The S. S. Admiral: Saint Louis Pleasure Boat

The following two articles were originally published in the fall of 1934 and the spring of 1935 in the Streckfus Steamers magazine. They have been graciously provided to the University by Suzanne Varnell.

She Draws Tradition Right Out of the Water

Postcard Image
Image courtesy Suzanne Varnell

St. Louis, Sept. 3 - It took a girl to substitute steel, streamlining, air-conditioning and functional furniture for the traditional “wooden gingerbread” of Mississippi River steamboats. Riding the river daily on excursions from St. Louis is a new giant, the $1,000,000 S. S. Admiral, largest inland steamer ever built in America, as modern as a streamlined airplane and as modernistic as a cocktail lounge. The massive boat, longer than an average city block, was planned from stern to bow, inside and out, by dainty Mazie Krebs.

It was a man's job for a girl. The Admiral was the second boat off Miss Krebs' drawing board. The S. S. President, which went into river service in 1933, was itself more than a hop, skip and a jump from conventional design. It was the first all-steel inland steamer.

Miss Krebs wandered into steamboat designing through her work as an advertising illustrator. One day she heard Captain Joseph Streckfus remark that his line was contemplating construction of a new boat of radical design. Miss Krebs went home and designed the President. She asked permission to submit her sketches, and Captain Joe consented, merely to humor her. Her plans turned out to be just what he wanted.

In 1936, when the Admiral first was conceived, Streckfus called her in. She planned and surpervised the construction of all exterior and interior details. The job took several years, but Miss Krebs said she was happier while working on the boat than at any other time in her career. She does her best work between 10 p.m. and 3 a.m. That explains what she calls her worst habit—sleeping late.

DeLuxe Excursion Boat is Bought by Streckfus

St. Louis, March 28 - A giant, air-conditioned, streamlined excursion boat—said to be the largest ever built for that use on American inland waterways—will be placed in service here next June by Streckfus Steamers, Incorporated. The vessel, a departure from conventional riverboat design also in that it is free of exterior decorative “gingerbread”, is 374 feet long— more than a city block—and has five decks, two of which are air-conditioned and three open.

Its steel hull is divided into 74 compartments, as many as 11 of which may be flooded with the boat still remaining afloat, according to the company announcement, made on its purchase of the vessel at an undisclosed price, from its builders, Steamers Service Company. The “steamer” had been a “mystery” boat during the two years it was under construction here. No name has been chosen for the vessel, but Capt. Joe Streckfus says there will be an official christening ceremony in the Spring.

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Suzanne Varnell, also known as FiddlinSue, lives in southern California with her husband and three children, and operates a website of her own where this and lots more interesting riverboat material can be found.

Visit FiddlinSue at rivermenandriverboats.aimoo.com.