Wednesday, December 26, 2012
Mysterious Objects Missing Among Upper Mississippi River Antique Stores
Stops along Mississippi River towns in the upper Midwest from Missouri, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin and Minnesota generally include visits to local antique stores. Its taken a while but a general observation made of these stores' inventories all exhibit the same missing items - riverboat and related industry items. Steam powered side- and stern-wheelers worked these waters from the mid-1800s to roughly the late 1920s. While you occasionally find illustrations (above) and books on river life, like Steamboating on the Upper Mississippi, there are no authentic ship pieces to purchase. No ship's wheel, bells, ropes, dinner ware, doors, hinges, engine parts, planks, etc. are to be found. Several store owners when asked about the lack of steamboat pieces offer the explanation that the boats were salvaged for metal during the World Wars and the wood was generally burned. They suggest that the ship captains may have been offered or took the boat's service, nameplates, wheel and bells as tokens of their work. While some of these items may still be kept in the families through generations other pieces may have been released for sale and quickly purchased.
A recent stop in Clinton, Iowa offered the Delta Queen watercolor print for $32.50. You can generally find this particular print in several stores as it was mass produced near the 1976 Bicentennial when a resurgence in passenger boat interest surged. Other pieces of possible riverboat items can also be found such as wooden and metal pulleys and other work related equipment. While you cannot be sure whether it came off a boat or was used in factory, warehouse or farm you can assume it was used in the area. Just think all these mint condition soft drink bottles (that sell for about $7 each) were filled and distributed locally long after the boats disappeared. Maybe one day they too will be highly sought after beyond what they fetch currently. That will be no mystery.