The largest and most powerful sternwheel towboat ever launched (318 feet long, 61 feet wide), the steamer Sprague, was constructed in 1901 by the Dubuque Boat and Boiler Works in Iowa for the Monongehela River Consolidated Coal and Coke Company.
The Sprague broke the record for towing when, in 1907, it pushed the largest tow of barges handled by a steam-powered vessel-60 units, 1,125 feet long, 312 feet wide, and 67,307 tons. Unfortunately it also broke the record for the most tows lost- 53,200 tons of coal above Osceola, Arkansas.
In April 1927, the steamer transported human cargo during the massive Mississippi River flood, rescuing an estimated 20,000 people, bringing them to Vicksburg.
In 1948, the steamboat was decommissioned at Memphis having traveled a distance equal to forty times around the equator and was to be scraped. A reprieve came from the citizens of Vicksburg who purchased the Sprague for use as a floating theater for the melodrama Gold in the Hills and as the home of a river-related museum and the Vicksburg Yacht Club.
Affectionately called "Big Mama," the Sprague burned in 1974 and eventually sank in 1979.
Sponsored by Friends of the Sprague