STEAMBOAT RIDE TO CONEY ISLAND
In the early 1880's there was a
beautiful apple orchard 10 miles east of Cincinnati on the New Richmond Pike
next to the Ohio River. One day a group of Cincinnatians drove out the Pike to
ask the owner James H. Parker if they could rent his orchard for a private
picnic. They intended to charter a steamboat to take their people to and from
the riverside grove. Mr. Parker was no dummy, he realized he could make
more money in renting picnic space than in selling apples. He built a shelter
house and a dance floor and called the facilities Parker's Grove. When the apple
trees died off he replaced them with maples. Parker sold his holdings in 1886
for $17,000 to steamboat captains William and Malcolm McIntyre. They headed a
group of high rollers which included the president of the Cincinnati Steamboat
Excursion Company Captain J. D. Hegler. The place was renamed Ohio Grove the
Coney Island of the west. The park officially opened as an amusement park on
Monday, June 21, 1886. It rained and only a few hundred people came instead of
the thousands hoped for.
As you can see from the drawing below not only picnickers but soldiers were attracted to Parker's Grove. Military units would stage mock battles with cannons and horses. This brought even more people that would come to watch them parade around. The military units would stay for several days at a time. The steamer Thomas Sherlock was used to ferry people to Parker's Grove and was also used, along with the Guiding Star, after Parker's Grove became Ohio Grove.
Parker's Grove The Thomas Sherlock
Ads for Ohio Grove The Guiding Star
The Guiding Star was the first steamboat to be used
on the Coney Island run. (not a postcard), along with the Thomas Sherlock. The
Guiding Star made 4 trips a day, while the Sherlock was used on Sundays and
holidays and when ever there would be a large picnic. The "grove" soon became just "Coney
Island" as the subtitle took hold and the original name faded away after a
year or two. On August 1, 1886 the name was changed, without
explanation, to Coney Island. The 2nd ad above is the first ad for the park to be printed in
the Enquirer on June 20, 1886.
From the foot of Broadway to Coney Island is 8.8 miles and from 1883 to 1947, steamboats carried excursionists back and forth during the summer seasons. The cards below show the three most famous of these steamboats, the first and second Island Queens and the Princess. In the 1940's a round trip fare including admission to the park was adults, 35 cents ; children, 20 cents. From Memorial Day to Labor Day daily trips were: Tuesday to Friday boat leaves Public Landing at 11 a.m.; 2:30 p.m.; 5:30 p.m.; and 8:00 p.m.; it leaves Coney Island at, 12:30 ; 4:00; 6:45; 10:45. On Saturday, Sunday, and holidays, same as before, plus one extra trip from Public Landing at 10:15 p.m.; two extra trips from Coney Island at 9:15 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. Admission at the car gate was 10 cents. A telegraph wire was run between the wharf boat and the resort so that the steamers going to and from Coney could be coordinated.
Lee Brooks-President 1936 advertisement
Passengers entering the wharf boat Two real photos of the Coney Island wharf boat
These are not postcards
Inside wharf boat Queen at the wharf Boarding the wharf boat Wharf boat and Island Maid?
The person playing the calliope in the first card above was Homer Denny. He played on the Coney Island steamers continuously from 1901 until 1947 and wrote a number of ragtime compositions that he played while traveling to and from Coney Island. When the 2nd Island Queen blew up in 1947 all excursion trips ended and he retired. The second postcard is very rare and was issued around 1908/09. He obviously needed to find work during the off season in the winter and you can see from this card what type of work he was looking for. You can see in the last photograph above how loud the calliope was by the children holding their hands over their ears.
ISLAND QUEEN #1
The first Island Queen was built in 1896 in Cincinnati at the Cincinnati Marine Railway Company. The boat was designed and built specifically for the Coney Island Company as a 3,000 passenger excursion boat to transport customers to and from the Coney Island amusement park. During the off-season, the boat made tramping trips up and down the river. The 1st non-postcard image below shows the Island Queen in the first year of operation pulling away from the foot of Vine Street on the way to Coney. The white smoke seen between the two smokestacks are from the calliope playing.
These are not postcards
1896 In dry dock 1905 1906
Queen leaving Landing Notice the fast paint job on the paddlewheel housing.
