We delve this time into the history of Great Lakes shipbuilders and, in particular, some of the shipyards which have long since ceased to operate but whose art is still represented by a last few remaining examples. In most cases, we are looking for the names of vessels which saw active service during 1979. although there are a few exceptions and these are all specially noted accordingly. We have not included any ships which remained idle through the 1979 season awaiting scrapping, nor tugs, nor hulls which have been reduced to scows, breakwaters, dock facings, etc.
1. One of the best-known lake shipyards in the years immediately prior to the turn of the century was that of F. W. Wheeler and Company of West Bay City, Michigan. Two Wheeler boats were still in service in 1979 and one of them was also the last operating survivor of the company which originally owned her, the Bessemer Steamship Company. Name her.
3. F. W. Wheeler and Company became insolvent in 1898, due to a strike of its workers, and was unable to complete construction of several vessels which had been ordered by Rockefeller's Bessemer Steamship Company. Rockefeller advanced a considerable amount of money to Wheeler in order to finance the purchase of engines for the ships so that the order could be completed. The American Shipbuilding Company was formed in March of 1898 and, in June of the same year, the Wheeler yard cast its lot in with AmShip. The result was the formation of the West Bay City Shipbuilding Company which was operated as a subsidiary of AmShip. Two steamers built by West Bay City are still in operation, both for American fleets. Can you name them? If so, how about another which has served as a storage barge for sixteen years?
4. The American Shipbuilding Company, which still operates shipyards at Lorain, Toledo and South Chicago, built many hulls at Cleveland during the early years of this century. The yard was reactivated for the construction of the Maritime Class (L6-S-A1) steamers BELLE ISLE (now CHAMPLAIN) and JOHN T. HUTCHINSON in 1942 and 1943. We would like the names of the last two self-propelled freighters surviving from the earlier years of AmShip's Cleveland yard. If you can identify them, try for the names of three other boats, one now operating as a major cargo barge and two being used as grain storage hulls at a Canadian port. And if you can name this trio, reach for the name of a passenger steamer, now idle, but for which there have been certain as-yet-unsuccessful plans of reactivation.
5. Another old shipyard is still represented by two operating reminders of its work, this being the Cleveland Shipbuilding Company. One of its survivors is the Duluth, Missabe and Iron Range Railway's steam tug EDNA G., built in 1896 and still in service at Two Harbors, Minnesota. Name the other vessel which, incidentally, is powered by the last active triple-expansion engine on the Great Lakes.
6. The Chicago Shipbuilding Company constructed many fine steamers but only one is still in active service. Name her, if you can, and then see if you can identify another example of the company's work, a boat which is presently in use as a storage hull at an American port.
7. During 1979, there remained in service only one vessel built at Superior, Wisconsin, by the Superior Shipbuilding Company. Now a member of one of the newer Canadian fleets, she was one of four nearly-identical ships, all built at different yards, which were the largest on the lakes at the time of their construction. Identify her and then give us the name of another of the yard's hulls, a smaller boat which did not run in 1979, nor for the past several years, but which is presently being rebuilt for a return to service in 1980.
8. The Detroit Shipbuilding Company operated a very busy shipyard at Wyandotte, Michigan, for many years. Two steamers which were built on its ways are now amongst the oldest vessels operating under the Canadian flag. Which are they? One further Wyandotte-built steamer "operated" in 1979 with other than her own power and using compressed air to run her winches and blow her steam whistle. Who is she and what was she doing?
This little test should give our fellow historians something to exercise their memories and their capabilities as detectives. Perhaps, also, it will keep them busy during the coming holiday season. Look for the answers in the January issue, and for further brain-teasers of this type in future issues.
Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.