Monday, February 15, 2016

Gold in the Hills and the "Sprague"

Two weeks ago, I wrote about the rusting remains of boilers and parts of the great Mississippi River towboat Sprague. The Vicksburg Theatre Guild (VTG) staged its famous melodrama, "Gold in the Hills," on the Sprague for decades, until a fire in 1974 forced the VTG to move to shore. A good friend loaned me the Gold program booklets from 1959 and 1960, which contained some interesting photographs.
This is the Sprague at an unknown location underway with steam power. She was decommissioned as a towboat in 1948 partly because steam plant required heavy maintenance and large crews, while diesel power was much lower maintenance.
Sprague was built in Dubuque, Iowa, in 1901 for the Monongahela River Consolidated Coal and Coke Company. To celebrate Pittsburgh's bicentennial, Sprague was towed to the Monongahela River in 1958 and refurbished. The crew and cast performed Gold to sold-out audiences.
This is the Sprague moored on the Monongahela River in Pittsburgh. Our inland waterway system is one of the world's great transportation systems, but it is a resource that we have neglected and insufficiently maintained. Sound familiar?
"Gold in the Hills" was very popular with Pittsburgh audiences.
This is a note about some of the original cast of "Gold in the Hills."
This describes some of he renovations done in Pittsburgh to the "Big Mama" (click the figure to enlarge it to see the text).
This is one of the actresses from "Gold on the Hills," standing somewhere on the Sprague, approx. 1956. This is my friend who loaned me the program booklets.
In 1960, planning was underway to dredge and build the Vicksburg Harbor Project. This artist's rendering was in the 1960 program booklet.

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