another excursion boat making trips to Coney Island amusement park.

too few life boats!

And I thought that the Titanic didn't have enough life boats!

Folding Stacks

I wonder how long and how many crew it took to lower/raise those stacks to get under a low bridge.

[I doubt if there were any "low bridges" across the Ohio. - Dave]

"Guiding Star"

"Come over and visit us anytime in our humble boat. Please be careful when walking the plank."

Women and Children First

Even if we assume there are two more lifeboats on the starboard side, they're gonna fill up fast.

The Ohio and the Licking

This photo was made near the present day Great American Ballpark from the Ohio side looking south over the river toward Kentucky.

The river in the background going under the bridge is the Licking, which runs between Covington and Newport.

House on the Hill

Across the river, on the middle right is a fantastic gothic mansion on top of the hill. Anyone know what that is? I hope it still exists.

Riggers and all

Poor forlorn rowboats! There, I mentioned them so they wouldn't be left out too.

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