Ship of the Month No. 97 James B. Eads

Table of Contents

Title Page
The Editor's Notebook
Marine News
The Joys Of Patent Medicines
Lay-up Listings
Rothesay Revisited
Farewell To A Friend
The Invasion Of Toronto Harbour
Ship of the Month No. 97 James B. Eads
Additional Marine News
Table of Illustrations

After having featured lower lake vessels in these pages for several issues, we now return to the upper lakes for a look at one of the more historic steamers to have served there. We have, however, preserved a certain sense of continuity in that this vessel was once owned by the famous James Playfair of Midland, Ontario, a gentleman whose many contributions to the Canadian lake shipping industry were mentioned in our November "Ship of the Month" feature.

One of the more renowned shipyards of the Great Lakes, long since out of business, was the Globe Iron Works of Cleveland. This shipbuilding firm was responsible for the construction of many of the early steel-hulled lake boats, and some of its products were extremely long-lived, to say the least. Globe's Hull 53 was a steel 'tween-deck package freighter, completed in 1894 which was to survive for no less than 73 years. We have some idea of the longevity expected of recently-built lakers, but we have no notion how long the early builders, such as Globe, thought their vessels might last. We rather expect, however, that the shipwrights would have been most surprised if they had been able to return in the early 1960s and find that Hull 53 was still in operation.

This is JAMES B. EADS as she looked in the colours of the Bessemer Steamship Company, circa 1900.
The new steamer was built by Globe for the Globe Steamship Company, a subsidiary or affiliate of the shipbuilding firm. This may seem odd today, but it was not unusual for shipyards to build hulls to their own account during periods of depressed business conditions. It meant that the yard could keep its employees busy and would also have one or more ships that could probably be sold for a good profit when conditions improved. Such was the case with GLOBE, as she was appropriately christened, for, at the time of her construction, things were not at their best in the shipping industry and new orders for the yard were not plentiful.

GLOBE was launched on September 13, 1894. She was 330.0 feet in length, 42.3 feet in the beam, and 24.0 feet in depth, these dimensions yielding registered tonnages of 2995 Gross and 2278 Net. She was powered by a triple-expansion engine, built by the shipyard, which had cylinders of 24, 39 and 63 inches and a stroke of 42 inches. GLOBE was not a large boat by today's standards, but she was of a good size for package freighters of her day, considering the fact that the steel shipbuilding industry was in its infancy and the majority of the ships then running on the lakes were wooden-hulled and of much smaller dimensions.

GLOBE, enrolled as U.S.86307, was a typical package freighter of her day, equipped with 'tween decks for the carriage of general cargo. She was an impressive ship, built with a sweeping sheer to her deck and a beautiful flare to her bow. A flush-decker, her forecastle was level with the spar deck and her bow was enclosed only by a low wooden rail. Her large square pilothouse, four windows across its front, rose high above the rectangular texas and was surrounded by a railed walkway. The master's quarters were located in a small cabin set behind and below the level of the pilothouse.

She carried two heavily raked masts, one behind the bridge and one just forward of the boilerhouse. As was the custom of the day, additional accommodations for the crew were located in a "doghouse" set midway down the spar deck. GLOBE carried a large after cabin (originally separated from the boilerhouse), which was equipped with large windows but was unprotected from the elements by any overhang of the boat deck save for the small area beneath the two lifeboats. She had no closed rail around the stern, only a small open rail, and she kept this feature throughout her career, one of the last lakers to do so. The most prominent feature of her after end, however, was an exceptionally large stack, raked in proportion with the masts. The stack was not only tall, but also very thick, and it remained with her, albeit with the addition of a liner, for her entire lifetime.

For the 1895 season, the Globe Steamship Company itself operated GLOBE. Not much is known about her service during this period of time, but it would seem probable that she ran package freight between the upper lake ports and Cleveland and Buffalo. During 1896 and 1897, she ran under charter to a firm known as the Great Lakes Steamship Company (not to be confused with the later fleet of the same name), with Buffalo as her home port. The Great Lakes Steamship Company was managed by Gen. John Gordon and A. R. Aitken, and operated a package freight service between Buffalo, Cleveland and Manitowoc, connecting at the latter port with the Wisconsin Central Railroad. Gen. Gordon had previously been associated with the Northern Steamship Company and had been in charge of its Buffalo operations.

For reasons unknown to us, the Great Lakes Steamship Company ceased operations in 1897. GLOBE was returned to the Globe Steamship Company and ran in its service until she was sold in 1899 to Rockefeller's Bessemer Steamship Company of Cleveland. Bessemer immediately sent GLOBE back to her builder's yard for conversion to a bulk carrier for the iron ore trade. In the process, she was lengthened to 406.9 feet, and her tonnage increased to 3746 Gross and 2970 Net, in order to make her more suitable for her new duties.

