Dubuque County Historical Society Images

The River People

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Betty Blake

Betty Blake was a woman of extraordinary energy and dedication who almost single-handedly lifted the Delta Queen Steamboat Company to profitability and preservation. Betty Blake began in promotion work in Cincinnati, worked on the steamer Avalon, now the Belle of Louisville, and then joined the Delta Queen Steamboat Company as its first public relations director, eventually rising to company president.

Blake led the fight in the 1970's to get the Delta Queen exempted from the Federal Safety at Sea Law which would have forced the vessel's retirement. Then she, as one admirer put it, "pleaded, argued, charmed, fought for, and schemed the Mississippi Queen into existence." This $24 million paddlewheeler provided for 385 passengers, more than double the Delta Queen's capacity. Blake promoted the company, promoted the big race between the Delta Queen and the Belle of Louisville, and promoted the river excursion businesses. Her energy and enthusiasm was responsible for preserving an important part of America's riverboat history.

Inducted in 1996.

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