|"Old Memphis - The Steam Packet "Idlewild" in 1920"
by Paul McGehee depicts the waterfront of the famous Tennessee city as
it appeared almost a century ago. One steamboat seen on a regular basis
at the levees back then was the steam packet "Idlewild", which carried
passengers and freight on the mighty Mississippi River between Memphis
and Hopefield Point, Arkansas. The sternwheel steamboat "Idlewild" was
built of steel and wood in Pittsburgh back in 1914, and was launched
early in 1915...beginning a career which has now spanned over a
century. For many years she provided ferry and passenger service on the
waters of the Mississippi. In the 1930s she started summertime runs to
Louisville, Kentucky's Fontaine Ferry amusement park and Rose Island.
She came along at the end of the era of the great Mississippi
steamboats, made immortal by the writings of humorist Mark Twain.
"Idlewild" was a
to those along the shore, with her big paddlewheel churning as the
smoke bellowed from her twin stacks...and her steam whistle sounded. The
"Idlewild" has undergone a few alterations through the years,
structural and otherwise. Her name changed to "Avalon" in 1947.
"Avalon" ran routes between the ports of Omaha, New Orleans,
Stillwater, Joliet, Charleston, and Knoxville. She was active into the
1950s, but fell upon hard times as the decade ended. By 1962 she
changed name and ownership once more, this time while in receivership,
to the city of Louisville, Kentucky...restored to service and re-named
the "Belle of Louisville" she has run river excursions ever since, and
is now acknowledged to be the last of the western river steam packets.
In 1989 the "Belle of Louisville" was designated a National Historic
Landmark by the United States government. She is said to hold the
all-time record in her class for miles traveled, years in operation,
and places visited...a floating national treasure. In 2014, her 100th
birthday was celebrated along the Louisville waterfront..."The Belle's
Big Birthday Bash" lasted five days and featured all of the remaining
present-day Mississippi steamboats. The celebration, featuring
fireworks, concerts, and river excursions was the largest gathering of
steamboats that Louisville had seen in over a century. Today, the
"Idlewood/Avalon/Belle of Louisville" is living history, a tangible
reminder of our maritime past. Do you want
to take a ride on the "Belle"? Here's how (click here). "Old Memphis -
The Steam Packet "Idlewild" in 1920" is faithfully reproduced from
Paul's original color pencil drawing as an archival quality print
issued in a strictly
limited edition of only 2,000 pieces each hand-signed by the artist.