(from the California
King & Queen of the River:
The Legendary Paddle-Wheel Steamboats
Delta King and Delta Queen from
Roaring Twenties to New Millennium
75th Anniversary Edition by Stan Garvey
River Heritage Press, Menlo Park, CA,
Revised edition 2002 , 274 pages, $15.95
Reviewed by Ruth Ellis
Special Collections Librarian,
Sacramento Public Library
History buffs—take note—you are in for a treat. King & Queen of the River is
a book to put on your “must read” list.
Native Californian author Stan Garvey has spent over 50 years collecting
memorabilia, photographs and articles on California’s historic riverboats.
When Mr. Garvey retired from Sunset Magazine in 1986 he devoted his time to
writing this fascinating and definitive book. This 75th anniversary edition
(2002) honors the boats’ 75 adventurous years: 1927-2002.
The book won the
Sacramento County Historical Society’s Award of Merit for Publication and
was a subject for an episode of California’s Gold on PBS.
Mr. Garvey takes from the days prior to the California Gold Rush and gives a
history prior to the building of the Delta King and Delta Queen. Woven into
the story is a look at life in California in the early days before the flood
of gold seekers arrived.
The building of the Delta King and Delta Queen is detailed and documented.
Garvey was able to interview both those who worked on the paddle-boats as
well as those who used them as a means of travel. From the 1920s until the
1940s these paddle-wheel steamboats traveled between Sacramento and San
Francisco on the Sacramento River. During World War II the boats were
painted gray and drafted into service with the U.S. Navy, carrying the
Another fascinating chapter deals with piracy in 1969. You must read the
book in order to discover what the real crime was and how famous trial
lawyer Marvin Belli became involved. After the war years the Delta Queen
went through the Panama Canal and found more fame as she traveled the rivers
of the heartland of America. Unfortunately the Delta King spent the next 40
years suffering fire, landlocking and sinkings.
Finally restored, it now sits proudly in Sacramento as a lovely floating
The appendix includes original specifications and a fine bibliography. There
is an outstanding index.