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They once plied the waters from West Virginia to Western Montana, from St. Paul to New Orleans. Before the coming of the railroads, the river steamboats were vital to the economy, agriculture and commerce of the United States. THE GREAT SHIPS traces the history of these uniquely American boats. See rare footage from the era when they were king, and learn the stories of the greatest riverboats ever built. Their legends and lore come to life through period accounts - including excerpts from Mark Twain's Life on the Mississippi - and interviews with leading historians. And see why these historic boats are making a comeback today. From their storied place in American history and folklore to a behind-the-scenes tour of a perfectly restored paddlewheeler and a nostalgic journey down the Mississippi, this is the definitive history of THE RIVERBOATS.