Paddle Steamers on the Mississippi

Hello, I produced this painting after I discovered a few photographs taken about 150 years ago, maybe about  1850's


I was fascinated by the amount of detail in the photos and the composition.  Here you can see two steamers moored alongside, being loaded with huge bales of cotton, sacks and boxes of produce and you can also see that the river is very shallow, and of course that explains the unusual design of the ships.   

They're able to come in close to the bank and lower a "gang plank" and load up.  You can see the mule in the foreground waiting while his master calls to a workman further up the river bank and if you look on the gangplank of the smaller ship you'll see the workman waving back to him

You can see many casual "porters" hanging around waiting to get the offer of work.  It must have been a big worry if they had a family to feed and there was no work for them

I remember as a lad about 1960 seeing the huge bales of cotton loaded on lorries as they left the docks in Liverpool, England.   They would be taken to the huge cotton mills in Manchester, which have now all gone out of business long ago

In those days the Liverpool docks were thriving.  Every "berth" was occupied by ships from every corner of the world. And of course in those days, Britain had the largest Merchant Navy in the world.   They were all registered in the UK and mostly had British Officers, and crews, although some did have crews from foreign countries

How times have changed !  Now everything is containerised and the ships are NOT registered in the UK and their crews are mostly foreign and of course the old docks now are mostly empty.  Most ships use the "Container Port" at Seaforth

This painting is  700 x 500 mm  (27.5 inches x 19.75 inches)  It is for sale, and I can also supply prints of it.  

Just send me an email to and we can talk about the price   Kind regards and hope to here from you soon

Paddle Steamer Painting Video

This is a modern day engine room of a paddle steamer, although the general layout of everything is probably much the same as it was over a hundred years ago

Just click on the play button and you'll see it all working.  Amazing to think they could manufacture this type of engine in the mid 1800's

At first sight, the United States of America would not appear to be a natural territory for the continued existence of paddlers, but the land which is credited with pioneering steam power, when in 1778, John Fitch sailed a small paddle driven boat on the Delaware River and in 1809 when Robert Fulton's "Steam Boat" sailed up the Hudson River to Albany heralding the start of the first commercially successful passenger service, retains a remarkably diverse fleet of vessels.

Steam ships were destined to become important in the westward expansion of the newly independent United States, taking passengers and goods to and from the interior along rivers such as the Hudson and Delaware. Stern-wheel paddlers on the mighty Mississippi River were to become an enduring image of the American Mid-West. The Great Lakes, Hudson River and the east coast estuaries were to see some of the mightiest coastal passenger vessels of their time, mostly owned by so-called "Night Lines" and these ships, offering overnight accommodation, were generally side-wheelers. 

Whilst there are a few survivors from the golden age of steam still in operation, the USA has been vigilant in preserving its maritime history and paddlers have been amongst those to benefit. The romance of America's great push westwards in the 19th century has contributed to paddler making a comeback in recent years, with the construction of new tonnage (some genuinely in steam) for tourism on lakes and rivers. In the 1990s, a large number of paddlers were built, albeit for static use as casinos and restaurants, as it was found that in many States, ships were exempted from the strict gambling laws in force in most US states. Numerous so-called "mock" sternwheelers have been built, where diesel screw propulsion vessels have had an ornamental paddle wheel fitted, which turns only in the wake of the vessel. However, there are also numerous genuine modern diesel-powered sternwheelers built in the old style offering cruises at many places throughout the USA.

Paddle Steamer Engine Room Video

© 2023 by The Painter. Proudly created with

  • Twitter Metallic
  • s-facebook