Shantyboat History


George Bush was a multitasker.

He owned a shanty boat on the east end of Louisville’s Towhead Island in the early 1900’s. For part of the year, Bush worked at a factory and for the remainder of the year, he’d shell mussels. Nearby factories would buy the shells and turn them into pearl buttons.

Shanty Boats On The Ohio- Louisville's Lost Neighborhood.clipular

Bush was atypical for two reasons: he was an African-American living in Louisville’s mostly White shanty boat community, and because of the length of time he lived in the area — 18-20 years. In that stretch of time, most boat dwellers eventually drifted to other cities for work.

Shanty boats were a popular form of housing in the region from the 1850’s to the 1950’s. During that time, Bush was one of 50,000 people who lived on a shanty boat and called the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers home.

“The actual peak time — they were beginning to trail off in the Post World War II period — was the Great Depression,” said Mark Wetherington, senior research fellow at the Filson Historical Society. Wetherington recently led a talk at the Filson about shanty boats and what he calls “Louisville’s lost neighborhood.”

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Originally posted 2016-08-09 18:39:29.

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