Southeast Missouri State University

River Campus Mural

January 23, 2006 - February 15, 2006

      At last, the center section of the River Campus Mural is complete. This area took about forty-five days longer to complete than I thought; however, it is finished. If something happens to me that doesn't allow me to finish the mural, hope it doesn't, there will at least be a center section that can be framed as a stand alone work. Sandy has the instructions on how to make that happen.

       The reason for the extended time on my self-imposed deadline was the time it took to complete the foreground. I had thought I would be able to work up the foreground in a shorthand fashion with more of a suggestion of figures. That was not to be. It became very apparent I was going to have to buckle down and create each figure and these figures were going to have to relate to each other. Let's take a look at the crowd that turned out to watch the Robt. E. Lee and Natchez in the Great Steamboat Race of 1870. Yes, on July 3, 1870 at 10:45pm the Robt. E. Lee steamed past Cape Girardeau well in the lead of the Natchez. At this point, I would like to make a point about my depiction of this event. When I create works of art that depict historic events, I make every effort to make the works as historically accurate as possible. This is one of the few times I am taking "artistic license". When the Robt. E. Lee passed Cape Girardeau she was about an hour ahead of the Natchez. I depicted the Natchez within site. My reasoning? You can't have a race between two streamboats if you can't see both boats. So there you have it.

     Two of my favorite characters in the foreground are this father and son. They are standing on the river bank out-crop to get a better view. However, Dad has a firm hand on his son's shoulder.


       Yes, everyone is excited here. The family in the wagon is enjoying the event. However, an interesting interaction is taking place with the two gentlemen to the right. A great deal of money, some say up to two million dollars, was bet on this race throughout the country. Because the telegraph had just been invented and put into use on a large scale, wagers were made at saloons in New Orleans and updates to the race could be made by telegraph. Thus, the country's first off-track betting service. Bets like, who would make it to Natchez first, Vicksburg, Memphis, or Cape Girardeau. It appears the gentleman on the right made the right bet. The gentlemen on the left is handing over the cash.

Yes, everyone turned out for the event. A great time to visit and see two of the faster steamboats in the world pass by Cape Girardeau. The boats would achieve speeds up to twenty-three mile per hour upstream.


      It was a cool evening for July. Thus, a little fire for light and warmth. The evening was so cool the fog would soon begin to develop on the river. By the time the boats reached the Tower Rock area about twenty miles upstream, fog had set in. The Robt. E. Lee chose to run in the foggy conditions, something that just isn't usually done. However, it is a race you know. The Natchez decided to tie off. Thus, the cause of the six plus hour victory margin in St. Louis the next day.

What an excitment this had to be for the kids. Would this be Tom Sawyer with his pants legs rolled up at the edge of the river?

Race fans came in all sizes and all ages.

The Natchez never caught the Robt. E. Lee. As a matter of fact, she never lead the race at any time.


     The center section of the mural is complete. I will leave you with this journal entry viewing my favorite model, Snookie Dog. Note the inset drawing. Many people ask me what artists have inspired me. Well that list is long. However, I look for inspiration everywhere. You will remember my journal entry of 10-29-05 to 11-21-05 and a drawing by Evan Zeitzmann, 5th grade Borgia Elementary, Washington, Missouri? Well, as I said, I draw my inspiration from all locations. Thanks for your help Evan.


All the best to you,

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