Bailey Gatzert (sternwheeler)

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Bailey Gatzert near Cascade Locks, circa 1910.jpg
Bailey Gatzert approaching Cascade Locks, circa 1910
Name: Bailey Gatzert
Route: Puget Sound (several routes), Columbia River
Builder: J.J. Holland yard, Ballard, Washington
Launched: 1890
In service: 1890
Out of service: 1926
Fate: Dismantled
Notes: Reconstructed and enlarged 1907, later converted to auto ferry
General characteristics
Type: inland steamship
Tonnage: 276
Length: 177 ft (53.9 m), and after reconstruction, 191 ft (58.2 m)
Beam: 32 ft (9.8 m)
Depth: 8 ft (2 m) depth of hold
Decks: three (freight, passenger, boat)
Propulsion: sternwheel
Speed: 18 knots (approx. 20 miles per hour)

The Bailey Gatzert was a famous sternwheel steamboat that ran on the Columbia River and Puget Sound from the 1890s to the 1920s. She was named after Bailey Gatzert, an early businessman and mayor of Seattle. She was commonly called "the Bailey, or reputedly, by those rivermen who did not appreciate her large wake, the Daily Bastard.

Design and construction[edit]

Bailey Gatzert at Seattle circa 1891, with the Olympic Mountains visible in the distance
Bailey Gatzert approaching Cascade Locks from the west, 1901 (Benjamin A. Gifford photo)

The Bailey Gatzert was built at Ballard, Washington in 1890 by John J. Holland[1] for W.K. Struve and associates. Her dimensions as originally built were 177' long, 32.2' wide, and 8' depth-of-hold, and rated at 560 tons capacity.[2] She was launched sidewise and fully ready to steam. Immediately after launching, she was taken to Tacoma and back to Seattle on her first voyage. A handsome budget was utilized for her interior design, which was supervised by a British artist named Harnett.[1]

Operating history[edit]

Bailey Gatzert, drawing by Samuel Ward Stanton
Cover sheet to "The Bailey Gatzert March"

After her launch in 1890, her owners placed Bailey Gatzert on the run from Seattle to Tacoma and Olympia. One of her few rivals for speed on this route was the side-wheeler T.J. Potter. In 1892, the Bailey was bought by the Columbia River & Puget Sound Navigation Company, and transferred to the Columbia river, where she ran on the PortlandAstoria route, and, later, from Portland to The Dalles, on passenger runs and excursions. She was a popular boat during the 1905 Lewis and Clark Exposition, making two runs a day between Portland and Cascade Locks,[3] and a musical piece, the Bailey Gatzert March, was composed in honor of the vessel.[2]

She could travel from The Dalles to Portland in just over five hours.[3] She was reputedly called the Daily Bastard by those hit by the large wakes she caused, though the tale is not verified.[3]

First reconstruction in 1907[edit]

In 1907, the Bailey was rebuilt with a stronger and heavier hull, and engines from the dismantled Telephone, herself once considered a crack steamboat on the Columbia river. As rebuilt, the Bailey's dimensions were 194.3' long, 32.8' beam, 8' depth of hold, and rated at 878 tons.[2] The Bailey had also acquired the Telephone's steam five-tone chime whistle.[1]

Operations after first reconstruction[edit]

Bailey Gatzert continued to operate on the Columbia River, becoming well known as an excursion boat, under the ownership of The Dalles, Portland, and Astoria Navigation Company. After about 1915, the steamboat trade on the Columbia fell off sharply. In 1917, the Navy Yard Route, an affiliate of the Puget Sound Navigation Company, bought her and returned her to Puget Sound under tow[1] for use on the Seattle–Bremerton route, which was then booming because of war-related ship construction.[2] The Bailey Gatzert began service again in Puget Sound on April 18, 1918.[1]

Conversion to automobile ferry[edit]

In 1920, Bailey Gatzert was converted to an automobile ferry at Todd Shipyards in Seattle.[1] She was widened ("sponsoned out") and fitted with an elevator to load and unload automobiles, thus becoming the first automobile ferry on the Seattle-Bremerton route.[2] The vessel then carried about 25 cars.[1]

The Bailey Gatzert ran three daily round-trips and four on weekends, with R.B Holbrook as her first captain. Later, Captain Wallace Mangan, of the H.B. Kennedy, took his place. When Mangan was assigned back to the Kennedy, Harry Anderson took over as captain of the Bailey Gatzert, becoming the youngest master of the Navy Yard line. (Anderson later went on to become the operating manager of the Washington State ferry system.[1])

Final disposition[edit]

Bailey Gatzert was taken out of service in 1926, and her hull was converted to a floating machine shop in Lake Union. Her nameboard and whistle were preserved however, at a museum in Seattle.[2]

Depiction on postage stamp[edit]

In 1996, the Bailey Gatzert was honored by being depicted on a U.S. postage stamp.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Kline, M.S, and Bayless, G.A., Ferryboats -- A Legend on Puget Sound, at 88-89, 232, and 309, Bayless Books, Seattle, WA 1983 ISBN 0-914515-00-4
  2. ^ a b c d e f Newell, Gordon, R., ed., H.W. McCurdy Marine History of the Pacific Northwest, at 291, Superior Publishing, Seattle, WA 1966
  3. ^ a b c "Bailey Gatzert (sternwheeler)". The Oregon Encyclopedia. 

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  • Bailey Gatzert at a landing (old tinted postcard) This image shows how even the largest sternwheeler could make a landing any almost any bank along the river. Sidewheelers required docks, which made them undesirable and very few were built after about 1865.
  • Bailey Gatzert in Cascade Locks This photograph shows clearly the details of the steamer. It is (misdated as 1926; it cannot be later than 1917, the latest date the steamer was on the Columbia River.