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Encyclopedia Dubuque


"Encyclopedia Dubuque is the online authority for all things Dubuque, written by the people who know the city best.”
Marshall Cohen—researcher and producer, CNN

Affiliated with the Local History Network of the State Historical Society of Iowa, and the Iowa Museum Association.


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CALLIOPES. Joshua Stoddard, a Vermont farmer, invented the calliope before the CIVIL WAR and patented it in 1855. By observing that whistles, when hooked to steam, emitted different pitches, he developed the idea of mounting a set of them on a u-shaped manifold. A keyboard was installed at one end and either tracker rods or heavy wire linked the shafts of the various keys to their respective whistles. Before the name calliope was created, Stoddard referred to this instrument as a "steam-powered carillon." (1)

The first use of a calliope in the steamboat excursion business is believed to have occurred on the Hudson River in 1850. Mounted aboard the Armenia, a 212-foot craft, the calliope's sounds confused people on both sides of the river. The race to install calliopes began until finally the idea passed. Oddly, the Armenia was to first boat to remove the instrument amid claims it took too much coal to operate both the boat and the instrument. (2)

While railroads took much of the business away from steamboats on inland waters, the "Great Excursion Steamboat Age" was beginning. John Streckfus, head of the firm that dominated the industry for nearly a century, installed a calliope on his first excursion boat, the J. S. steamer. When the STRECKFUS STEAMBOAT LINE purchased four ships from the DIAMOND JO LINE in 1912, calliopes were installed on each during renovation. Calliopes were claimed to provide more advertising that dozens of posters or columns of ink in local newspapers.(3)

During the 1950s and 1960s, calliope music was rarely heard on the Upper Mississippi with the exception of the steamer, Avalon. Built in 1914, it was described as a three-deck passenger ship with one of the last seven calliopes in existence. (4)

Delta Queen Calliope--https://video.search.yahoo.com/video/play;_ylt=A0LEVoB1B8RUuCkAsvsPxQt.;_ylu=X3oDMTB0bnNvNDYyBHNlYwNzYwRjb2xvA2JmMQR2dGlkA0ZGQUQwM18x?p=calliope+%28youtube%29&tnr=21&vid=0A44E3CEFA356FAA03860A44E3CEFA356FAA0386&l=287&turl=http%3A%2F%2Fts3.mm.bing.net%2Fth%3Fid%3DUN.608044696702422858%26pid%3D15.1&sigi=11rk8o9o4&rurl=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3DqUrYiWUdDcU&sigr=11ba6gsk0&tt=b&tit=DELTA+QUEEN+Calliope&sigt=10k54b867&back=https%3A%2F%2Fsearch.yahoo.com%2Fyhs%2Fsearch%3Fp%3Dcalliope%2B%2528youtube%2529%26type%3Dmcy_omxmedia_15_04_ff%26param1%3Dyhsbeacon%26param2%3Df%253D4%2526b%253DFirefox%2526cc%253DUS%2526p%253Dmcy%2526cd%253D2XzuyEtN2Y1L1Qzu0EyE0EyE0BtDyC0CtGyCtAzytCtGyD0AtD0DtG0Azz0B0EtGzy0ByCyE0EtD0EyE0DtD0F0BtN1Q2Zzu0StCtCtCtAtN1L2XzutBtFtDtFtDtFtCtBtN1L1Czu%2526cr%253D1910902324%2526a%253Dmcy_omxmedia_15_04_ff%26hsimp%3Dyhs-fullyhosted_011%26hspart%3Diry%26ei%3DUTF-8&sigb=1c54lh5oa&hspart=iry&hsimp=yhs-fullyhosted_011



1. Swanson, Leslie C. Steamboat Calliopes, 1981, p. 6

2. Ibid., p. 8

3. Ibid. p. 13

4. Ibid. p. 15