We have come a long way!
Nostalgia is an interesting concept. It is a remembrance of a time past, but it undeniably glosses over the less appealing portions of those memories. There is a distinct difference between recreation and nostalgia. When it comes to travel on rivers such as the Mississippi, nostalgia and not recreation is the order of the day.
The American Queen was built in 1995 to follow the lines and interior décor of the romantic steamboats of the 1870s and 1880s. She is a faithful interpretation of the original designs. She is not, however, a recreation. The American Empress, which entered service in 2014, is also an authentic interpretation, but not a slavish recreation of a Pacific Northwest riverboat from the late 1800s.
A recreation, such as some of the buildings in Williamsburg, stays true to the original, eschewing modern conveniences and safety features. It would be illegal today to build a riverboat without modern lifesaving equipment, satellite navigation, fire-suppression systems and contemporary communications capabilities. Even if the original designers of the American Queen and American Empress had wanted to craft a faithful recreation of a 19th century riverboat, it would be impossible. Thankfully, technology has advanced far beyond that utilized on the original riverboats and as a result, travel is infinitely safer.