The History Of The Mississippi River

Life on the Mississippi.  Pirates. River rats. Hustlers. Slaves. A new history looks at the American resonance of Old Man River.

In this July 13, 2012, photo, the Memphis Queen riverboat moves up the Mississippi River, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP)

In this July 13, 2012, photo, the Memphis Queen riverboat moves up the Mississippi River, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP)

Centuries, millennia, pass and the Mississippi River keeps on rolling.  But it changes.  And has changed a lot in this continent’s river-heavy history.  From mastadons and mammoths on the riverbank, to giant burial mounds, to American riverboats and pirates, gamblers and slaves, hustlers and haulers of a river of grain.

Historian Paul Schneider has taken his study right onto river – kayak-level – where you can smell it, sweet and earthy.  He’s traveled it in space and time.

This hour, On Point:  we’re going deep on the mighty Mississippi.

– Tom Ashbrook


Paul Schneider, author of “Old Man River:  The Mississippi River in North American History.”

From Tom’s Reading List

The Bend Bulletin: A lazy, historical steamboat ride down Twain’s Mississippi River — “We head up to the engine room to meet the captain of the boat, John Sutton. He’s been working as a river pilot for 32 years. It’s a job he describes as “hours and hours of boredom, punctuated by moments of sheer terror. ‘You’ve got to respect the power of the Mississippi River,’ he says.”

The Advocate: Farmer-fisherman exchange ties both ends of the Mississippi River — “They may speak differently, dress differently and make their living off the land in different ways, but the Barnyard to Boatyard Conservation Exchange gave farmers in South Dakota and fishermen in south Louisiana a chance to see just how connected they are.’

Excerpt: ‘Old Man River’ by Paul Schneider

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