Mississippi River Culture
The great Mississippi River, a cultural melting pot,
Generations of inspirations continuously sought.
Pirates, pioneers, people enslaved,
Their thoughts, their feelings, their lives were engraved.
The workers, the travelers, those who leisurely rowed,
Each had their own takeaway from the river that flowed.
The music, the food, the activities, where do I start?
Each aspect of culture plays its own part.
Tunes heard were a genuine state of contrasts.
Put Rock n’ Roll, Jazz, and Kentucky Blue Grass on the broadcast.
Cook some fried chicken, fried okra, and then the collard greens,
The food of the Mississippi was my favorite cuisine.
The diversity brought together by the water always to be recognized,
The great Mississippi River, the water Americans forever idolize.
Music of the River
Creedence Clearwater Rvival
Hank Williams III
This series of three images documents the notion of the river as an obstacle that needs to be crossed. The first image, taken in 1899, shows a traveler crossing on a frozen section of the river. Prior to the construction of bridges, this was one of the few methods of crossing the Mississippi River. In 1874, the Eads Bridge was constructed as the first bridge to cross the river into St. Louis and was an engineering marvel in its time. After this bridge’s construction, the notion of the river being an obstacle to man began to fade. Today, bridges such as the Clark Bridge in Alton are seen up and down the river and are the most common manner of crossing the river.
These four images showcase the namesake of the project: meanderings. This map from 1811 directly corresponds to the aerial photographs taken a century later in 2019. As the river flows south of St. Louis, the channel can be seen snaking through the countryside in both the map and aerial photographs.
This first image illustrates the riverfront of St. Louis in 1935. This picture provides a perspective from the Missouri side of the river looking towards the east. The image illustrates how residential neighborhoods ran right into the industrialized downtown of the city. In this image, the industrial center St. Louis runs right into the riverfront. The second image of the St. Louis riverfront was taken in 2019. When in comparison with the previous picture, the industrial center of St. Louis has slightly receded from the riverfront on the Missouri side, but has greatly expanded on the Illinois side of the river. Instead of industry dominating the riverfront, St. Louis has emphasized the importance of public parks and recreation along the river.
Over the course of several centuries, river transportation has progressed dramatically. Man’s description of river travel has seen a corresponding shift with advancement in river travel technology. In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, river travel was long, strenuous labor. It took weeks to travel downriver and months to travel upriver on the flatboats such as the one pictured in the first image. Later, steam power and steamboats, such as the one pictured in the second image, became the dominant method of travel on the river. While steamboat travel was fast and cheap, it came with associated risks. Steamboat travel could be extremely dangerous. It was not uncommon for the boilers to explode from too much pressure. These explosions proved rather fatal. By the middle of the twentieth century and into the twenty-first century, however, river travel became a place of leisure and recreation. In the third image, multiple recreational boats are seen on the river as travel has become relatively safe and enjoyable.
Since the river began to be settled, it has been a prime location for trade. This series of four images documents the development of trade on the river over the last two centuries. In the early nineteenth century, the growing, shipping, and selling of cotton dominated river commerce. The first three images illustrate the importance of cotton and steamboats to the nineteenth-century American economy. The fourth image demonstrates a shift from an economy of cotton and steamboats to an economy of grain, coal, and barges. Today, the river is still a major commercial enterprise. Barges dominate river traffic from New Orleans up to Minneapolis. The goods being shipped and technology used on the river have changed and evolved as time has progressed from the eighteenth to the twenty-first century.