The showboat, Dixiana, passes under the Michigan Ave Bridge, 1937, Chicago.
The floating nightclub, which had been permanently docked at Diversey and Logan, was scheduled to present the play, Tobacco Road, which was banned by Mayor Kelly after he had deemed it obscene. To get around this, the owners moved the boat into Lake Michigan to avoid persecution. Unfortunately, this would be the demise of the Dixiana:
From What’s New LaPorte:
In May 1937, the Dixiana was dedicated to a cruise of the Great Lakes with cast and crew of the production “Tobacco Road” aboard.
Mayor Kelly of Chicago, after seeing the play, termed it “a mass of outrageous obscenity” and banned it from the Windy City. The play was closed by order of the mayor. So the show took to the water. The first engagement of “Tobacco Road” aboard the showboat was scheduled for Michigan City on Friday night, May 28, 1937.
The showboat was to be moved from the Diversey Parkway location in Chicago to Navy Pier in the same city on Monday, May 24, then towed to Michigan City on Tuesday the 25th.
“Buffeted by wind and wave on its lake journey, the Showboat Dixiana held together long enough to get from the Chicago River to the harbor in Michigan City, Ind.,” the press reported. “Then, after it was tied up at the dock and the two towing tugs prepared to return to Chicago, the showboat’s seams opened and it listed over on its side. The Dixiana was there, half submerged, last night as owners sought a way to raise the craft. They said they would have to postpone the scheduled opening Friday night of ‘Tobacco Road,’ the play banned in Chicago by Mayor Kelly.”
It was announced that the boat would be raised immediately and naval architects would attempt to recondition it for a projected cruise of Great Lakes ports. The “Tobacco Road” company would be kept intact until the work was completed. The production was to reopen Friday, June 11.
On Sunday, July 4, 1937, the U.S. Naval Reserve boat Hawk accidentally rammed the Dixiana. The crash occurred when a control stuck on the Hawk, preventing it from changing course. The company of actors, after viewing the wrecked stage and scenery, left for New York.
The show did, eventually, go on.
On Saturday, Sept. 11, 1937, the Dixiana, battered by the surge of the harbor waters, sank again in Michigan City. It had a gaping hole in its side, caused by ramming the docks in the heavy surge. The Dixiana finally appeared doomed to failure as park officials declared that they would not allow the boat to moor in the basin any longer.
It was impossible to permanently repair the boat in the harbor. By November, the Dixiana was being dismantled further up in the Michigan City harbor. Its misfortune was still not over, though — one final blow occurred Nov. 27 when a seaman working on the boat slipped from the gangplank and drowned in the harbor.
Thus, the final curtain finally fell on the doomed Showboat Dixiana.