: This photograph shows the “Delta Queen,” a stern-wheel steamboat, traveling the Ohio River in Washington County, Ohio. The steamboat has four decks and a large smokestack emblazoned with the letter “G.” People are visible on all levels; some are standing on the deck while others are peering out of windows.
“Delta Queen” was part of the Greene Line Fleet, founded in 1890 by veteran riverman Captain Gordon C. Greene (1862-1927), a native of Newport Landing, Ohio, and his wife, Captain Mary Becker Greene (1867-1949). Mary Becker Greene learned navigation and earned a pilot’s license (1896) and a master’s license (1897). She also was a hostess on the fleet’s steamboats. The couple had three sons, two of whom (Chris and Tom) became steamboat captains.
Based in Cincinnati, the fleet traveled primarily on the Ohio River, transporting freight between the east and west. In the 1920s, as railroads took over most freight transport, Greene Line Steamers survived by building larger and more modern steamships, limiting their transport to shorter trade routes, and by pioneering the business of passenger pleasure cruises. The Greene family launched packets for tours on the Ohio River and its tributaries.
After Gordon Greene died in 1927, Mary Becker Greene managed the business along with Chris and Tom. Chris died in 1944, and his mother died in 1949 aboard the “Delta Queen,” leaving Tom in charge of the family business.
The “Delta Queen” had been in regular service on the West Coast from 1927, the date of its first voyage, until 1940, when the U.S. Navy requisitioned it for service as a receiving ship for naval reservists until the government’s lease expired. After Pearl Harbor, however, the Navy again used the steamboat on the West Coast, this time as a floating hospital in the San Francisco area. The "Delta Queen" was retired from military service in August 1946. In December of that year Captain Tom Greene bought the “Delta Queen” from the War Shipping Administration and had it prepared for a month-long sea journey that began in mid-May 1947. Pulled by a tugboat, the steamboat traveled down the Pacific coast, through the Panama Canal, and on to New Orleans. From there it went to Pittsburgh for an overhaul and then began passenger service in June 1948.
When Captain Tom Greene died suddenly in 1950, his widow, Letha, took over the company, but financial hard times forced the company to go out of business after a few years. The “Delta Queen” changed hands several times, but in 1989 it was designated a National Historic Landmark. It also is on the National Register of Historic Places. The “Delta Queen” now docks on the Tennessee River in Chattanooga, where it has a new life as a floating hotel.
View on Ohio Memory.
: AL06660 Subjects
: Delta Queen (Steamboat); Steamboats; Ohio River; Tourism; National Register of Historic Places; National Historic Landmarks Program (U.S.) Places
: Washington County (Ohio)