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Show Boat. Just what is going on? If the four sternwheelers were pushing the floating theater, she would not have three walking planks ashore would she? According to the spectators assembled (note the gang on top of the railway waggon), it is something worth watching.
The sternwheeler at the right i

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Could it be that the paddle steamers were bringing people to see the show and just moored alongside the theatre and discharged them directly?

Maybe that is too obvious an explanation?

Fascinating picture anyway.

Brian
 

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Hi Stein:
Unless your source definitely states that it is a theater, I would guess that it may be a wharfboat decorated for an out of the ordinary visit or event on the river.
Wharfboats were used at many towns to facilitate easier landings of riverboats. They rose and fell with the fluctuations of the river level, they housed offices, sometimes had passenger waiting rooms and restaurants and amenities for crews.
It's hard to tell if there are any horseless carriages on the levee, but the scene reminds me of pictures of a trip President William Howard Taft made down the Mississippi in the summer of 1909, from St. Louis to New Orleans to attend a waterways convention. His flotilla of steamboats, sidewheel and sternwheel, would stop at river towns along the way and to each of these towns that visit would most probably be the greatest event in living memory. Everyone would turn out.
The River was a lifeline, sometimes one steamboat, sometimes three or four would show up and for these isolated river towns it was a often the only break in the monotony that they experienced.
As I say, just a guess.

Bruce C
 

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I'll buy that story Bruce. I recently posted a picture on the landing stage in Liverpool and should have made that connection.
My source says "show boat", my "floating theater" is a presumption based on that. Of course the "show boat" may be a presumption as well. Obviously people have taken up position to view something expected to happen outside the wharfboat, and the visit of a political dignitary sounds plausible.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Stein
 

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