Letter from a young man to his mother describing his travels on the Mississippi River and plan to return East by the Ohio. Thomas C. Awery Jr.
Letter from a young man to his mother describing his travels on the Mississippi River and plan to return East by the Ohio.
Letter from a young man to his mother describing his travels on the Mississippi River and plan to return East by the Ohio.

Letter from a young man to his mother describing his travels on the Mississippi River and plan to return East by the Ohio.

Steamer “Mt Vernon” Mississippi River: June 7, 1847. Envelope or Cover.

Two-page stampless letter datelined Steamer ‘Mt Vernon’ / Mississippi River June 7 1847.” The letter bears a manuscript “Cairo, Ill. June / 8” postmark and a manuscript “10” rate marking. In nice shape. Transcript included.

In this letter, Awery informs his mother that he is on the way home and describes his trip.

“I last wrote you from Natchez which place I left on the night of 31st May for St Louis in the Steamer 'Missouri' called the finest boat on the Mrs Hippy River. I found her an exceedingly comfortable boat, though differing very much from our Eastern boats, having very comfortable Staterooms and a most excellent table fully equal to any hotel in the country. I arrived in St Louis on Thursday night (4th visit) remained there a little more than two days and left at three o’clock yesterday for Cincinnati. We go down the Mississippi to Cairo (at the junction of the two rivers) and there turn up the Ohio to Cincinnati where we expect to arrive sometime on the 9th or 10th. I shall stop one day in Cincinnati and from there go to Pittsburgh or Wheeling in another boat which I hope will be better than the Mt Vernon which is a second rate boat though a safe one. From Cincinnati we reach Pittsburgh in about 3 days (Wheeling in two days) and from either of these places get to Baltimore in two days so that I shall be in Baltimore by the 15th and get from there home in two days. I had a very pleasant time in St Louis. . .. We are now about 4 hours above Cairo – near a place called “Cape Girardeau” – where I shall try to drop this in the Post Office. . .."

Apparently, Awery was not able to drop his letter at the Cape Girardeau, Missouri post office, as it was postmarked in Cairo, Illinois. Very good. Item #009584

The Steamer Missouri, often referred to as “The Big Missouri” was, in fact, one of the most luxurious riverboats on the Mississippi. At the time it was also the largest, a fact celebrated by Mark Twain in the second chapter of Tom Sawyer as Tom prepares to hoodwink his first sucker, Ben Rogers, into whitewashing Aunt Polly’s fence:

“Ben Rogers hove in sight presently. . .. Ben’s gait was the hop-skip-and-jump—proof enough that his heart was light and his anticipations high. He was eating an apple, and giving a long, melodious whoop, at intervals, followed by a deep-toned ding-dong-dong, ding-dong-dong, for he was personating a steamboat. As he drew near, he slackened speed, took the middle of the street, leaned far over to starboard and rounded to ponderously and with laborious pomp and circumstance—for he was personating the Big Missouri, and considered himself to be drawing nine feet of water. He was boat and captain and engine-bells combined, so he had to imagine himself standing on his own hurricane-deck giving the orders and executing them”

A fine first-hand assessment of travel on one of the most sumptuous antebellum American riverboats.

Price: $300.00