When he sent us the winter lay-up report for Milwaukee harbour, Ed Schwartz of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, asked us about the old craneship WILLIAM H. DONNER which is lying at Milwaukee. We are happy to give a bit of the DONNER's history and hope that other members may also find it interesting.
WILLIAM H. DONNER (U.S.212354) was built in 1914 as a straight-deck bulk carrier by the Great Lakes Engineering Works, Hull 134 of its Ashtabula yard. The steamer measured 504.0 x 54. 0 x 30.0, 6311 Gross and 4843 Net. She was powered by a triple-expansion engine, 23 1/2", 38" and 63" x 42" stroke with steam provided at 180 p.s.i. by two coal-fired, single-ended Scotch marine boilers measuring 15'4 1/2" x 11'6". The engine was built by Great Lakes Engineering Works while the boilers were made by the American Shipbuilding Company.
DONNER, which always carried the same name, was built for the Mahoning Steamship Company, Cleveland. Mahoning was managed by the M. A. Hanna Company but 50% of its stock was owned by the Cambria Steel Company, a subsidiary of the Midvale Steel and Ordnance Company. Hanna's management of Mahoning ended in 1929 and the Bethlehem Transportation Company then took over as operating manager. Although still owned by Mahoning, DONNER operated in Bethlehem colours after this transfer of management.
In 1956, however, WILLIAM H. DONNER was converted to a craneship and her ownership passed to the Ore Steamship Company, a Bethlehem affiliate formed in the 1940s to operate the company's craneships. Ore Steamship's management was handled by Boland and Cornelius, Buffalo. The DONNER, once a craneship, was given a black hull, white forecastle and cabins, and an all-black stack.
WILLIAM H. DONNER was retired at the close of the 1969 season and was sold on February 5, 1970, to the Miller Compressing Company, Milwaukee, which used her as an unloading facility, retaining her deck cranes. This same firm also bought Ore Steamship's last craneship, CAMBRIA, which had been taken out of service late in 1970. CAMBRIA was also laid up at Milwaukee and used there with DONNER, but she was sold in 1973 for similar service at Norfolk, Virginia. The DONNER has carried on alone since, but we suspect that her condition must now be something less than first-class and we imagine that, before too many more years have passed, she will probably wind up at the end of a towline leading to a scrapyard.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.