Captain Alexander McDougall
Captain Alexander McDougall, inventor of the whaleback or monitor type of lake vessel, and founder of the American Steel Barge Company, at Duluth, is a man of great force of character and of rare ability as an executive. The head of the lakes, or in other terms Duluth and Superior, has been productive of many prosperous and substantial enterprises. Concerns which a few years ago were in their infancy or had passed a short time of weak existence, are to-day among the foremost in enterprise and prosperity, and their importance is recognized throughout the entire chain of lakes. The most prominent among these is the American Steel Barge Co., under the management of Captain McDougall. To have reached this prominence in the ship building industry with a wholly new type of vessel such as the monitor assuredly is in so short a time, required ability, perseverance, a consummate knowledge of business affairs, untiring energy, and, above all, unerring judgment. That these qualities were innate in the Captain is abundantly proven by his standing in the business world to-day. But for the tenacity of purpose and the unyielding determination which has been characteristic of all notable inventors, scores of prosperous manufacturing towns requiring the employment of vast numbers of skilled workmen, would not now be in existence. The cities of Duluth and Superior make a parallel. If Captain McDougall had not preserved his faith in the utility of his cigar-shaped vessels over a quarter of a century ago, and had not held to his convictions through all adverse criticism, the whaleback would not now have been an important factor in lake transportation, and it is possible that the denizens of those two cities would not have witnessed the launch of any class of vessel. Although the captain had conceived the design of his type of vessel as early as 1872, he had not been able to impart his confidence or accumulate sufficient funds to demonstrate the feasibility of his views until 1887, when his first barge 101 was launched, and her success as a seaworthy freight carrier soon determined the practicability of his theory. With a life-sized model in demonstration he was no longer considered a visionary, and in January, 1889, Eastern capitalists became interested in his invention, and the American Steel Barge Company was organized, a plant erected in Duluth and the construction of the whalebacks begun. Besides the other whalebacks constructed by this company, it owns thirty-five of all classes built on its own account, and one can more readily compute the value of this magnificent property when it is considered that they will carry 100,000 tons of cargo each trip, and making fifteen trips would move 1,500,000 tons during the season.
Captain McDougall first came on the lakes in 1861, and was made second mate of the passenger steamer Ironsides in 1863, plying to Lake Superior, and remained on her until July, 1865, when he transferred to the steamer Iron City as mate, holding that office until the spring of 1866, being then appointed mate to side-wheel steamer Illinois. His next office was mate on the steamer Meteor. In 1870 he was appointed master of the steamer Thomas A. Scott, holding that office until September, when he was transferred to the iron steamer Japan, which he brought out new, sailing her until the fall of 1875. The next spring he assumed command of the passenger steamer City of Duluth, operated by the Lake Superior and Lake Michigan Transportation Company, and sailed her successfully three years. In the spring of 1878 he was appointed master of the steamer Hiawatha, which office he held until 1881, when he retired from active ship life aboard and went into business in Duluth, and it was at this period that he perfected his plans for the production of the whaleback type of vessel, now so familiar on the lakes. He spent much time in travel on business lines in Europe, to secure his patents, the results of which may be read in another volume of this work. The only vessel which bears his name is the last addition to the fleet of the American Steel Barge Company, launched at their shipyard in West Superior in July, 1898, a whaleback in every way worthy of the honor of bearing the name of the inventor and promoter. This steamer was christened by his little daughter, Emmeline.
The family homestead is pleasantly situated in Duluth.
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This version of Volume II is based, with permission, on the work of the great volunteers at the Marine Captains Biographies site. To them goes the credit for reorganizing the content into some coherent order. The biographies in the original volume are in essentially random order.
Some of the transcription work was also done by Brendon Baillod, who maintains an excellent guide to Great Lakes Shipwreck Research.