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National Rivers Hall of Fame Inductees

Hall of Fame inductees are the pioneers, explorers and artists in America's river history. They were movers and shakers from the days gone by and the recent past. These men and women made significant contributions related to America’s rivers, which is why we honor them.


The Artists, Writers, and Musicians

Dr. William Petersen, "Steamboat Bill"

Inducted in 2006

Petersen loved to write, and his most famous work is the epic Steamboating on the Mississippi. Petersen was born on the banks of the Mississippi at Dubuque, Iowa, where his father worked for the Diamond Jo Steamboat Line.

During his graduate research, Petersen hitch-hiked 20,000 miles, including 3,000 miles aboard Federal Barge Line boats. He visited river towns, large and small, interviewing river people, pouring through old newspaper files, and collecting steamboat photographs, bills of lading, and anything relating to steamboating. The resulting Steamboating on the Upper Mississippi is considered by many to be the most readable steamboat history ever written.

“Steamboat Bill” also wrote: True Tales of Iowa; Two Hundred Topics in Iowa HistoryTowboating on the MississippiMississippi River PanoramaIowa: The Rivers of Her ValleysLooking Backward on Iowa. He contributed twenty articles to the Dictionary of American History, wrote for several encyclopedias, and penned 300 articles in the Iowa State Historical Society Palimpsest.