Rigged Model, Sidewheel Cotton Packet J.M. White

The Mississippi River sidewheel steamboat J.M. White was built at Jeffersonville, Ind., in 1878 for the Greenville and New Orleans Packet Company. Measuring 321’ long and 91’ in beam across the paddlebox guards, the White only sat 10’-6” deep in the water when fully laden. The steamboat was designed for Mississippi River packet service between New Orleans, La., and Greenville, Miss.
The White was one of the largest, most expensive, luxurious, and most powerful river steamers ever built, with 2,800 horsepower and a capacity of 250 first-class passengers and 10,000 bales of cotton. Named after famous riverboat captain J. M. White (1823–1880), the “supreme triumph in cotton boat architecture” was a masterpiece of the gaudy, glamorous style known as “steamboat Gothic.” It had multiple bridal chambers; stained glass skylights and windows; rare wood veneers and gilded finishes; seven gilded “Egyptian-style” chandeliers; a sterling silver Tiffany water cooler in the 250’-long main cabin; monogrammed flatware and china; and a full concert grand piano.
The White spent most of its eight-year career in service on the Mississippi River between New Orleans and Vicksburg, Miss. Despite its economy of size, the White’s high initial $220,000 cost, a spotty economy, and the rapidly expanding railroad network made the steamboat unprofitable. It caught fire, blew up, and burned to the waterline at a Louisiana landing in December 1886, killing several aboard.
Object Name
model, river boat
Date made
used date
late 19th century
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
overall: 38 in x 88 in x 23 in; 96.52 cm x 223.52 cm x 58.42 cm
United States: Louisiana, New Orleans
Associated Place
United States: Mississippi River
United States: Mississippi, Greenville
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Industry & Manufacturing
Energy & Power
On the Water exhibit
The Development of the Industrial United States
See more items in
Work and Industry: Maritime
On the Water exhibit
On the Water
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of John H. Leslie
Publication title
On the Water online exhibition
Publication URL

Visitor Comments

7/18/2013 2:59:17 PM
You can read about the destruction of the J.M. White in the New York Times newspaper archives. Link to the article is http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9C03E6DC133FE533A25756C1A9649D94679FD7CF The headline for the article was: "KILLED BY FIRE AND WATER; THIRTY LIVES KNOWN TO HAVE BEEN SACRIFICED. A MISSISSIPPI STEAMER BURNED AND MANY PASSENGERS ROASTED TO DEATH AND DROWNED." The model is beautiful. I was very interested in this model because an ancestor was on the steamer when it burnt, she lived but her sister died in the disaster. Thanks!
Add a comment about this object

**Please read before submitting the form**

Have a comment or question about this object to share with the community? Please use the form below. Selected comments will appear on this page and may receive a museum response (but we can't promise). Please note that we generally cannot answer questions about the history, rarity, or value of your personal artifacts.

Have a question about anything else, or would you prefer a personal response? Please visit our FAQ or contact page.

Personal information will not be shared or result in unsolicited e-mail. See our privacy policy.

Enter the characters shown in the image.