Music and Art
In the middle of the nineteenth century, many an artist whose canvases found no market in the older cities, found ready bidders for his brush, to decorate the thirty-foot paddle-boxes of the big side-wheelers with figures of heroic size; or, with finer touch, to embellish the cabins of Western steamboats with oil paintings in every degree of merit and demerit.
The boat carrying my father and his family from Rock Island to Prescott, upon my first appearance on the Father of Waters, was the “Minnesota Belle”. Her paddle-boxes were decorated with pictures the same on each side, representing a beautiful girl, modesdy and becomingly clothed, and carrying in her arms a bundle of wheat ten or twelve feet long, which she apparently had just reaped from some Minnesota field. In her right hand she carried the reaping-hook with which it was cut.
All the “Eagles” were adorned with greater than life-size portraits of that noble bird. Apparently all were drawn from the same model, whether the boat be a Grey-, Black-, Golden-, War-, or Spread-Eagle.
The “Northern Belle”, also had a very good looking young woman upon her paddle-boxes. Evidently she exhibited herself out of pure self-satisfaction, for she had no sheaf of wheat, or any other evidence of occupation. She was pretty, and she knew it.
The “General Brooke” showed the face and bust, in full regimentals, of the doughty old Virginian for whom it was named.
Later, the “Phil Sheridan” boasted an heroic figure of Little Phil, riding in a hurry from Winchester to the front, the hoofs of his charger beating time to the double bass of the guns at Cedar Creek, twenty miles away.
The “Minnesota” reproduced the coat-of-arms of the state