On the Water

Bryant’s New Showboat

Bryant’s New Showboat was built at Point Pleasant, W. Va., in 1917. Launched in 1918, it could seat around 880 people in its theater. Most of the shows put on for Bryant’s patrons in small towns along the Kanawha, Ohio, Monongahela, Illinois, and Mississippi Rivers were vaudeville or follies productions.

The ornate stage of Bryant’s New Showboat was home to dozens of plays like Hamlet and Little Nell of the Ozarks, and even the antics of a trained bucking mule named January. Owner Billy Bryant offered $10 to anyone who could stay on the animal’s back, but he had to retract that offer in mining towns, as the miners were strong enough to stay on.

The vessel was sold to new owners in 1945, at the end of World War II. Movie theaters, personal automobiles and other developments had gradually ended the colorful showboat era on America’s rivers.

ID Number:
9 x 33 x 7 in.; 22.86 x 83.82 x 17.78 cm