It is funny how the universe works. On June 30, 1948 the DELTA QUEEN started her second “maiden voyage” roundtrip from Cincinnati to Cairo, Illinois, having been put out of service in 1940 because of a new highway linking the two towns it had served. During World War II, it was used by the U.S. Navy for duty in San Francisco Bay. Greene Line Steamers of Cincinnati, Ohio, bought the Delta Queen in 1946 (for $50,000) and towed it through the Panama Canal and the Mississippi and Ohio rivers to be refurbished in Pittsburgh at a cost of $1 million. Two years later, and after two delays, she was doing passenger service. Since 1971, Delta Queen has been operated with a presidential exemption to the law prohibiting the operation of overnight passenger vessels with wooden superstructures.The U.S. House of Representatives voted against an amendment to the Coast Guard Authorization Act that would have exempted the Delta Queen from the ban. The Save the Delta Queen Campaign said the Delta Queen was inadvertently caught in the technical provisions of the Safety at Sea Act, which was intended to cover ocean-going ships and not riverboats. There have been rallies to try to save the boat, one in Madison last month, but I am unsure what the status is at this time.
You might wonder why I am writing about this. It’s because of the funny universe we live in, how sometimes the past makes itself known in unexpected ways. Some friends of ours recently started repair of an old house they purchased in Madison, Indiana. When moving an old metal cabinet and linoleum from the kitchen they found a few pieces of newspaper, from June,1948. The newspaper contained articles about the Delta Queen’s upcoming “second maiden voyage”, which actually occurred on the 30th of June, 1948.
Here’s a scan from the paper, showing Mr. Edward Williams polishing the handrail on the grand staircase, and below a more recent photo of the staircase.