Inducted in 2009
Blanche Douglass Leathers was born in 1860 in Louisiana to a well-to-do sugar planter family. She was a most attractive young lady and married Bowling S. Leathers, the son of Captain T. P. Leathers in 1881. Bowling and Blanche went on a steamboating honeymoon. By 1891, the couple was operating the Natchez (VIII), the first sternwheeler the Leathers family owned. The Natchez operated between New Orleans and Vicksburg in the last decade of the 19th century.
Mrs. Leathers had not planned on a career on the Mississippi, but her husband had to stay ashore to tend to business and she filled in. She became a master of steamboats, receiving license #42203 from the Steamboat Inspection Service in New Orleans. By 1894 she could serve as a master of the Natchez. She knew the Mississippi River and diligently learned it as a pilot as well.
The Leathers family was a friend of Jefferson Davis, President of the Confederate States of America, and enjoyed his presence on the family’s steamboats. President Davis gave Blanche a bottle of champagne in honor of her child’s christening.
She stayed active in steamboating until around 1899. When her husband Bowling died, she left the river, although she renewed her license faithfully ever five years. In the fall of 1929, just before the Great Depression, Blanche went back on the Mississippi as master of the Tennessee Belle, one of the last packets on the rivers. She last renewed her master’s license in 1935. Captain Blanche Leathers died in New Orleans in 1940 after holding a masters license for over 45 years.