It was Bessemer's custom to name all of its vessels for those men who had been leaders of industry, particularly those whose inventions had facilitated the mining and transportation of iron ore and its transformation into the steel that was building modern North America. Accordingly, GLOBE was renamed (b) JAMES B. EADS, honouring the native of the small Ohio River town of Lawrenceburg, Indiana, born in 1820, who was responsible for the invention of the diving bell and for the planning of many of the world's great harbours (including that of Toronto). Probably the most striking memorial to Eads is the bridge that he built between 1867 and 1874 to span the Mississippi River at St. Louis, a structure that still stands and bears his name to this day.

JAMES B. EADS served Bessemer well for the duration of the life of that company. It was in 1901, however, that she and the rest of Rockefeller's fleet were absorbed into the Pittsburgh Steamship Company, the lake shipping subsidiary of the United States Steel Corporation, a giant organization which had been put together by J. Pierpont Morgan and Elbert H. Gary. As a result, EADS became part of what was generally known as the "Steel Trust" or "Tinstack" fleet, and she remained in its service for a quarter of a century. The "tinstack" monicker, of course, came from the fact that the company's vessels all sported stacks which were painted silver, originally totally plain but later with a broad black smokeband at the top.

The life of JAMES B. EADS was generally uneventful, but 1915 was an important year for her. On June 7th, she was involved in a collision with the big package freighter CHICAGO on the St. Clair River. It was also in 1915 that EADS received two new watertube boilers which measured 15'4" by 11'6". Also, it was about this time, and perhaps whilst she was being repaired after the collision, that EADS received the second major rebuild of her career. She was given a raised forecastle, on which was placed a new texas cabin and, behind a fancy new closed bridge rail, a more modern pilothouse with a rounded front and exterior drop-slots for its three centre windows. As the new forecastle provided ample accommodations for the crew, her doghouse was removed from the deck, a change which also provided for less difficult loading and unloading of the boat. Some historians have suggested that EADS received this major reconstruction in 1920, but there is extant a good photograph of the ship taken by the Young Studio at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, in 1919, the date clearly visible, which shows the steamer with her new bow. It is true that EADS did go to the shipyard in 1920, but the work done at that time appears to have been limited to the reconstruction of her holds to conform to the more modern arch design.

JAMES B. EADS was a valuable unit of the Pittsburgh Steamship Company in the early years of the century, and frequently towed one of the fleet's many cargo barges. By the mid-1920s, however, she was considered to be excess tonnage as a result of the addition to the fleet of many newly-constructed steamers with far greater cargo capacity. Accordingly, she was sold in 1926 to the Nassau Dredge and Ship Company of Chicago. It might be assumed that Nassau purchased EADS with the intention of converting her to a sandsucker for use in the Chicago area, but such a conversion never took place and the company operated EADS briefly in the bulk trades.

It was in 1927, after very brief service indeed for Nassau, that JAMES B. EADS was sold to James Playfair's Great Lakes Transit Corporation Ltd. of Midland, Ontario, and transferred to Canadian registry as C.153126. She was painted in Playfair's usual colours, with a grey hull, white cabins and hull trim, and a red stack with black smokeband. She ran for Playfair in the bulk trades, primarily carrying grain, and seems to have done so quite successfully, with no serious mishaps occurring during this stage of her career.

James Playfair was a man of many interests and his influence extended into matters other than the shipping business. He was one of the founders of Toronto Elevators Ltd., the firm which built the large grain elevator that still stands just to the east of the foot of Toronto's Spadina Avenue, operated today by Maple Leaf Mills Ltd. It is not surprising, therefore, that Playfair was one of the first vessel owners to send upper lakers down the new Welland Canal when, in June of 1931, the new waterway was opened to boats larger than canallers. JAMES B. EADS made her first appearance in Toronto Harbour on June 16, 1931, with a cargo of grain, the first of many such cargoes that she was to bring to the port during a period of slightly more than three decades.

In 1935, EADS was transferred from the Great Lakes Transit Corporation Ltd. to an affiliate of Toronto Elevators Ltd. which was known as Norris Steamships Ltd., Toronto. The following year, she was again transferred, this time to the elevator company's main shipping subsidiary, Upper Lakes and St. Lawrence Transportation Company Ltd., Toronto. It was for this firm that she regularly operated in the Canadian grain trade for the remainder of the 1930s, as well as throughout the 1940s and 1950s. She could often be seen towing one of the company's barges, usually either GLENBOGIE or the whaleback 137. On those trips which took her to Toronto, she would normally bring a barge with her, leave it at Port Colborne for unloading whilst she passed down through the Welland Canal, and then pick up either the same barge or another one at Port Colborne on her way back upbound. The other upper lakers operated by the company usually ran the same type of service, most of them towing barges as well on a regular basis.

