The Charles R. Cox
Old Boat Column

The Charles R. Cox

This towboat was originally built as the William G. Clyde. Constructed at Ambridge, Pa., in 1922 by the American Bridge Company, the vessel was completed at the Coal Valley (Pa.) marine ways. The steel hull measured 147.5 feet in length by 33.4 feet in width. Four return-flue boilers provided steam to condensing engines (rated 750 hp.), which had cylinders of 15 inches and 30 inches with a 7-foot stroke.

Owned by Carnegie Steel Company and under the command of Capt. Cal Blazier, the sternwheeler, in 1925, towed an excursion barge of dignitaries from Colonial Mine to Lock No. 7 and back to Brownsville on the Monongahela River. Notables on the guest list included Homer Williams, president of Carnegie Steel Company; Col. J.M. Schoonmaker, board chairman of the P&LE Railroad, John Bowman, chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh; W.H. Clingerman, president of the H.C. Frick Coke Company; J.B. Yohe, vice president of the P&LE Railroad; Gen. Edgar Jadwin of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers; Frank and Ralph Dravo of Dravo Contracting Company; Dr. Thomas S. Baker, president of Carnegie Tech; and many others. The towboat also brought two loads of steel products from Pittsburgh to New Orleans, marking the initial movement of this kind. Col. C.S. Holland, long an advocate of Intracoastal Waterway improvement, was on hand to witness the delivery in Houston on August 18, 1934, his dream realized.

While under charter to Mississippi Valley Barge Line, the Clyde exploded a boiler when upbound with seven loads on the Upper Mississippi River near Grand Tower. Capt. John Trail, the master, was blown high into the air along with the port smokestack; he was rescued and, despite being scalded and suffering other injuries, survived the ordeal. Other crew members aboard at the time of the explosion included Capt. O.E. Hines, pilot, who was a relative of Capt. Harry E. Hines of the U.S. lighthouse tender Willow; Charles Hardin was the off-watch engineer. The badly damaged boat was towed back to Coal Valley and rebuilt, coming out in 1938 as the James E. Lose.

The riverboat was renamed Charles R. Cox in 1948; it operated until 1960 and was dismantled.

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Towboat Calendar

Back by popular demand for the 18th year and just in time for the holidays, the 2019 Sternwheel Towboat Wall Calendar is now available. Printed on heavy card stock and suitable for framing, the calendar contains early images of towboats.

Dedicated to the memory of veteran riverman and longtime WJ staffer Dan Owen (1938–2018), the calendar features a specific boat each month along with its history. The boats featured for 2019 include Katydid, Patsy, Mildred No. 2, Mac, Helper, Harry Raike, Mae Belle, Liberty, Indian, Joe S., Dot, Jean, Hornet and Prosperity.

The cost of the calendar is $15.95 plus $4.50 for shipping. Add $1 shipping for each additional calendar. To order, mail check or money order to: Draftware Inc., 41 Ems W32, North Webster, Ind. 46555. Online credit card ordering is available at

Editor’s note: For questions or suggestions regarding the Old Boat Column, Keith Norrington may be contacted by e-mail at, or by mail through the Howard Steamboat Museum at P.O. Box 606, Jeffersonville, Ind. 47131-0606.

Caption for top photo: The Charles R. Cox underway with a tow.