The Postal Service issued a Steamboats commemorative stamp booklet on March 3, 1989, in New Orleans, Louisiana. The stamps feature five of America's earliest and most innovative steamboats: the "Experiment (1788-1790)," "Phoenix (1809)," "New Orleans (1812)," "Washington (1816)," and "Walk in the Water (1818). A booklet contains four panes of five designs each.
These boats and thousands like them provided an enduring symbol for the transition from an age dominated by eastern coastal interests to one marked by growth and westward expansion. Steamboats transformed uncharted waterways into America's first superhighways and helped impart, for the first time, a nationalistic feeling, even among settlers in the country's most distant outposts.
At one time, more than 11,000 paddle wheelers plied the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers alone. As competition for passengers became fierce, owners went to great lengths to attract them, building floating palaces and employing great chefs and even ships' orchestras.
Although railroads eventually supplanted steamboats, they remained an important mode of transport well into the twentieth century, as exemplified by the Delta Queen, which worked the Sacramento River until 1940. The Delta Queen, a National Historic Landmark, continued to travel the Mississippi River and its tributaries until 2008.
Designed by Richard Schlecht, the stamps were printed in the offset/intaglio process by the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.
Postal Bulletin (February 2, 1989).
Majestic America Line. "Delta Queen." http://www.majesticamericaline.com/products/Ship.aspx?ID=2.