Dubuque County Historical Society Images

The River People

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Captain John Streckfus

The river excursion business was brought to its ultimate perfection by Captain John Streckfus of Rock Island, Illinois. Streckfus began with the Freddie about 1891, operating her in the Davenport, Iowa, area. The steamers Verne Swain and the W. W. followed.

In 1901 Captain Streckfus commissioned the J. S. from the Howard Shipyard, Jeffersonville, Indiana, to operate as the morning packet between Davenport and Clinton, Iowa, and to also run "moonlights." However, the J. S. was too heavy to run the rapids every day, and she became exclusively an excursion boat.

In 1911 Captain Streckfus acquired the Diamond Jo Lines' boats and, after operating them awhile in the packet and overnight passenger trade, he turned them into excursion boats. There were no bars on the early Streckfus boats, but many performers became famous while playing for passengers.

John Streckfus operated the largest fleet of excursion boats on the western rivers at the time: the second J. S., the Capitol, the Washington, and the Saint Paul. Later came the President and the streamlined Admiral.



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