Delta Queen history


The Delta Queen was put up for auction in 1946 after having served 13 years on the Sacramento River and another six years for the U.S. Navy in San Francisco bay. Captain Tom Greene from Cincinnati, Ohio was a steamboat captain and owner of the Greene Line of Steamers. He placed the only bid for the Delta Queen and became her new owner for $46,250. The boat then had to be relocated from California to the Ohio River where its renovations and repairs would cost more than $750,000. The Delta Queen began a new career in June 1948 and she owes her last 60 years to Tom Greene’s vision and commitment.

Bill Wiemuth and Jane Greene

Bill Wiemuth and Jane Greene

We have been fortunate the last couple of days to have Jane Greene on board the Delta Queen. Jane is a daughter of Captain Tom Greene, one of his four children. She came aboard to share some of her memories of the Delta Queen’s Greene Line days. Her stories are amazing.

For almost 20 years of her youth, Jane spent her summers aboard the Delta Queen. Her grandmother, the famous Captain Mary Greene passed away on board the Delta Queen. Her father also had his fatal heart attack onboard the Delta Queen at age of 46. Jane was onboard that trip. Her extraordinary mother, Letha, went on to run the family business for the next 19 years.

Jane’s memories of life onboard the Delta Queen sometimes are poignantly personal and painful. They often are insightful and hilarious. They always are entertaining.

I asked Jane to share a few thoughts to pass along to you, Faithful Reader. Enjoy.

Jane’s remarks about why she loves the boat so much and her family’s history with the Delta Queen:

Jane’s interesting theory on why her father gambled so much to give the Delta Queen another life:

Jane’s remarks about her father’s efforts to relocate the Delta Queen from California to the Ohio River:

Here’s a steam whistle salute to Jane Greene! Click Here for Whistle Salute

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When the Delta Queen’s exemption came up for renewal in 1970, Maryland Congressman Ed Garmatz, Chairman of the House Merchant Marine and Fisheries Commission, effectively blocked more than two dozen bills submitted to save the Delta Queen. Company president Bill Muster and Betty Blake conducted Save the Delta Queen rallies at towns along the rivers gathering petition signatures and encouraging letters to representatives. Despite the efforts of the company, previous guests and steamboat fans, Congressional efforts were stymied. The Delta Queen departed St. Paul on October 21 for a “Farewell Forever” cruise down the length of the Mississippi to New Orleans before the mandatory November 1 end date. All along the river, crowds gathered with signs of support for a last chance to see the boat. More than a month later, the exemption extension for the Delta Queen was successfully passed as an amendment to a bill sent not through Congressman Garmatz’s committee, but instead through the judiciary committee. Somehow the Delta Queen had been saved yet again. Multiple exemptions have been granted to the Delta Queen over the last 42 years.

The Marietta (Ohio) Register recently ran a great article comparing the 1970 situation to the current struggle to extend the Delta Queen’s exemption.

The Marietta Register, Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Delta Queen: The Ghosts of Garmatz, by Tom Lotshaw

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DELTA QUEEN HISTORY – PART 3

(CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS POST)

 

Delta Queen stern

Delta Queen stern

LEGISLATIVE STRUGGLES

 

 

 

 

Smooth sailing ended in 1966 as Congress passed a law that outlawed vessels with a wooden superstructure from carrying more than 50 overnight passengers. The law was originally intended for ocean-going cruise ships, but the Delta Queen – never far from the river banks – was ensnared in the regulation. Company official petitioned Congress and ultimately were granted an exemption from the regulation.

 

 

 

 

Save the Delta Queen sticker

Save the Delta Queen sticker

THE 1970 EXEMPTION STRUGGLE

 

 

 

 

When the Delta Queen’s exemption came up for renewal in 1970, Maryland Congressman Ed Garmatz, Chairman of the House Merchant Marine and Fisheries Commission, effectively blocked more than two dozen bills submitted to save the Delta Queen. Company president Bill Muster and Betty Blake conducted Save the Delta Queen rallies at towns along the rivers gathering petition signatures and encouraging letters to representatives. Despite the efforts of the company, previous guests and steamboat fans, Congressional efforts were stymied. The Delta Queen departed St. Paul on October 21 for a “Farewell Forever” cruise down the length of the Mississippi to New Orleans before the mandatory November 1 end date. All along the river, crowds gathered with signs of support for a last chance to see the boat. More than a month later, the exemption extension for the Delta Queen was successfully passed as an amendment to a bill sent not through Congressman Garmatz’s committee, but instead through the judiciary committee. Somehow the Delta Queen had been saved yet again. Multiple exemptions have been granted to the Delta Queen over the last 42 years.

