The Streckfus Steamboat Line

Riverboats and Jazz

Pictured here is the riverboat J.S., named after Captain John Streckfus, the man most responsible for developing the connection between dance music and riverboats on the Mississippi. Streckfus began his Acme Packet Company in Rock Island, Illinois, in 1884, concentrating on the transport of freight and passengers until the impact of railroads redirected the company’s focus around the turn of the century. The original J.S. was launched in 1901 and was the first riverboat on the Mississippi specially outfitted for the “excursion” trade. The J.S. travelled from New Orleans to St. Paul, Minnesota, offering short trips of a day, or an afternoon, or an evening to customers who wanted dining and dancing whilst “rolling on the river.” Thus, excursion vessels such as the J.S. had no passenger staterooms, and the normal cabin space was devoted instead to a large dance floor and bandstand. Captain John Streckfus was a fiddle player, and, along with his sons Joseph, Vernon, Roy, and John, Jr., took a personal interest in the music which was performed on the excursion boats. In 1911 the company name was officially changed to the Streckfus Steamboat Line, based in St. Louis, by which time the family was thoroughly committed to the excursion policy and the music that went with it. The J.S. burned on June 25, 1910.