One of the nation’s best-known collectors of steamboat objects and history, Ruth Ferris was a river and steamboat historian and writer. She was one of St. Louis’ most respected educators for over a half century. Besides her excellent scholarship, she traveled on the rivers recording her experiences.
As the first curator of the River Room at the Missouri Historical Society, Ferris wrote articles between 1940 and 1964 describing the history of St. Louis during the golden age of steamboats. Her collection of river objects and papers expanded out of her basement and into the River Room, followed by the Becky Thatcher Museum, and their final home at the Mercantile Library.
In 1966, Ferris was asked to design and curate a riverboat museum aboard the Becky Thatcher along the St. Louis riverfront. Her Midship Museum on the main deck was visited by thousands of tourists, friends, and former students, until her final retirement in 1970.
In her remaining years, Ferris continued to research, write, speak, serve as river consultant, and attend meetings of the Midwest Riverboat Buffs, the Hot Stove Navigation League, which she founded in the 1930s, and the Sons and Daughters of Pioneer Rivermen, of which she was honorary president.
The National Rivers Hall of Fame inducts Ferris for her contributions to collecting and preserving the culture of America’s rivers.