Theodore Roosevelt (1858–1919). Theodore Roosevelt’s Letters to His Children. 1919.

Peculiarities of Mississippi Steamboats

On Board U. S. S. Mississippi,
Oct. 1, 1907.

I am now on what I believe will be my last trip of any consequence while I am President. Until I got to Keokuk, Iowa, it was about like any other trip, but it is now pleasant going down the Mississippi, though I admit that I would rather be at home. We are on a funny, stern-wheel steamer. Mr. John McIlhenny is with me, and Capt. Seth Bullock among others. We have seen wild geese and ducks and cormorants on the river, and the people everywhere come out in boats and throng or cluster on the banks to greet us.

October 4. You would be greatly amused at these steamboats, and I think you will like your trip up the Mississippi next spring, if only everything goes right, and Mother is able to make it. There is no hold to the boat, just a flat bottom with a deck, and on this deck a foot or so above the water stands the engine-room, completely open at the sides and all the machinery visible as you come up to the boat. Both ends are blunt, and the gangways are drawn up to big cranes. Of course the boats could not stand any kind of a sea, but here they are very useful, for they are shallow and do not get hurt when they bump into the bank or one another. The river runs down in a broad, swirling, brown current, and nobody but an expert could tell the channel. One pilot or another is up in the Texas all day long and all night. Now the channel goes close under one bank, then we have to cross the river and go under the other bank; then there will come a deep spot when we can go anywhere. Then we wind in and out among shoals and sand-bars. At night the steamers are all lighted up, for there are a dozen of them in company with us. It is nice to look back at them as they twist after us in a long winding line down the river.