Missouri River steamboat photos added to South Dakota’s Digital Archives

In addition to my love of seeking out records related to railroad employees, I love to learn more about the workers on and about the steamboats that plied U.S. rivers. Newspapers, county histories, photographs, manuscript collections, and other records tell about the voyages, the workers, and much more. That’s why this press release about 138 photographs caught my eye. One of the photos already digitized is of a ferry loaded with passengers. If only we knew the names of each of those passengers!

PIERRE, S.D. – A historic collection of photographs documenting steamboat traffic on the Missouri River has been added to the state of South Dakota’s digital archives.

The Henry J. King collection of photographs and postcards was donated to Brule County in 1961 by Mr. and Mrs. Blakely King in memory of Mr. King’s grandfather, Captain Henry J. King. Captain King was a Missouri River boatman in the early days of Chamberlain. The photographs and postcards were displayed in frames in the Brule County Courthouse until 2008 when they were donated to the State Archives.

Thanks to a generous donation from Chuck and Bonny Schroyer of Pierre, 138 photographs have been scanned and are now available to the public via the South Dakota Digital Archives.  

Chuck Schroyer said, “living in Pierre, as we do, on the longest river in the United States, we have often imagined what the traffic was like before the railroad crossing in 1907. Steamboats flourished and the Missouri was the highway to the west. We’re pleased that this history is being preserved.”

Some of the images in the collection include early Chamberlain, Missouri River scenes, Fort Hale, the Corn Palace, and the Old Brule Agency. Most of the images are of steamboats and the freighting industry along the Missouri River during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Some of the steamboats featured in the collection include Ada Belle, General Meade, and Red Cloud. A search for “Henry King” will display the scanned images.

For more information, contact the South Dakota State Historical Society’s State Archives at (605)773-3804 or visit history.sd.gov/archives.

© 2023, Paula Stuart-Warren. All rights reserved.

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