The Editor's camera caught JAMES B. EADS anchored in the Toronto Harbour during July, 1959.
By the late 1950s, JAMES B, EADS, with her beautiful but antiquated lines, was rapidly nearing the end of her useful lifetime, but there were other less useful boats in the company's fleet. Its canallers had been rendered obsolete with the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway and few of them turned a wheel after that event. One of the older canallers in the fleet was PARKDALE (I), one of the original "Wolvin" canal-sized steamers that, interestingly enough, had also sailed for James Playfair when she returned to the lakes after the First World War. She operated briefly for Upper Lakes and St. Lawrence from 1955 onwards, but was soon retired from service along with her sister GROVEDALE (I). She was eventually scrapped at Port Weller and to JAMES B. EADS fell the duty of towing the old PARKDALE from Toronto to the Port Weller shipyard. It was on August 10, 1959, that EADS cleared Toronto with PARKDALE lashed along her port side.

The EADS managed to keep out of trouble for most of her years with Upper Lakes and St. Lawrence. On September 30, 1960, however, she was involved in a collision with the craneship WILLIAM H. DONNER at Toledo. EADS did suffer some damage and she proceeded to Port Weller for the necessary repairs. She was not confined to the shipyard for very long and soon was back in the grain trade.

It was not long after the opening of the Seaway that the Upper Lakes and St. Lawrence Transportation Company Ltd. was reorganized as Upper Lakes Shipping Ltd. At that time, the company's red and black stack design, inherited from James Playfair's fleet, was altered by the addition of a white diamond with a black centre which was superimposed over the lower edge of the black smokeband. (EADS had originally carried a green stack with white band and black top upon entering the Upper Lakes and St. Lawrence fleet, but this design was soon abandoned in favour of the more familiar red and black colours.)

The reorganized company decided to inaugurate a package freight service between Toronto and the Lakehead in competition with Canada Steamship Lines Ltd. As EADS was growing older and did not have the cargo capacity to operate economically in the grain trade down the Seaway, she was chosen for the new service. She was converted to carry general cargo by the addition of a 'tween deck, the enlargement of two of her hatches, and the installation of cargo doors on her port side. A diesel-powered crane was mounted on deck at the beginning of the 1961 season and a second crane was added later. EADS entered the package freight trade officially on April 1, 196l, and thereafter could frequently be seen loading and unloading at Toronto's Pier 4.

Unfortunately, Upper Lakes Shipping's package freight service was not particularly successful and the aging EADS was no match for the modern boats operated by C.S.L. Consequently, EADS spent most of the 1962 season back on her old grain runs. In fact, she was never officially reclassed as a package freighter and retained her classification as a bulk carrier to the end of her days.

It was soon EADS' turn, however, to be relegated to retirement. She was withdrawn from service at the close of the 1962 season and passed down the Welland Canal on her last trip on November 25, 1962, with a cargo of winter storage grain for Toronto. She was unloaded over the winter and, in late March, 1963, she was towed across to Port Weller by the company's steamer L. A. McCORQUODALE. Strangely enough, McCORQUODALE had also come to the fleet from that of James Playfair and, as well, had briefly joined EADS on the short-lived package freight experiment. Like EADS, she had also been built originally as a package freighter.

JAMES B. EADS was laid up at the south end of the fitting-out berth above Lock One at Port Weller, and she was later sold to A. Newman and Company of St. Catharines for scrapping. During 1965 and 1966, she was gradually cut down towards the waterline, but work proceeded slowly and without any great enthusiasm. Then, in December of 1966, the last remains of the old steamer were floated into the Port Weller drydock, and there the dismantling was completed in January, 1967.

JAMES B. EADS was the first of Upper Lakes Shipping's larger steamers to be retired after the opening of the new canals, but she was soon followed by the other floating museum pieces which had comprised the fleet. Only one of the company's original upper lakers, MAUNALOA II, was still in service as the decade of the 1960s came to a close.

The EADS was an unusual boat, truly "one of a kind" as far as her appearance was concerned. Nevertheless, she had served all of her various owners well and had proved to be a credit to the skill of her builders.


Previous    Next

Return to Home Port or Toronto Marine Historical Society's Scanner

Reproduced for the Web with the permission of the Toronto Marine Historical Society.