“SHOW BOAT” is neither history nor biography, but fiction. This statement is made in the hope that it will forestall such protest as may be registered by demon statisticians against certain liberties taken with characters, places, and events. In the Chicago portion of the book, for example, a character occasionally appears some three or four years after the actual date of his death. Now and then a restaurant or gambling resort is described as running full blast at a time when it had vanished at the frown of civic virtue. This, then, was done, not through negligence in research, but because, in the attempt to give a picture of the time, it was necessary slightly to condense a period of fifteen or twenty years. E. F.
Edna Ferber, Show Boat, Introduction
Most of Show Boat takes place between approximately 1875 – 1899. The book was published in 1926, so the period in question was well within living memory.
Throw a log on the fire: When does artistic license become just fudging with the facts?