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Old Times on the Upper Mississippi

Recollections of a Steamboat Pilot from 1854 to 1863

2001
Author:

George Byron Merrick

Old Times on the Upper Mississippi

A long-awaited new edition of the steamboating classic.

George Byron Merrick chronicles the entire panorama of steamboat life he experienced in the mid-1800s, where he started as a cabin boy and worked up to cub pilot on the mighty Mississippi. Originally published in 1909, Merrick’s narrative matches lively stories about gamblers, shipwrecks, and steamboat races with rich descriptions of river life and steamboat operations.

Fesler-Lampert Minnesota Heritage Series

Merrick had a mind insatiable of detail and an almost singular appreciation of the dramatics of commerce. He was not only a notable historian himself but the cause of much history writing by others. To him I am indebted.

Charles Edward Russell

George Byron Merrick chronicles the entire panorama of steamboat life he experienced in the mid-1800s, where he started as a cabin boy and worked up to cub pilot on the mighty Mississippi. Originally published in 1909, Merrick’s narrative matches lively stories about gamblers, shipwrecks, and steamboat races with rich descriptions of river life and steamboat operations.


Fesler-Lampert Minnesota Heritage Series

Old Times on the Upper Mississippi

George Byron Merrick (1841-1931) grew up in Prescott, Wisconsin, at the junction of the Mississippi and St. Croix rivers. After nine years of steamboating, he volunteered for the Wisconsin Infantry during the Civil War before settling into life as a newspaper editor and publisher.

Old Times on the Upper Mississippi

Merrick had a mind insatiable of detail and an almost singular appreciation of the dramatics of commerce. He was not only a notable historian himself but the cause of much history writing by others. To him I am indebted.

Charles Edward Russell

Merrick, in a variety of capacities, sailed up and down the river from 1854 to 1863. It is impossible to read of such devil-may-care steamboating without a regret that there is none of it to be had these days.

New York Times Book Review

We know of no better account, from the inside, of steamboating.

American Historical Review

Old Times on the Upper Mississippi

Contents

Prelude

1 Early Impressions
2 Indians, Dugouts, and Wolves
3 On the Levee at Prescott
4 In the Engine-room
5 The Engineer
6 The "Mud" Clerk—Comparative Honors
7 Wooding Up
8 The Mate
9 The "Old Man"
10 The Pilots and Their Work
11 Knowing the River
12 The Art of Steering
13 An Initiation
14 Early Pilots
15 Incidents of River Life
16 Mississippi Menus
17 Bars and Barkeepers
18 Gamblers and Gambling
19 Steamboat Racing
20 Music and Art
21 Steamboat Bonanzas
22 Wild-cat Money and Town-sites
23 A Pioneer Steamboatman
24 A Versatile Commander; Wreck of the "Equator"
25 A Stray Nobleman
26 In War Time
27 At Fort Ridgeley
28 Improving the River
29 Killing Steamboats
30 Living It Over Again

Appendixes

A. List of Steamboats on the Upper Mississippi River, 1823-1863
B. Opening of Navigation at St. Paul, 1844-1862
C. Table of Distances from St. Louis
D. Improvement of the Upper Mississippi, 1866-1876
E. Indian Nomenclature and Legends

Map of the Mississippi between St. Louis and St. Paul

Index