Officials from Marietta College’s Legacy Library are pleased to announce the acquisition of the Fred Way Collection of Steamboat Images. This significant collection of more than 9,500 negatives documents riverboats that plied the Mississippi River and its tributaries (principally the Ohio River) from the mid 19th century through the later 20th century.
The collection includes images of both packet boats (passenger and freight boats operating on a schedule between two main terminals, as well as ferry boats, excursion boats, and lighthouse tenders) and towboats (work boats involved in moving bulk freight in barges). Roughly 55 percent of the collection contains images of packet boats, about 25 percent is devoted to towboats, and the remainder represents showboats, people, Civil War gunboats and other miscellany.
Fred Way (1901-92) was active in riverboat work in his early career as pilot and master on boats working the Ohio River and its tributaries. Although he never gave up life on the river, he eventually devoted himself to becoming a writer, publishing books about life on the river, such as The Log of the Betsy Ann (1933), Pilotin’ Comes Natural (1943), and Saga of the Delta Queen (1951), and indispensible reference books on riverboats, culminating in Way's Packet directory, 1848-1983: passenger steamboats of the Mississippi River system since the advent of photography in mid-continent America (1983) and Way's steam towboat directory (1990).
Way was also publisher of the Inland River Record, an annual compilation of boats operating on inland waters, until 1976. He served as president of the Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen from 1941 until his death in 1992, and for many years edited its journal, the S&D Reflector.
Way began photographing riverboats as a youngster in 1914 and these images were invaluable in his many publishing pursuits. Way continued developing his collection of riverboat photos and the Steamboat Photo Company was organized to provide prints to the public. He began expanding his collection of images in 1939, combining photographs he had taken himself, with copy negatives of images of over a dozen other photographers. Comprised largely of photographic negatives in 5-inch-by-7-inch or postcard size, the collection includes both film and glass plate media.
“The Way Collection is an amazing addition to the Special Collections of the Legacy Library at Marietta College,” said Dr. Douglas Anderson, Director of the Library, “and it substantially augments the number of riverboat images we have in our other photograph collections relating to the history of Marietta, Ohio, an important and early river town at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers.”
Joseph W. (Woody) Rutter ’48, Fred Way's son-in-law, donated the collection to Marietta. Rutter was involved with the collection from its earliest days helping to organize it and duplicate photos for the Steamboat Photo Company as a way of earning some income while in high school and college.
Woody Rutter followed in his father-in-law’s footsteps to become editor of the S&D Reflector, 1993-2006, and president of the Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen, 1993-2005. He is also the author of Wreaking Havoc: A Year in an A-20, telling the story of his experiences in the Army Air Forces during World War II.
These resources, as well as many others, are available for research to students and faculty of Marietta College and to members of the community. For more information or to schedule an appointment for researching these materials, please contact: Linda Showalter, Special Collections Associate, Marietta College Library, (740) 376-4545, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Marietta College Library encourages donations of historic materials related to events, individuals, and organizations of Marietta and Washington County, Ohio, and the surrounding area. For more information contact: Dr. Douglas Anderson, Director of the Library, Marietta College, (740) 376-4758, email@example.com.
Legacy Library is located on the campus of Marietta College, 215 Fifth St., Marietta, OH 45750. Special Collections hours are 9 a.m.-noon and 1-5 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday and by appointment on Monday and Friday. Special Collections is closed on Saturday and Sunday.