Boat seen passing the mouth of the Licking River.
Glitter card same image minus the glitter
Real Photos Island Queen seen from KY
Early Coney in background
Day Scene same card Night Scene
Many a romance was started on the moonlight cruise back from Coney Island.
THE ISLAND QUEEN #1 AND THE PRINCESS
Island Queen Princess Princess & the Queen
These two were obviously taken the same day
Both the Island Queen and the Princess featured a huge Native American Maiden painted on their wheelhouses.
The Princess was built in 1900 at Marietta, Ohio, as the Francis J. Torrance for excursion trips on the upper Ohio and Monongahela Rivers. It was purchased in November 1905 by the Coney Island Company to team up with the Island Queen from 1906 to 1917. The first postcard in the 2nd row below is one of the best images I have ever seen of the Princess I. It was destroyed by ice in the 1917/1918 Ice Gorge disaster.
In the first card above all evidence of the Princess's name has been removed. The 2nd card proves what boat it is.
Gates and Jacobson, musicians, stand next to the steamer Princess's calliope during the 1914 season in the last card above. Below you can see the Princess in the first photograph, and in the second photograph you can see the rather shabby replacement. When the Princess was destroyed by the 1918 ice floe this boat, originally named the Sunshine, was bought and renamed the Princes. It operated from 1923 thru 1925.
Princess I Princess II
ISLAND QUEEN #2
When the 1st Island Queen succumbed to fire on November 4, 1922, at the Cincinnati Wharf along with her sister ship the Morning Star (which was purchased and refurbished to replace the Princess which was destroyed by ice in 1918, it became necessary to build the second Island Queen. It is also the reason the second Queen had an all-steel hull with a predominantly steel superstructure. Thus making her (it was thought) unsinkable and fireproof. Of course this was proven to be untrue since much of the boat was still made of wood. The 3rd & 4th images below are for the mechanical minded visitors showing the layout of the Island Queen's engine room. The last image MIGHT show the Island Queen on the day she was dedicated. The bank is still littered with construction material
These are not postcards
Construction of Island Queen 2 Top view engines Side view engines Brand new
The 1st image below, from left to right, is the Island Maid, Cincinnati and the Island Queen. The hull of the Cincinnati was identical to the Island Queen as it was supposed to be the Queen's sister ship. Costs prevented this to happen and it was sold. This made these two steamers the largest boats on the Ohio River. (see Steamboat section for more). The other 3 images show the Island Maid that began life as the G. W. Hill in 1909. She was sold to the Coney Island Co. in 1923 and worked in tandem with the Island Queen until fire destroyed her in 1932.
Island Maid-Cincinnati-Queen The Island Maid
Island Queen & wharf boat docked Photograph
The Island Queen is shown docked (along with her wharf) down river from the Central Bridge. Between the Queen and the bridge were two ice breakers (still there). These ice breakers along with the bridge pillars protected the Queen from river ice slamming into her. You can see one breaker slightly in the bottom right hand corner of the real photo.
The Grand Ballroom The Clyde Trask Orchestra Main deck aft
The Grand Ballroom was 250' long. You can see the bandstand on the left with bars spread around the sides at intervals. The balcony seen in the 2nd image allowed the passengers to view the dancing from above. The Clyde Trask Orchestra played many of the Island Queen's Moonlight cruises. They are seen standing in front of the pilot house of the Island Queen. Clyde is standing to the right of the lady (Thelma Staton). The fourth image shows the tables set up on the main deck at the stern of the boat. It demonstrates how spartan the Queen was, it was not a luxury liner.
Captains Pattison & Doss Island Queen's engine room High water setup
Captain Doss was the pilot of the Island Queen. He began his career in 1886 and worked almost every steamboat run by the Coney Island Company (mostly as the pilot). The Queen's engine room was located on the main deck and the passengers were free to wander thru the area as long as they stayed behind the iron railings. The third image shows the Queen with her hinged smoke stacks pulled down so that when the Ohio River was at a high water mark the boat could pass under all the bridges.
Tied to Wharf boat RPPC
The photograph below shows how the Queen looked at night with all 7,000 lights ablaze.
TO SEE MORE OF CONEY ISLAND