Book Illustrations, Page 2

German Huck Finn title page steamboat landing Horst Lemke EXP

Charmin' double title page illustration by Horst Lemke for a 1964 German edition of Mark Twain's HUCKLEBERRY FINN.

steamboat illustration

On the left is page 89 of the first edition of Mark Twain's LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI (1883) with an illustration of the pilot house aboard the ALECK SCOTT when the young Sam Clemens was "learning the river" from Horace Bixby. Thirty two years later (1915) cartoonist Harold Tucker Webster did a "spin off" of both the illustration and "Mr. Bixby" by basing his cartoon on the drawing by John J. Harley of the pilot house interior for one of his single panel cartoons in the series "THE THRILL THAT COMES ONCE IN A LIFETIME."

Webster followed the details very closely but added the strangely dressed boy at the wheel, Mr. Bixby, whose goatee also originated in illustrations of the pilot in LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI. The lanky galoot on the "lazy bench" nicely fills out the empty space in the lower right. Webster's cartoon was reproduced in an issue of THE REFLECTOR some years ago. When scanning these pictures I sized them to approximately the same size in terms of the stove, pilot wheel and bench. Webster expanded the composition and altered the perspective slightly.

Danish illustratipons by Ib Spang Olsen for Livet på Mississippi NEW for NORI

Three examples of Danish illustrator Ib Spang Olsen's [1921 - 2012] carefully-researched illustrations for an edition published in Denmark entitled "Livet på Mississippi" (a translation of Mark Twain's "Life on the Mississippi") which was first published by Centrum in 1979.

On the left is Captain Leather's steamer Natchez about to make a landing. Upper right is a boy sitting on a capstan, below him be a drawing apparently based on a photo of the sternwheel of a later-day towboat.

Olsen's rough & ready style is humorous & whimsical, well suited to Sam Clemens' stories of the time he spent on steamboats.

recent acquisitions

Photo of Captain Cooley's cotton packet AMERICA was the inspiration for one of artist John Rose's illustrations in a 1982 edition of Mark Twain's ADVENTURES OF HUCKLEBERRY FINN. Looks like the crew of roustabouts were carrying sacks of grain up the "stage" to the deck of the AMERICA. The Mississippi looks like pink lemonade . . . such a rosy shade. Handling of sky and smoke is nice.

recent acquisitions

An illustration of Captain Sellers' grave from Mark Twain's LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI and a photograph of it taken during the 1930's.

Clemens claimed to have "stolen" the pen name "Mark Twain" from Captain Sellers but no surviving newspapers published in St. Louis or New Orleans during Sellers' lifetime have articles on "River News" that were signed "Mark Twain." Why Clemens would accuse himself of purloining another man's nom de plume if it wasn't true is puzzling although he was prone to invent things in his "non-fiction" and autobiographies to make what he must have assumed "made a better story."

Below are the first and last paragraphs from Chapter 50 of Mark Twain's LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI, {1883}. The paragraphs in-between the ones below include more about Sellers' life and Clemens' supposed "borrowing" of the pen name "Mark Twain" from the veteran riverman.
"We had some talk about Captain Isaiah Sellers {1802 - 1864}, now many years dead. He was a fine man, a high-minded man, and greatly respected both ashore and on the river. He was very tall, well built, and handsome; and in his old age-- as I remember him--his hair was as black as an Indian's, and his eye and hand were as strong and steady and his nerve and judgment as firm and clear as anybody's, young or old, among the fraternity of pilots. He was the patriarch of the craft; he had been a keelboat pilot before the day of steamboats; and a steamboat pilot before any other steamboat pilot, still surviving at the time I speak of, had ever turned a wheel. Consequently his brethren held him in the sort of awe in which illustrious survivors of a bygone age are always held by their associates. He knew how he was regarded, and perhaps this fact added some trifle of stiffening to his natural dignity, which had been sufficiently stiff in its original state.

. . . The captain had an honorable pride in his profession and an abiding love for it. He ordered his monument before he died, and kept it near him until he did die. It stands over his grave now, in Bellefontaine cemetery, St. Louis. It is his image, in marble, standing on duty at the pilot wheel; and worthy to stand and confront criticism, for it represents a man who in life would have stayed there till he burned to a cinder, if duty required it."

Sideny Riesenberg illustration of Mark Twain
Sidney Riesenberg's illustration of "Mark Twain the riverboat pilot" where you'll see red spots before your eyes on his green shirt. Nice stripe'd awning up front which I haven't seen on a pilot house elsewhere. Cleanest "spittoon" you've ever seen there too.

This eye popper was painted for:

by Joseph Lewis French
Published by Milton Bradley, 1929

All together nineteen American "pioneers" were given the juvenile biography treatment including Lewis and Clark, Kit Carson, Daniel Boone, John C. Fremont, Charles Lindbergh, and 12 others.

German Life on the Mississippi Klaus Ensikat steamboats dot com 80 percent for NORI

One of Klaus Ensikat's illustrations for Mark Twain's LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI. (With name of this website added!)


