mississippi riverboats

The Henry Frank at New Orleans

Mississippi Riverboats

From Queen of the South, 1853-1862, the journal of Thomas K. Wharton. Captains of Mississippi riverboats overloaded their steamers, then bragged about it, as you can see here, The Henry Frank carries 9226 bales of cotton, arriving at New Orleans from upriver. Upon arrival at New Orleans, the riverboats were unloaded, and the cargo transferred to oceangoing vessels.

Cotton was exported from the Southern plantations to textile mills up the Atlantic coast, and to Great Britain. This is why “cotton was king” in New Orleans and across the South in the mid-19th Century. It’s the main crop that sustained the institution of slavery in the United States. The planters drove their slaves to pic the cotton and bale it for transport. The riverboat captains took great risks to get that valuable cargo to the second largest port in the country. Only New York was a larger port than the Crescent City. Steam power made Mississippi Riverboats an important part of commerce.


But here’s the catch with moving such large numbers of cotton bales–fire! That stuff burns! So many flammable goods came together on the Mississippi River levee at New Orleans. While the fires of the late 18th Century wiped out large portions of the city, the threat of fire didn’t go away just because the Spanish used brick and stone to rebuild. Wharton notes in his journal that there were many waterfront fires in the city. Still, King Cotton moved out to New England and Great Britain.

Document Photography

mississippi riverboats

IPEVO document camera

I’ve been experiementing with this IPEVO document camera a bit. It’s going to be solid for lectures where I need to show a book, but as a copy camera, it’s a bit weak. I’m going to look at getting a document/book mount for my digital SLR for going up to UNO and exploring the Krauss archives. I haven’t assessed that stuff yet, but the archivist told me a lot of what they have is in scrapbooks. I’m not going to be able to get those onto a flatbed scanner, so I’ll come at it from the top!

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