Model of Towboat Valley Belle

The sternwheel steamer Valley Belle was built as a packet boat at Harmar, Ohio, in 1883. It measured 127.4’ long by 22.9’ in beam and a shallow 3.4’ in draft. As a packet delivering people, cargo and the mails, the Belle worked for decades along several rivers from the Ohio to the Kanawha in West Virginia. In 1891, the Belle transported 8,320 tons of cargo and 6,241 passengers along the Ohio River.
In 1917, the Valley Belle was operating along the Ohio River between Marietta and Middleport, Ohio. In March 1919 it was purchased by Billy Bryant of the famous showboating family. Bryant had just built a fancy new showboat and needed a larger towboat than they owned to tow it.
The Belle towed Bryant’s New Showboat for several years down the Kanawha, Ohio, Monongahela, Illinois, and Mississippi Rivers before being replaced by a smaller boat. Competition from movie theaters had shortened the range of the showboats, which were forced to go to ever-smaller and more remote towns for willing audiences. The Belle continued to tow on various rivers until 1943, when it sank in the Ohio River at Kanauga, Oh. Its career as a wooden-hulled river steamer in nearly continuous use for 60 years is unmatched.
Object Name
boat, river
model, river boat
Date made
overall: 10 in x 29 in x 6 in; 25.4 cm x 73.66 cm x 15.24 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Industry & Manufacturing
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
Publication title
On the Water online exhibition
Publication URL

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