11 November 2018
Introduction to Popular Culture
The Belle of Louisville
This locally famous steamboat is predominantly white with three vertical red trimmed rails separating the boat into thirds, this same red is seen in the stern wheel. Other main features of this boat are the black smoke stacks that sit tall upon the boats head almost like two stretched out top hats. The name of the steamboat is proudly displayed on the boat in old gold lettering that mimics the idea of old English font with black drop shadow behind it. A patriotic essence is radiated through the four American flags waving on the four main corners of the boat.
Built in 1914 by the James Rees and Sons Company, in Pittsburgh, Philadelphia this steamboat’s journey has been a rich, dynamic story. Originally named the Idlewild which was the passenger ferry between Memphis, Tennessee and West Memphis, Arkansas. This hauled many goods like cotton, lumber, and grain. In the year 1931, it arrived in Louisville running its route between the Fontaine Ferry amusement park near Downtown Louisville and Rose Island which was a resort approximately 14 miles upriver from the city of Louisville. It continued to run through the second World War. The boat also served as a USO nightclub for troops stationed at military bases scattered across the Mississippi River. In 1947 the Idlewild was sold to J. Herod Gorsage who renamed the boat to Avalon in honor of the former longtime captain Master Ben Winters. The boat had fallen into technical troubles in the year 1963, presumably to be the end of her days, during this time Jefferson County Judge Marlow Cook bought the boat in efforts of restoration. Cook had hoped this would rekindle the relationship between the city’s waterfront and the citizens of Louisville that had fizzled out due to the progression of the automobile. The renaming of the Avalon to the The Belle of Louisville was a part of this plan. This strategy came with multiple other developments such as the creation of the Belvedere which is essentially an enormous lawn that outlooks the Ohio River.
Creation of the viewing area along with the nationally known Waterfront Park, helped with the positive interaction between the city’s people. Success was very much evident in regards to the platform of rebuilding that bond between Louisville and its waterfront, it was listed on the National Register of Historic Places, The Belle of Louisville was also designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1989. The Steamer Belle of Louisville is the only fully operating steamboat today which still is used for excursion trade as it was before.The Steamer Belle of Louisville is significant, to the people of Louisville, but is recognized by many on a national level. Regardless of the age, gender, or sex The Belle can be recognized by many and resonate with plenty. The Belle is often a go to for school and camp field trips so it’s rare that someone who lives in that area does not have a memory attached to the boat. It may be something that the upper class/ upper middle class gravitate towards because of its many soirees that it hosts.
The selling point of this famous steamboat is the old classic charm it seems to have maintained throughout time as well as its family value. When you have something exist over a hundred years as The Belle of Louisville has, its almost impossible to shake that old time feeling that today’s society deems as classic. The magical power it is seemed to be given is the power of time traveling as you glide across the Ohio River.
In conclusion, while going the through the multi-layered history of The Belle of Louisville I can tell it means something to a lot of people. Even though it still serves a functional purpose to the economy essentially by transporting goods, it still provides for the public. This once plain steamboat has become a staple of Louisville by implementing itself into many memories and milestones such as weddings, graduation parties, coming of age parties, and many more. To this day, it is a great source of entertainment for the locals but also a beautiful new experience for the tourist that come through.
“Belle of Louisville.” Louisville Waterfront Park, louisvillewaterfront.com/explore-the- park/features/belle-of-louisville/.
Brandt, Jenn, and Callier Clare. An Introduction to Popular Culture in the US: People, Politics, and Power. Bloomsbury Academic, an Imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Inc, 2018.
Nevitt, Ervin. “A Look Back at the Belle of Louisville’s 100 Year History.” Louisville.com, Louisville Magazine, 25 Feb. 2014, 8:00 AM, www.louisville.com/content/look-back-belle- louisville-s-100-year-history.
“See Louisville | Steamboat Tours.” Belle of Louisville, www.belleoflouisville.org/belle-of-louisville/.
“Two Iconic Louisville Attractions Named Best of the Best •.” Leisure Group Travel, 6 Oct. 2017, leisuregrouptravel.com/two-iconic-louisville-attractions-named-best-best/.