Bygone Days Aboard the Mississippi Riverboat,

S.S. Admiral, St. Louis, Missouri

Summary History, with Photos from the Thomas Kempland Collection


The Admiral as she appeared beneath the Eads Bridge in the 1980's. Photo by Tom Kempland.

History 1907 to 2006:

The boat that is so well known to St. Louis as the Admiral, first started out as the side-wheeled steel hulled steamboat, the Albatross (postcard view, below, from the collection of Scott K. Williams), built in 1907 in Dubuque, Iowa by Dubuque Boat and Boiler. She was a powerful as she was fitted with four large boilers. This boat's hull was 308 feet long, 53.8 feet wide and 7.6 feet in depth.  Above the hull she was 90 feet wide to accommodate the side wheel. She was quite a sight to look at and nearly the whole town of Keokuk, Iowa turned out to see her pass the the rapids (being too large for the canal) and to clear the bridge.

Her original owner, Louisiana & Mississippi Valley Transfer Co., used  the ship to carry 16 railroad cars, operating at Vicksburg, Mississippi. In 1920-1921 the Albatross again returned to Keokuk, this time to the U.S. dry docks to have her hull extended to 365 feet in length by the Ripley Boat Co., making her an engineering marvel of the time. On February 5, 1921 the 1,100 ton ship left for St. Louis, which was considered a rare feat as the river was usually choked by ice at that time of the year.

In 1937 she was bought by the Streckfus Steamers, Inc. and she steamed up to St. Louis to begin a career as a river excursion boat. By 1940, the ship underwent extensive conversion from wooden decks to four "modern" decks of art-deco luxurious style for  a river-liner capacity of 4,400  passengers.  She had become a totally new boat, so she was renamed the S.S. Admiral.  The ship did not look like the same vessel. It was a complete makeover in appearance.  The only thing remaining the same were its steel hull (4/5's the ship's weight) and remaining steam powered boilers. This new ship, the Admiral, is also recorded as being the largest river cruise ship in the world and the first Mississippi Riverboat to be fully air-conditioned.  In 1973-1974 she underwent further modifications when diesel engines were added, bringing it to a total horsepower of 2,700.

By 1979, the Admiral was converted into a land-based entertainment night club. It's finances were very shaky and the City bailed the ship out of debt more than on one occasion. Next the engines were removed and it became permanently moored.  In the 1990's it became a riverboat casino, known as the "President Casino on the Admiral". In 2006 it had "1,230 slot machines, 59 gaming tables, 18 bathrooms, one restaurant" among other things. Recently the owners of the Admiral have sought to sell the ship. Unfortunately there have been no buyers and the ship will probably be turned to scrap in the near future.


Above, photos of the Admiral as it appeared April 2006. It has not been used as an river excursion cruise ship for decades. It is moored to land and serves as a casino. Photographed by Scott K. Williams, Florissant, Mo.

The Thomas Kempland Photo Collection

These snapshots collected and generously shared by Thomas Kempland of Concord Village (St. Louis County) came from three separate "garage sale" sources. These are identified as "image groups". There historical value show what it was like to ride this world class ship during its heyday as a riverboat excursion boat. Unfortunately the identities of the photographers, or the subjects are not known.

Four boys, portraying soldiers on deck of the admiral.


A view of St. Louis from the deck of the Admiral. The year of the vehicles can give a rough date when this snapshot was taken.


Note: The view of St. Louis, from onboard the Admiral, shows the St. Louis skyline during the time period before the Arch was erected. Notice the old buildings surrounding the Old Cathedral have already been cleared to make way for its construction.







Continue for More Photos from Group 1


Group 2:



Group 3 Images of Bygone Days Aboard the  S.S. Admiral

See also:

Kempland Glassplate Photo Collection:

Scenes of Old St. Louis:

Home: History's Time Portal to Old St. Louis

Website created by Scott K. Williams, Florissant, Missouri. USA

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