Becky Thatcher Riverboat

Deep River, Connecticut | C.1961

Photo Credit: Allie Marsh

Sporting smokestacks and three decks, the Becky Thatcher Riverboat looks as if it was plucked right off the Mississippi River during the late 19th century. Instead, the riverboat is very much a 20th century creation that travels the Connecticut River from the town of Deep River.

The origins of Deep River date back to the 1640s. Established by European settlers, the town began as a peasant village within the Saybrook Colony in Connecticut. In the early 19th century, small towns began to branch off of Saybrook, and the newly introduced railroad system started to connect these prospering towns throughout New England. By 1947, Saybrook changed its name to Deep River.

Deep River thrived as a shipbuilding and quarrying town and became the United States’ leading importer of ivory. From 1840 to 1940, as much as 90% of the world’s ivory came through Deep River with its primary purpose being to manufacture piano keys. The town grew so prosperous that it became known as “the queen of the valley”.

Two decades after the ivory trade closed, the 70-foot Becky Thatcher Riverboat was built. Designed as an 1870s-style Mississippi riverboat, passengers would board the ship from Deep River and take the Essex Steam Train back.

Today’s replica of the Becky Thatcher continues America’s longstanding riverboat tradition. These vessels once ruled the rivers in the 19th century. During the 1860s, even a young writer was inspired by his time working on steamboats when choosing his pseudonym, “Mark Twain” – a term used to note that a river was deep enough to navigate. Twain would later retire in Redding, CT, only an hour west of Deep River.

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