Ohio River Channel Opening, 1929

The River and Its Watershed.

 

The Ohio River is 981 miles long, starting at the confluence of the Allegheny and the Monongahela Rivers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and ending in Cairo, Illinois, where it flows into the Mississippi River.


So we don’t forget!!!

 

On October 18, 1929, a crowd of 100,000 celebrated the completion of a system of 50 locks and dams that ensured a year-round navigable depth on the Ohio River from Pittsburgh to its confluence with the Mississippi River at Cairo, Ill.

 

Thanks to YouTube for this exciting video of the week-long ceremony of the Canalization of the Ohio River,

Oct. 18-23, 1929.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uBPtBlFI2mA&t=1s

 

The occasion was the official opening of the nine-foot channel (“Canalization”) project of the Ohio River, a series of locks and dams, allowing for reliable year-round river traffic.  One of the boats in the video belonged to Captain Frederick Way Jr., the “Betsy Ann,” a packet steamboat bought for him by his father in 1925.

 

During the last minutes of the video from 1929, you will see President Herbert Hoover dedicating a monument in Cincinnati on Oct. 22nd and arriving in Louisville on the 23rd.  He returned to Washington, DC on Black Thursday, October 24, the beginning of the Stock Market Crash!

 


 

Captain Way’s Account of the Opening of the Nine-Foot Channel on the Ohio River, 1929

 

from the SIGNALS newsletter of the Sewickley Valley Historical Society, April 2018.

 

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He recorded his memories for us in his book called “THE LOG OF THE BETSY ANN.”

 

“The Ohio Valley Improvement Association had arranged a river parade to celebrate the completion of the Ohio River canalization project and October 18, 1929, found the Pittsburgh wharf lined with steamboats–twenty five of them—all steamed up and ready to cavort around in the Pittsburgh harbor and raise a hullabaloo with their whistles.  Ol’ Man River got up that day and cheered.  I got a scrub crew together and the Betsy Ann added her contribution to the general uproar.

“That was a notable experience in more ways than one.  The Betsy Ann, in addition to being one twenty-fifth of a major demonstration, was putting on a celebration of her own.  She had raised steam for the first time as a “free lance” packet –the river fellows named her “Little Orphan Annie” for the reason that she had to regular freight and passenger trade.  I was in seventh heaven on another score:  I had just passed an examination in the Steamboat Inspector’s Office and had been granted a first-class pilot license on the Ohio River between Pittsburgh and Cincinnati.  This was a big achievement, I thought: the task of writing out the examination answers and drawing the required maps of the river had taken all of twelve days’ solid work.

 

“Never before had I stepped up in a pilothouse and taken full charge in that sanctum: now I had elected myself chief pilot of the Betsy Ann–and was to make the initial performance in view of twenty-four other steamboat crews and thousands and thousands of spectators.  More than that, the Betsy was designate to town an excursion barge, the Manitou, which was to have about four hundred persons aboard.  The night before the parade day, I spent in considerable tossing about on my bed; I had visions of the wind blowing and other sources of pilot trouble.

 

“The day proved a wonderful one.  October’s bright blue weather prevailed, a warm sun shone on the event and no wind blew.  I backed the Betsy out with her charge and opened up the whistle with blast after blast— a contributing din to the salvo of salutes which caused the Monongahela River waterfront to roar as though an immense pipe organ had opened up with all notes at one time.  The mellow notes of the Betsy’s steam whistle were lost in the roar of more mighty sirens, but I tramped the treadle with a zest just the same; … celebrating the  Ohio River canalization….my initial performance as a pilot—and many another toot for the reason of having such a fine Dad!”

 


 

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The famous “Betsy Ann”

 

was one of twenty-five steamboats that participated in the grand parade of Steamboats to celebrate the Canalization of the Ohio River on October 18, 1929.

 

The other steamboats in line that day, representing Three Million Dollars  worth of floating equipment steaming down the Ohio in parade in the afternoon, started at 2 o’clock in the afternoon from the Monongahela wharf, steamed down the Ohio River to the Emsworth locks and returned were:

 

The Flagship CINCINNATI , the GREATER PITTSBURGH, with city officials and newspapermen aboard; the CLYDE, HILLMAN, ALIQUIPPA, CRUISER, WILLIAM R. RODGERS, CRUCIBLE, VICTORY, LaBELLE, A.O. ACKART, CRAIG, W.L. McKINNEY, ELIZABETH SMITH, STEEL CITY, BETSY ANN, E.K. DAVISON, B .F. JONES, J. H. McCRADY, CARBON, OLD RELIABLE and WACOUTA. (3 names missing)


 

Captain Way in 1975

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“Beautiful Dreamer” CALLIOPE Music

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Over 100,000 people viewed the great Canalization of the Ohio River parade that day of October 18, 1929.

 

James Francis Burke, the Master of Ceremonies for the Pittsburgh River fete concluded an interview with the Pittsburgh Post–Gazette, p. 10, October 18, 1929 with these words:

 

“The age of pygmies is past.   “The age of giants and gigantic enterprises is here.

 

“Channels are deeper than ever, structures are higher than ever, and minds are broader than ever in world’s history.

 

“The biggest mergers of today are the mergers of great minds, the pooling of  their ideas and the combination of their resources and energies in great undertakings.

 

“There are more dwellers than ever in the palace of American genius.

 

“There are more princes than  ever in the purple chamber where accomplishments alone bestows its titles.

 

“In proof of this, I felicitate my city, my commonwealth, and my country upon the presence of this distinguished company and bid them Godspeed in the great work before them!

 


 

And  yet another story about the famous Captain Way…

 

An earlier newspaper article about the packet Betsy Ann in a race with the Island Queen from Cincinnati to New Richmond, 20 miles up the Ohio River.

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