People are fond of labelling periods of time according to the great historical events commonly associated with those years. Thus in the annals of lake shipping, the late 1960's will be known as the BoCo years, the era in which the American Steamship Co., under the direction of the late H. Lee White, engaged in a remarkable program of expansion, gobbling up the fleets of the Reiss Steamship Co. and the Gartland Steamship Co., as well as the smaller Red Arrow Steamship Co. and the Redland Steamship Co., and making efforts to acquire several others. So far, the early 1970's have seen the forced shrinking of the Boland and Cornelius empire, but this has been far overshadowed by the spectacular growth of the Kinsman Marine Transit Co. of Cleveland into a shipping power taking a back seat to none other.
Kinsman, now a part of the American Shipbuilding group headed by George M. Steinbrenner, is operated by his father, Henry, and has been in the news on many occasions over the last decade through the purchase of single, older ships that have been cast off by other owners. Indeed, its only large vessel acquisition was the absorption, several years ago, of the Buckeye Steamship Co.'s four steamers JAMES E. FERRIS, BUCKEYE MONITOR, LACKAWANNA and HENRY LALIBERTE.
However, the Spring of 1971 brought news that Kinsman had purchased three veterans, SILVER BAY, PETER ROBERTSON and HARRY L, ALLEN, from the Republic Steel Corp. Then it became known that Amship would build, at the Lorain yard, two stemwinding self-unloaders for Kinsman. Now, all within a two week period, the company has made two startling purchases. First, at the beginning of September, came word that American Shipbuilding had bought the entire lake operation of Litton Industries Inc., including the shipyard at Erie and the fleet of the Wilson Marine Transit Co. As a result, the Kinsman fleet was expanded by ten vessels, C. L. AUSTIN, J. BURTON AYERS, FRANK R. DENTON, J. H. PULLMAN JR., B. F. JONES, EDWARD S. KENDRICK, A. T. LAWSON, BEN MORELL, A. E. NETTLETON, and THOMAS WILSON.
Close on the heels of this announcement came the news that the U.S. Justice Department had approved the divestiture by American Steamship Co. of a number of units of its Reiss and Gartland fleets. American Shipbuilding is accepting, as partial payment for a new BoCo self-unloader building at Toledo, seven vessels which will now become part of the Kinsman fleet. The seven are CHICAGO TRADER, JOHN P. REISS, OTTO M. REISS, JOE S. MORROW, WILLIAM A. REISS, RAYMOND H. REISS and GEORGE D. GOBLE, but of these, RAYMOND H. REISS will apparently be resold to the Cleveland Cliffs Steamship Co. The involvement of CHICAGO TRADER in the "sale" results from a ruling that BoCo need not dispose of all the Reiss boats but may substitute equivalent tonnage. Thus BoCo will probably retain NICOLET, JOHN A. KLING, CHARLES C. WEST and RICHARD J. REISS, while disposing of J. L. REISS to the Erie Sand Steamship Co. and Gartland's W. E. FITZGERALD to Dwor Metals Ltd. (Marine Salvage Ltd). The former Redland steamer HENNEPIN and Boland's own UNITED STATES GYPSUM are currently awaiting disposal as are the Reiss units JACK WIRT and PETER REISS. Further operation seems unlikely for any of the latter four veterans.
Quite obviously, Kinsman's operations could hardly employ all the vessels which it will have in its fleet as a result of these deals. It seems likely that many will head for the scrapyard, although George M. Steinbrenner has mentioned the possibility of starting a Reserve Fleet. This would involve some vessels lying idle until needed, but being upgraded by repowering and rebuilding in order to be ready for use in emergency. For certain, we have not heard the end of the Kinsman expansion story but, come what may, this period in time will surely be remembered as the Steinbrenner Years.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.