ABSTRACT: Capt. Wooldridge's Names of Steamboats is an alphabetical index of factual events concerning American steamboats and rivers. From 1904 to the late 1930s he devoted his spare time to investigating, recording, and corroborating methodically the mass of steamboat and river information.
SCOPE: List of over 7,000 steamboat names, type, and date compiled by Capt. Fielding L. Wooldridge. Listed in alphabetical order by steamboat name. Information for each entry varies in length. Also includes a copy of "Tribute to F.L. Wooldridge," written by fellow river historian Dr. N. Philip Norman.
EXTENT: Four volume set of hand-made books: A-D, E-H, I-M, and N-Z.
HISTORY: Primary sources used by Woolridge included the Mobile Register newspaper, from 1819 on, and the Mobile, St. Louis and Washington, D.C. Steamboat Inspection Service records. He had but one ideal in the compilation of this data - "the truth and nothing but the truth." Working on both the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers, he remained in the steamboating industry until his death at age 62 in November 1941.
"Captain F. L. Wooldridge of Memphis, Tenn; born in March, 1879, at St. Louis, Mo. He is the fourth generation of a river family. His great-grandfather and grandfather operated flatboats on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers. His grandfather, who was born in 1807, began flatboating at the age of 12; he later commanded flatboats until he began steamboating in 1827. Captain Wooldridge began his river career at the age of 12, when he obtained his first position as an office boy on a wharfboat. He has been continuously connected with steamboating in various capacities, excepting the time which he served in the U.S. Army during the Spanish-American War. From an early age, as a result of listening to steamboat stories from the lips of his grandfather, he became deeply interested in the historical aspects of river craft and the inland waterways which they plied. Fortunately, Capt. Wooldridge has recorded his information systematically and has kept an accurate record of the sources from which he obtained his information. He possesses the largest single collection of authentic data relating to steamboats and steamboating which has been obtained from annual Government Inspection records, U. S. Customhouse Department records, U.S. Engineer annual reports, wharfboat records, Insurance Underwriters' Assn. reports, old newspaper files, historical monographs, books relating to this subject and personal experiences as an active steamboatman for almost half a century. Captain Wooldridge had spent more than 40 years collecting, assembling and authenticating his data. He has recently been appointed Librarian of the K. of C. [Knights of Columbus] Library in Memphis, Tenn. He is now engaged in the task of reorganizing this Library."
From: Norman, N. Philip. "The Red River of the South." The Louisiana Historical Quarterly 25 (April 1942): 409.Used with permission. www.louisianahistoricalsociety.org
Fielding L. Wooldridge and Captain William M. Eanes. Picture taken in cabin of the Packet Steamer Mary S. Blees in port at Mobile, Ala., Aug. 25, 1908 (The Waterways Journal, Oct. 28, 1961)
Captain Wooldridge in the cabin of Jas. T. Staples' (The Waterways Journal Feb. 19, 1990/ Murphy Library at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse)
ACCESS: This is collection P-013. This collection is available for on-site use only in the Rare Book and Manuscripts Reading Room. Some of the collection may be photocopied, digitally scanned or photographed, depending on condition. Researchers are advised to call ahead concerning changes in hours due to University intersessions and holidays. The St. Louis Mercantile Library is located on levels one and two of the Thomas Jefferson Library building. More information about conducting research with the archival collections of the Library, including current building hours and reading room policies, can be found on our Research page.
Preferred Citation note: The preferred citation for this collection is "From the collections of the Herman T. Pott National Inland Waterways Library at the University of Missouri - St. Louis.”
An alphabetical list of vessels included is available for download:
Note: This is an exact alphabetical listing -- within Wooldridge's original list vessels are grouped by first letter as he entered them into the books. For clarification, official vessel names are also listed in parenthesis.
Wooldridge List (.pdf)
The introduction and dedication written by Capt. Wooldridge in Volume I-M has been transcribed and is available for download:
Norman, N. Philip. "The Red River of the South." The Louisiana Historical Quarterly 25 (April 1942): 409.
"Fielding L. Wooldridge, River Historian, Dies." The Waterways Journal (November 29, 1941): 6. Download obituary
Swift, James. "River Historians Collected Steamboat Ads" The Waterways Journal (February 19, 1990): 8. Note: Over 600 ads collected by Capt. Wooldridge are located in the Ruth Ferris Collection of River Life and Lore, filed by boat name under realia.
PROCESSED BY: BG 2000-2001 ; BG and MR 7-11-2005, 3-2006