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Mississippi River


North America's largest and most important river.


Rises at Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota and drains from the Mississippi Delta into the Gulf of Mexico. It's major tributaries, including the Missouri, Ohio, Arkansas and Red Rivers, are all important waterways for commerce and travel east of the Rocky Mountains.[1]


ABOVE: The source of the Mississippi River as it runs out of Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota.[2]


The golden age of steamboats on the Mississippi began in 1811. The first steamboat to travel on the the River was the New Orleans, was launched in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on October 15. After a short trial period, she set course down the Ohio River bound for New Orleans, Louisiana. The steamboat first entered the waters of the Mississippi on December 18 and paddled into its namesake city on January 10, 1812.[3]


ABOVE: The New Orleans, first steamboat on the Mississippi.[3]


Commerce on the Mississippi made St. Louis into a major trade center. With rapids to the north, it was the northernmost navigable city on the River for larger boats. Further south, Memphis, Tennessee became another major center as a slave port before the Civil War.


After the Civil War, with the standardization of tracks between the North and South, railroads became a major threat to the steamboat industry. River travel began to fall off in the 1870s and 1880s, but managed to remain viable into the early twentieth century.[4]



According to Hoyle: In October of 1876,[5] Bret Maverick traveled down the Mississippi River from St. Louis to New Orleans on the Delta Star. While on board, he met Samantha Crawford, who won $12,000 from him in a poker game. To recoup his losses, Bret negotiated a $5,000 stake from Bledsoe and Hayes, owners of the Louisiana and Missouri Packet Company, and passage aboard their steamboat Stonewall Jackson back to St. Louis. On the trip back up river, Bret had a rematch with Samantha and lost his entire stake to her when she played an obscure rule of Hoyle against him. Bret arrived back in St. Louis penniless, but still hoped to regain his losses by partnering with Samantha on a venture in Wagon Wheel, Wyoming Territory.[6]


Escape to Tampico: While in Memphis in June of 1877, Bret Maverick bought a riverboat ticket to New Orleans for $47. During that trip down the Mississippi River, he lost an additional $2,311, but still had his $1,000 bill by the time he reached New Orleans.[7]


Hostage: In April of 1879,[5] Bart Maverick traveled down the Mississippi River[7] from St. Louis[5] at the invitation of Brother Bret to join him in New Orleans for the opportunity of a lifetime. Broke at the time, Bart was forced to work his way downriver on a cattle boat, which got hung up on a sand bar for four days just north of Natchez. After reaching New Orleans, the Maverick Brothers won the personal invitation of Henri Devereaux to sail on the maiden voyage of his luxurious steam packet, the River Princess, from New Orleans to St. Louis.[8]


01. United States Geological Survey Hydrological Unit Code: 08-09-01-00- Lower Mississippi-New Orleans Watershed

02. Jon Harald Søby

03. 1811: A Year of Miracle; The First Volley 1811 (retrieved July 26, 2014)

04. Steamboats of the Mississippi River; Wikipedia (retrieved July 26, 2014)

05. The Conjectural Maverick, Maverick Trails

06. Maverick, According to Hoyle (1957), Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.

07. Maverick, Escape to Tampico (1958), Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.

08. Maverick, Hostage (1957), Warner Bros. Pictures, Inc.

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