Detail from the fly leaf color illustration of Fred Way's BETSY ANN painted in a combination watercolor and opaque technique by British artist John Worsley for a 1984 Exeter Books abridged addition of Mark Twain's TOM SAWYER. We have another illustration by Worsley of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn at a steamboat landing, along with the 1853 daguerreotype of the St. Louis levee that the artist used as reference.


George Washington Cable was a prominent Louisiana writer who wrote fact and fiction about New Orleans and all classes of Southern society, most notably the Creoles. Cable and Mark Twain went on a lecture tour together in the U.S. together during late 1884 and 1885.

Cable's 1914 Mississippi steamboat novel GIDEON's BAND was illustrated by Frederick C. Yohn who illustrated other steamboat stories in periodicals and many paintings of scenes of the American Revolution including, his best known work was of Washington at Valley Forge.

Attached one of Yohn's beautiful illustrations for Cable's novel, this one set on the upper deck of the fictional steamboat "Votaress" with pilot house, starboard 'scape pipe, paddle box, "Texas" cabin and a part of the lower portion of the starboard smokestack. The colorful costumes of the six characters accurately evoke the flavor of that antebellum Southern world.

Below is text that I abridged from the first two chapters of the novel.

A Tale of the Mississippi
by George Washington Cable (1844-1925)
[Frederick Coffay Yohn] (1875 - 1933), NEW YORK



Saturday, April, 1852.

New Orleans, Louisiana . . . the Mississippi River

. . . this great sun-swept, wind-swept, rain-swept, unswept steamboat levee.

. . . along that mile-wide front . . . there were a hundred river steamers . . . you would behold with one sweep of the eye.

. . . letting themselves be unloaded and reloaded, stood the compacted, motionless, elephantine phalanx of the boats.

. . . their low, light-draught hulls, with the freight decks that covered them doubled in carrying room by their widely overhanging freight guards, were hid by the wilderness of goods on shore.

Hid also were their furnaces, boilers, and engines on the same deck, sharing it with the cargo.

But all their gay upper works, so toplofty and frail, showed a gleaming white front to the western sun.

You marked each one's jack-staff, that rose mast high from the unseen prow, and behind it the boiler deck, high over the boilers.

Over the boiler deck was the hurricane roof, above that the officers' rooms, called the "texas."

Above the texas was the pilot-house, and on either side, well forward of the pilot-house and towering abreast of each other and above all else—higher than the two soaring derrick posts at the two forward corners of the passenger and hurricane decks, higher even than the jack-staff's peak—stood the two great black chimneys.

. . . More than half the boats, this April afternoon, flew from the jack-staff of each, to signify that it was her day to leave, a streaming burgee bearing her name.

A big-lettered strip of canvas drawn along the front guards of her hurricane-deck told for what port she was "up," and the growing smoke that swelled from her chimneys showed that five was her time to back out.

In the midst of the scene . . . lay a boat which specially belongs to this narrative.

A pictorial poster, down in every café and hotel rotunda of the town, called her "large, new, and elegant," and such she was in fair comparison with all the craft on all the sixteen thousand navigable miles of the vast river and its tributaries.

Her goal was Louisville, more than thirteen hundred miles away. Her steam was up, a velvet-black pitch-pine smoke billowed from her chimneys, and her red-and-white burgee, gleaming upon it, named her the Votaress.



Her first up-river trip!

The crowd waiting on the wharf's apron to see her go was larger and included better types of the people than usual, for the Votaress was the latest of the Courteney fleet, hence a rival of the Hayle boats, the most interesting fact that could be stated of anything afloat on Western waters.

So young was she, this Votaress, so bridally fresh from her Indiana and Kentucky shipyards, that the big new bell in the mid-front of her hurricane roof shone in the low sunlight like a wedding jewel.

Its parting strokes had sounded once but would sound twice again before she could cast off.

Both pilots were in the lofty pilot-house, down from the breast-board of which a light line ran forward to the bell's tongue, but neither pilot touched the line or the helm.

For the captain's use another cord from the bell hung over the hurricane deck's front and down to the boiler deck rail, but neither up there on the boiler deck nor anywhere near the bell on the roof above it was any captain to be seen.


Artist Seymour Fleishman drew the illustrations for an abridged edition of Mark Twain's "Adventures of Tom Sawyer" published by Scott Foresman & Co. in 1949. For the fly leaves Fleishman drew a wonderful cartoon-style map of "St. Petersburg" (the fictional name that Mr. Clemens gave his hometown of Hannibal, MO in his Tom and Huck novels).

In the upper left quadrant Fleishman included Sam Clemens on a steamboat on the Mississippi with the initials of his pen name on the paddlebox. The maps on the fly leaves were printed in sepia toned lines over white and just for fun I added color to all the citizens, livestock, landscape, river and village buildings in Photoshop.

In this detail I also added an American flag with red and white stripes at the stern and a red star in the pennant on the jack staff on the bow.


With the exception of images credited to public institutions,
everything on this page is from a private collection.
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