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Captain John Streckfus and Family
Captain John Streckfus, of Rock Island, Illinois, brought the river excursion business to its ultimate perfection. He began with the Freddie about 1891, operating her in the Davenport, Iowa, area. The steamers Verne Swain and the W.W. followed, the latter named for his friend and partner, Capt. D. Walter Wisherd.
In 1901 Captain Streckfus commissioned a new boat from the Howard Shipyard, Jeffersonville, Indiana, which he named the J.S.; she was to operate as the morning packet between Davenport and Clinton, Iowa, and to also run "moonlights" out of Davenport and Rock Island. However, the J.S. was too heavy to run the rapids every day and she was withdrawn from the packet trade to become exclusively an excursion boat. She was a success and Captain John Streckfus was on his way to becoming the "excursion king" of the upper Mississippi.
In 1911 Captain Streckfus acquired the Diamond Jo Lines boats and, after operating them a while in the packet and overnight passenger trade, he turned them into excursion boats, forming the largest fleet of such excursion boats on the western rivers. The Quincy became the second J.S.; the Dubuque became the Capitol; the Sidney became the Washington; and the Saint Paul kept her name. There were no bars on the early Streckfus boats. However, the Streckfus Line was also known for good music, and many musicians who played on their boats became famous.
The Diamond Jo Line boats were built of wood, and safety regulations eventually caused their demise. They were replaced by the President, and later by the streamlined Admiral. Captain John Streckfus died in 1925, but his legacy in excursion boating was to be carried on by his sons, Joseph, John, Roy and Verne.
Honored in 1987.
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