America's Lost Treasures: Episode 3 Facts

Video highlights from America's Lost Treasures


1. Around 1910 Louisiana outlawed paying employees with tokens only redeemable at a company’s commissary, but some employers developed other, similar payment schemes. One of these was to use tokens to indicate the amount of time worked, although these were often used as money. They would also issue the tokens to employees as an advance against future wages, redeeming them on paydays. The Federal Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 helped put an end to these practices.

2. Many different and diverse sources issued tokens, including Lumber Companies, Sugar and Cotton Plantation Commissaries, Bakeries, Dairies, Grocery and General Stores, Restaurants, Seafood packing Houses, Saloons, Bars, Brothels, Billiard and Pool Halls, Amusement Arcades, Military Bases, and Strawberry pickers. Tokens were also used by transportation companies on their bus lines.

3. Tokens were usually made of brass, bronze or aluminum, but cardboard and fiber were also used.

4. During the period from 1816 to 1848 steamboat explosions in the United States destroyed 230 boats and killed nearly 1,800 people.

5. On April 27, 1865, the steamboat Sultana sank into the Mississippi River when three of its boilers exploded, killing about 1,700 people. It was the worst maritime disaster in U.S. history.

6. One of the most opulent Mississippi steamboats was the 1878 J. M. White, It was 325 feet long, powered by 10 boilers—each 34 feet long—and had cylinders 43 inches in diameter. Its cabin stretched 260 feet, featuring chandeliers and a single piece of Belgian carpet 19 feet wide, and its hold carried 8,500 bales of cotton. It could easily carry 300 cabin passengers, 500 deck passengers, and 90 roustabouts. The boat burned only eight months into service.

7. Steamboat racing was a popular activity on the Mississippi River.  In 1870 the Robert E. Lee and the Natchez raced from New Orleans to St. Louis.  With a time of three days, eighteen hours, and fourteen minutes the Robert E. Lee won.

8. According to superstition, black cats were welcome on steamboats, but white cats were considered bad luck.

9. 80% of New Orleans was flooded after Hurricane Katrina.

10. Jazz music originated in New Orleans around the turn of the 20th Century.

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