On this day in 1927: The musical version of Edna Ferber’s novel “Show Boat” debuts at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York.
Ferber researched “Show Boat” not on the Mississippi River but on the N.C. coast — she had never even laid eyes on the Mississippi.
She heard about the James Adams Floating Theatre, a family-operated show boat that worked the mid-Atlantic coast, and in 1925 met the boat in Bath, on the Pamlico River, for its first stop of the season.
Ferber spent several days aboard the 700-seat boat. Her hosts, Charles and Beulah Hunter (“The Mary Pickford of the Chesapeake”) provided her a private bedroom, and the troupe regaled her with tales, which she took down on a yellow pad.
“Show Boat” scored enormous success not only as a musical (revived in 1994) but also in three movie versions.
On this day in 1863: Private D.L. Day, Co. B, 25th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, writes in his journal at Hills Point on the Pamlico River:
“This being an isolated post and several miles from any commissary or sutler, the officers feared it would be terribly infected with malaria; having regard for the health and welfare of the men, they prevailed on our assistant surgeon, Doctor Flagg, to order whiskey rations.
“Up went the order and down came the whiskey, and now the order is to drink no more river water, but take a little whiskey as a preventive. This will prove a terrible hardship to the boys, but the surgeon’s order is imperative.
“Commanders of companies deal out the whiskey to their men, consequently, I deal out to mine, and when I wish to reward any of my braves for gallant and meritorious conduct, I manage to slop a little extra into their cups. That keeps them vigilant and interested and gallant. Meritorious conduct consists of bringing in watermelons, peaches and other subsistence, of which they somehow become possessed.”