Flashback: A Brief History of the Riverboats

Spectators take in views of the Arch's construction from the decks of the riverboats. All rights reserved by JNEM Archives.

Spectators take in views of the Arch’s construction from the decks of the riverboats. All rights reserved by JNEM Archives.

They’re located downtown on the riverfront; set sail daily during the spring, summer and fall months; and have been providing fond memories for millions of passengers throughout the years. The Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher—aka, the Gateway Arch Riverboats—have been part of St. Louis history for decades. But do you know THEIR storied history?

Here’s a one-minute synopsis: Decades ago, the downtown St. Louis riverfront was home to hundreds of riverboats that lined the Mississippi riverfront. (Who remembers the tall stacks of the Robert E. Lee or the shimmering Admiral?)

Enter Tom and Becky: They were brought to St. Louis in 1964 to accommodate the spectators who wanted a closer look at the building of the Gateway Arch. Since then, many boats have left the riverfront (most recently, the Admiral in 2011), but today, the Tom and Becky are the only two that remain. This year they celebrate their 50th anniversary of cruising on the St. Louis riverfront!

(And another fun fact: The Gateway Arch Riverboats are a part of the oldest Mississippi excursion boat company that has called St. Louis its home port since 1917!)

We’ve been feeling nostalgic as of late, so we decided to take a walk down memory lane. Enjoy these photos of the riverboat views during the building of the Arch. My, how times have changed!

arch admiral

River view from the deck of the Admiral. (Note the lifesaver!) All rights reserved by JNEM Archives.

arch bldg 3

The Arch begins to take shape. All rights reserved by JNEM Archives.

arch building 2

Another riverboat view. All rights reserved by JNEM Archives.

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