 

DQ Paddlewheel

DQ Paddlewheel

CURRENT STRUGGLE

 

 

 

 

On August 1, 2007, the Delta Queen’s current owners, Majestic America Line, conceded their efforts to renew the current exemption (which expires Nov. 1, 2008) had been unsuccessful and announced 2008 as the Delta Queen’s farewell season. But in October 2007, Ohio Congressman Steve Chabot introduced House Resolution 3852 to extend the Delta Queen’s exemption. Congressman Chabot’s bill has been consistently blocked from moving through the House Transportation Committee by Committee Chairman James Oberstar (Democrat-Minnesota). Congressman Oberstar cites safety concerns despite the fact that he previously has voted for the boat’s exemption. In April, Congressman Chabot attempted to attach the Delta Queen’s exemption to the Coast Guard appropriation bill. The House Rules Committee voted 9 to 4 against allowing the amendment. All votes against the amendment were cast by Democrats.  On April 24, 2008, Congressman Chabot’s Motion to Recommit (which allows members of Congress to vote on whether the amendment can be added) failed by only 7 votes. This defeat was quickly followed on April 29, 2008 by Majestic America Line’s announcement to offer for sale the Delta Queen (and all six other vessels in their fleet).

 

In early August, Ohio Senator George Voinovich committed to introduce a bill for the Delta Queen exemption in the Senate following his return to Washington in September. Majestic America Line’s parent company Ambassador International reported in August that they hope to finalize a sale by the end of September. Majestic America Line is conducting a series of Tribute Events in 27 Delta Queen ports of call to rally support and acknowledge the hospitality of every river port visited in the 2008 season. A grass-roots effort has also hosted events and increased awareness as part of the Save the Delta Queen campaign.

 

For more on the legislative struggle to save the Delta Queen, click HERE.

 More to come…

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DELTA QUEEN HISTORY — PART 2

(CONTINUED FROM PREVIOUS POST)

 

Capt. Tom Greene

Capt. Tom Greene

 

A

 

 

 

NEW PARTNERSHIP

After the war, the Delta Queen was put up for auction. In December 1946, Cincinnati, Ohio steamboat Captain Tom Green of the Greene Line Steamers became the new owner for $46,250.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DQ boarded up.

DQ boarded up.

 

 

 

 

TO A NEW RIVER SYSTEM

By spring of 1947, the Delta Queen was boarded up and was then towed for almost a month for more than 5,000 miles from California through the Panama Canal to the Mississippi River and to New Orleans. The planking was then removed and the engines serviced. In July, the boat proceeded under its own power almost 2,000 miles up the Mississippi and Ohio Rivers to the Dravo shipyard at Pittsburgh where the boat spent six months undergoing major renovations costing about $750,000. The Delta Queen departed on her debut Ohio River cruise on June 30, 1948.

 

Delta Queen during Greene Line daysHARD TIMES

Captain Tom Greene had a heart attack onboard the Delta Queen and passed away on July 10, 1950 at the age of 46. His widow Letha Greene was left to run the company. She later wrote, “I stood alone with four steamboats, four children, a broken heart and puzzled mind.” By 1953, the other three boats had been sold to enable continued operation of the Delta Queen. After major repairs were required in 1957, Letha offered the boat for sale in 1958.

 

 

 

 

DQ Calliope

DQ Calliope

 

 

 

 

  

NEW PARTNER

California businessman Richard Simonton became majority shareholder and retained Letha as General Manager and company president. Simonton focused on increasing marketing and public relations to garner media attention. The Delta Queen’s calliope (steam organ) was added and debuted in February 1960. The boat became profitable and the mortgage was retired in October 1960. By 1962, all debts were cleared and by 1964 a profit-sharing plan for employees was even established.

 

 

Check back for another post continuing the Delta Queen’s history.

 

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 A Brief Summary of the Delta Queen’s history.

 

CALIFORNIA YEARS — The Delta Queen was built in California of the finest machinery and materials at an unbelievable cost of more than $875,000.

 

She made her debut cruise on June 2, 1927 and ran overnight trips between Sacramento and San Francisco for the next 13 years through the economic and labor struggles of the Depression. Her final California passenger cruise was Sunday, Sept 29, 1940.

 

WAR YEARS

From autumn 1940 to August 1946, the Delta Queen served the U. S. Navy as a floating barracks, a training facility, and troop transport in San Francisco bay.

 

A NEW PARTNERSHIP

After the war, the Delta Queen was put up for auction. In December 1946, Cincinnati, Ohio steamboat Captain Tom Green of the Greene Line Steamers became the new owner for $46,250.

 

Check back in for the next post as the Delta Queen prepares for a new life.

 

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