Presentation by amateur historian and steamboat modeler Eric Reuter
In this fascinating and in-depth presentation, Eric Reuter used hand-made scale models of Missouri River steamboats to discuss the linked history of steamboat development and environmental changes in the Missouri basin, drawing on his professional and personal interests in the links between geology, ecology, history, and land management.
Published: March 9, 2021
Hosted by Missouri River Relief
Steamboats symbolize a historic era in Missouri River exploration, commerce and transportation. Missouri River steamboats evolved over time, becoming ever more adapted to the basin’s unique environment while simultaneously altering it, much like an invasive species introduced into a new ecosystem.
In this presentation, Eric Reuter used hand-made scale models of Missouri River steamboats to discuss the linked history of steamboat development and environmental changes in the Missouri basin, drawing on his professional and personal interests in the links between geology, ecology, history, and land management.
Eric Reuter’s lifelong fascination with maritime history expanded to encompass steamboats after moving to Missouri in 2006. His interest in the Missouri River is shared by his wife Joanna, a former USGS scientist who worked on the river. He holds degrees in Earth Science and Education and currently works as a freelance scientific editor, though his professional background includes geologic mapping and public interpretation for the National Park Service, diversified organic farming, grant reviewing, freelance writing, and various public education efforts. He is a member of the Nautical Research Guild, an international non-profit that focuses on combining maritime research and model shipcraft.
Eric shared a bibliography of books he recommends detailing the history of steamboats, which we’ve copied below. In addition, you can check out the Missouri River Bookshelf on the Missouri River Relief website.
The History of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, Elliott Coues (ed.) (1893)
Way’s Packet Directory, 1848–1994, Frederick Way, Jr. (1901)
Steamboats on the Western Rivers, Louis C. Hunter (1949)
The Western Rivers Steamboat Cyclopœdium, Alan L. Bates (1968)
The Steamboat Bertrand, Jerome E. Petsche (1974)
The Missouri River, Cecil R. Griffith (1974)
Steamboat Legacy, Dorothy Heckmann Shrader (1993)
Unruly River, Robert Kelley Schneiders (1999)
Wild River, Wooden Boats, Michael Gillespie (2000)
The Western River Steamboat, Adam I. Kane (2004)
1491 and 1493, Charles Mann (2005 and 2011)
Steamboat Disasters of the Lower Missouri River, Vicki Berger Erwin (2020)
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Resources & Links
Dig deeper for more info on this topic
- Nautical Research Guild
- UW-LaCrosse Murphy Library steamboat photo collection
- Steamboat Arabia Museum
- Steamboat Bertrand Museum at Desoto Bend National Fish & Wildlife Refuge
- BOOK – “Navigating the Missouri: Steamboating on Nature’s Highway, 1819-1935” – by William E. Lass (2008 – 464 pp) – The absolute gold standard of Missouri River steamboat research. Many unique stories and new insights.
- BOOK – “Treasure in a Cornfield – The Discovery and Excavation of the Steamboat Arabia” – by Greg Hawley (1998 – 224 pp) – An amazing story of a family obsessed and dedicated enough to excavate and preserve the contents of a steamboat buried 40 feet below a cornfield. In case you haven’t been, you HAVE to visit the Hawley’s Arabia Museum located in the River Market district of downtown Kansas City.
- BOOK – “Black Life on the Mississippi: Slaves, Free Blacks, and the Western Steamboat World” – By Thomas C. Buchanan (2006 – 272pp) – African-Americans have been both crucial creators and oppressed minority in Great Rivers culture. This book explores the hidden history of how the southern and Midwestern river economies depended on black lives.
The Big Muddy Speaker Series in Rocheport
is hosted by these wonderful partners.
- Missouri River Relief
- Les Bourgeois Vineyards
- Katy Trail Bed & Breakfast
- Missouri River Cultural Conservancy (MoRivCC)
Streaming is sponsored by Rivermiles, the folks who bring you the MR340.
Click here for a list of upcoming presentations»
Special thanks to Les Bourgeois Vineyards for giving us the opportunity to use their beautiful space overlooking the Missouri River. All speakers are presenting for free! Thank you all for sharing your knowledge with us!
The Big Muddy Speaker Series also takes place in Kansas City and St. Charles.
The views and opinions expressed by our presenters do not necessarily reflect the view or policies of Missouri River Relief, the Big Muddy Speaker Series or any of the partners that support this public forum. The Big Muddy Speaker Series believes that hearing diverse perspectives is a crucial building block for an informed public.