The Delta Queen, a National Historic Landmark, is the oldest overnight passenger steamboat still intact and capable of traveling the inland waterways of America. Built in 1926 and entering service in 1927 for the California Transportation Co., the Delta Queen and her identical twin the Delta King were the most lavish and expensive river steamboats ever constructed. The vessels cost more than $1 million each to build and furnish.They operated together in the nightly San Francisco-Sacramento ferry trade.
The Delta twins carried freight and produce on their main decks, while offering luxurious upper-deck accommodations to passengers commuting between the two cities. Their nightly ritual continued for 13 years until 1940, when improved highways and rail service forced the boats out of business.
The two proud river steamers were pressed into service by the United States Navy to support the World War II effort. The Delta Queen was painted in battleship gray during the war, and did her part ferrying troops from shallow water piers around San Francisco Bay to oceangoing troop transports anchored in the bay.
At the end of the war, the Delta Queen and Delta King were declared surplus by the U.S. Navy and put in the mothball fleet. Then Captain Tom Greene and his Greene Line bought the Delta Queen from the Navy for $46,000.
After a more than 5,000-mile journey being towed down the California coast, through the Panama Canal, and across the Gulf of Mexico, the Delta Queen arrived in New Orleans. The Greene Line piloted her upriver to the Dravo Shipyards in Pittsburgh for $500,000 in improvements.
The Delta Queen entered the tourist trade in 1948, based out of her new home port of Cincinnati. She quickly gained her place as the grand dame of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers and enjoyed immense popularity over the next several decades. Running the entire length of the Mississippi and Ohio rivers, the Delta Queen has been a familiar sight at more than 80 ports of call in the southern and midwestern United States.
In 1966, the U.S. Congress passed the “Safety At Sea” Act, requiring any vessel carrying more than 50 overnight passengers to be constructed entirely of noncombustible materials. With the Delta Queen operating on the inland rivers of America at the time, Congress inadvertently included her in this new law, effectively putting her out of business.
Based on the Delta Queen’s impeccable safety record and close proximity to land at all times, Congress then granted her an exemption from the law. This exemption was continually renewed with overwhelming support until 2008.
In 2009 the Delta Queen was put up for sale and docked in Chattanooga, Tenn., as a floating hotel. After six years, things were looking grim for the vulnerable old steamboat, until she was purchased in February 2015 by the newly reformed Delta Queen Steamboat Co. The company is dedicated to obtaining the needed congressional exemption and returning the Delta Queen to America’s rivers.
Join us in supporting the rebirth of this American river icon!
For more information contact us at 636-223-7170 or www.DQSteamboat.com