Old Man River:  History Along the MississippiApril 19-November 2, 2003

River Days

Bald eagle and alligator crossing sign
The Upper vs. The Lower Mississippi
River Days exhibit section
Artwork and artifacts were loaned from many sources, including:
~ Chuck Pietscher, Keokuk IA
~ George M.Verity Riverboat Museum, Keokuk IA
~ Muscatine Art Center, Muscatine IA
~ Dave Thomson, Sun Valley CA
~ Michael Zahs, Ainsworth IA

"I can picture that old time to myself now, just as it was then: the white town drowsing in the sunshine of a summer's morning…the great Mississippi, the majestic, the magnificent Mississippi, rolling its mile-wide tide along, shining in the sun."
- Mark Twain, Life on the Mississippi

From flatboats to keelboats to steamboats, life on the Mississippi was a world apart from life on land. Early flatboatmen and keelboatmen led a hard life as they guided their cargo to New Orleans, constantly on the lookout for eddies, sunken trees, and river pirates!

With the advent of steam, however, the public quickly demanded accommodation. Floating palaces appeared with gambling parlors and beautifully decked saloons. Showboats provided dockside entertainment that was enthusiastically welcomed by people living in the river towns. Other river characters included a steady stream of immigrants who arrived in Missouri, Iowa, and Illinois after gaining entrance to America through the port city of New Orleans.

There can be no name more synonymous with the river than Samuel Clemens, more familiarly known as Mark Twain. In books such as Life on the Mississippi, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Twain captured the meaning of 19th century river days.

Today, 175 million tons of freight moves on the Mississippi each year. Grains are carried south along with coal from Illinois and western Kentucky. North from the Texas oil fields and Louisiana come gasoline and fuel oil. But rafts, pleasure boats and steamboat casinos still create their own "river days" up and down the river!

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Did you know … ?
High bulk materials such as timber are actually cheaper to move by river barge than by train. And barges are measured by acreage … not feet!



The Section "River Days" has the following related pages:

Continue through exhibit

2 men in a canoe
Early Exploration and Development
You are here!steamboat
River Days
view of Bellview, Iowa
Riverfront Property
Civil War enenactors
Man vs. Man
Bald eagle and conservation officer
Man vs. Nature
jazz musician
The Arts Along the River
New Orleans graveyard
Legends and Spirits
View Selected Artifacts
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