Sprague (towboat)

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Sprague, Vicksburg.
Builder: Peter Sprague
In service: 1902
Out of service: 1948
Nickname(s): Big Mama
General characteristics
Type: Towboat
Length: 276 ft (84 m)
Beam: 61 ft (19 m)
Draft: 7.4 ft (2.3 m)
Installed power: 2,079 horsepower (1,550 kW)
Propulsion: coal-fired steam

Sprague built at Dubuque, Iowa's Iowa Iron Works in 1901 by Captain Peter Sprague for the Monongahela River Consolidated Coal and Coke Company, was the world's largest steam powered sternwheeler towboat.[1] She was nicknamed Big Mama,[2] and was capable of pushing 56 coal barges at once. In 1907, Sprague set a world's all-time record for towing: 60 barges of coal, weighing 67,307 tons, covering an area of 6 12 acres, and measuring 925 feet (282 m) by 312 feet (95 m).[3] She was decommissioned as a towboat in 1948.


Mural of the Sprague on Vicksburg floodwall

After decommissioning, Sprague became a museum on the Vicksburg, Mississippi, waterfront. For many years the long-running melodrama Gold in the Hills was performed there.

The boat was wrecked and burned in Vicksburg on 15 April 1974,[4] and pieces still[when?] remain in Vicksburg, Mississippi.[5]

A model of Sprague is in the National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium in Dubuque, Iowa. The Friends of the Sprague organization sponsored a mural entitled The Big Mama of the Mississippi as one of the Vicksburg Riverfront Murals. It was dedicated on 23 March 2007.[6]


  1. ^ "The Builders". Features & Exhibits. National Mississippi River Museum & Aquarium. Retrieved 2010-11-26. 
  2. ^ "Big Mama". Pennsylvania Jack. Retrieved 2010-01-24. 
  3. ^ "Steamboat Navigation". Mississippi River Navigation. United States Army Corps of Engineers. Retrieved 2010-01-28. 
  4. ^ "A Mississippi Sidewheeler Is Burned at Her Moorings". The New York Times. 17 April 1974. Retrieved 2012-12-18.  (subscription required)
  5. ^ "Remains of the SPRAGUE". Steamboats.org. Retrieved 2010-11-26. 
  6. ^ "Vicksburg Riverfront Mural "The Big Mama of the Mississippi"". Retrieved 2012-12-18.