The Julia Belle Swain, Belle of Louisville and Delta Queen offer a group hug to the Mississippi Queen. Here is a quote about this photo from the July 1975 edition of ONA Horizons, publication of Overseas National Airways:
Mississippi Queen Christened: The first christening in 49 years of an overnight passenger steamboat took place when the Delta Queen Steamboat Co., ONA's subsidiary, christened the Mississippi Queen on April 30 at the Louisville Public Wharf. Congresswoman Leonor K. Sullivan (D-Mo.) a good friend and strong supporter of steamboat tradition, was an honored guest and performed the actual christening of the new sternwheeler. John Warner, Chief Administrator of the American Revolution Bicentennial Administration (ARBA) presented Steedman Hinckley with ARBA flags for both the Delta Queen and the Mississippi Queen and with certification that both sternwheelers are ongoing parts of the American experience. Representative Sullivan read a letter from President Ford; he wrote, "As a sister ship of the Delta Queen this steamboat is a tribute to the heritage of America's inland rivers."
Greene Line Steamers holds a press conference to announce boat construction. Publicity photo shows Bill Muster and Congresswoman Leonor K. Sullivan (center), flanked by two ONA executives, Stedman Hinckley and (?).
Invitation to the christening of the Mississippi Queen.
Special thanks to Vicki Webster for this document. Vicki worked in the White House as the Save the Delta Queen liaison under President Richard Nixon and was present at the christening ceremony, where she recalls Congresswoman Leonor K. Sullivan broke a bottle of champagne on the bow with great effort.
Mississippi Queen Christening Champagne Bottles
The full-size bottle (top) and mini bottle were given out to VIPs at the christening. These survive unopened, and jpgs were donated by Patricia Young (full size bottle) and Dick Hardwick (miniature bottle).
Editor's Note 2010: New information has come out about the Mississippi Queen. The boat has been decommissioned and is allegedly now sitting in a boatyard in Texas being disassembled. See more about the demise of the Mississippi Queen - click here (at this site).
A letter from Betty Blake:
Dear River Friends,
All of us here at the Delta Queen Steamboat Co. wish to extend a warm and heartfelt thanks for your friendship and support of the Delta Queen through the years.
The Mississippi Queen is ready to sail, and we want to share with you the pride and pleasure in this magnificent new steamboat.
She is a tribute to all the fine people who treasure the great heritage of our Western rivers.
The company had a contest to choose the boat's name.
Steamboat lore: it is alleged the CIA air-ops operation, known as ONA, purchased Greene Line Steamers to launder money!
It's an established fact - ONA was a covert CIA Air Ops company. Their main business was to fly troops and supplies into Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. However, to keep their status as a civilian airline, they also flew civilian tourist groups on chartered flights to Europe. To dispose of the money they earned from civilian flights, they bought the Delta Queen Steamboat Company.
The company had architectural plans for the Mississippi Queen, but when ONA took over, they made the boat bigger and badly designed, and sunk a lot of extra money into it. It was a total failure of a boat for the first few years, but then later some smart engineers fixed the problems, and the boat was accepted as a great, authentic paddlewheel steamboat.
Then in 2006, the Mississippi Queen fell into the hands of an anti-American CIA-related corporation that ultimately destroyed the boat. After the 2008 market crash, they went out of business and did their best to kill all the paddlewheel steamboats. The Mississippi Queen was the only one they succeeded in killing.
This would explain why Hinckley told Bill Muster (my father, president of Greene Line Steamers) to "stay out of it" with his suggestions about how to build the Mississippi Queen, and "just run the Delta Queen." My father quit because of the way ONA treated him and all the mistakes they made in building the Mississippi Queen. The boat was too big and went about $24 million over budget.
I swear on a stack of Bibles, our family never knew of any CIA connection. I flew with a friend to Europe and back on ONA in 1972. My father died in 1989 and would have told me Hinckley was CIA if he had known.
The Mississippi Queen was never meant to be functional - and it was not for the first few years of its life. If I had my way, I would purchase the MQ right now and put her back in the cruise business. I would build a CIA conspiracy theory museum onboard! - Nori 10/28/2007
Feedback from a family friend who was around when they were building the Mississippi Queen - 10/29/2007
I don't know anything about that and I don't think Betty [Blake], Bill [Muster] or [Richard] Simonton knew anything about that. From what I remember is that ONA was a charter airline taking groups of passengers to Europe, it may have been used for troop or military transfers but that was mainly a company I think was called "Air Lift."
Mississippi Queen blueprints - Editor's note - this is now a dead link, but at the time I copied the 354 .tiff files and could post them in the future. If you want to see the blueprints, contact the webmaster - click here.