These resources on the history of Australian river shipping (coastal and inland) are available in the museum library. The guide also suggests excellent resources online and further afield.
New South Wales
Paddle boats of the Murray-Darling river system
Brian Marshall. Melbourne. Mercury, 1988.
An excellent photographic coverage of the inland river ships with a detailed data list.
The river trade: Wool and steamers
G. Painter. Sydney. Turton & Armstrong, 1979.
A concise description of the cargo trade on the inland rivers featuring photographs from the Godson collection, State Library of South Australia.
Ian Mudie. Melbourne. Sun Books, 1961.
One of the earliest discussions of life along the rivers and on the river ships.
Allan Morris. Echuca. A.H. Morris, 1970.
First published in 1958, this book concentrates on the area of Echuca.
Redgums and paddlewheels
Peter J. Phillips. Melbourne. Greenhouse, 1980
Provides an extended pictorial view of the riverboats. Details vessels active in 1980.
The river boats
Ronald Parsons and Rod Williams. Houghton, S.A. R. Williams, 1992.
Ships of the inland rivers
Ronald Parsons. Gumeracha: R.H. Parsons, 1987.
In addition to providing a comprehensive alphabetical catalogue of river steamers this title also provides a good overview of the trade and features photographs from the collections of the State Library of South Australia.
Riverboats and rivermen
William Drage with Michael Page. Adelaide : Rigby, 1976.
Concentrates on the personal memories and activities of William Drage, who was born in 1901 and spent his working life on the rivers.
Paddle steamer captain: My life on the river
Jack Searles. Melbourne. The Marketing Shop, 1985.
The story of a life working on the rivers.
River boat days on the Murray, Darling, Murrumbidgee
Peter J. Phillips. Melbourne. Landsdowne Press,1972.
A well illustrated and readable history of the river trade.
Elsewhere in Australia
Paddle steamers of Australasia
R.H. Parsons and J.C, Tolley. Lobethal, S.A. R.H. Parsons, 1968.
Rare but very useful.
The wheels still turn: A history of Australian paddleboats
Peter Plowman. Kenthurst, NSW. Kangaroo Press, C.1992.
A good general history of paddleboats.
Sailing ships and paddle wheels and other Gippsland Shipping
J.C. Bull: Metung, Vic:. The Author, 1974.
The Mosquito fleet: Hawkesbury River trade and traders 1794-1994
Jean Purtell. Berwora Heights, NSW. Deerubbin Presss, 1995.
Hobart river craft and sealers of Bass Strait
Harry O'May. Hobart. Government printer, [n.d.]
Looking to buy books? Shop online in the museum store.
Australian Sea Heritage
Articles on the river steamers and the river trade appear fairly frequently. Also a good source of information on preserved vessels and vessel restoration projects through the regular columns.
- The National Library’s Trove website is the best way to source photographs drawn from some of Australia's largest collections and local history collections and newspaper articles from small country papers to large metropolitan dailies.
- The State Library of South Australia, the State Library of New South Wales and the State Library of Victoria have excellent country newspaper and photograph collections for research into the river trade.
- The Port of Echuca living history museum (and others like it) are great resources. To locate museums, try the Collections Australia Online (Archived site) site.
- Local historical societies in the areas concerned will also be valuable research tools. Find them using the Federation of Australian Historical Societies website.
- See the results of our Trove search on the river trade.
This guide was compiled with the assistance of maritime author Graeme Andrews.