An old building that is symmetrical with twin towers in the center.

Fayette – Fall 1963

The Great Lakes… 84% of the continent’s fresh water… a different story in every drop.

By Ernest H. Rankin

An old building that is symmetrical with twin towers in the center.

Fayette Blast Furnace

The little town of Fayette, with its snug Snail Shell Harbor, had every reason to believe in its future. The stacks of the two furnaces were blasting away day and night, the air at times being heavy with acrid gases and the night’s skies reflecting their red and amber flames. The harbor was alive with shipping, the schooners awaiting their turns at the long wharf to be relieved of their burdens of iron ore received at Escanaba’s great ore dock. Then they would take on a small, but heavy load of pig iron, consigned to Cleveland, where it would be converted into useful metal for commercial purposes. This the schooners could do from early spring until late in the fall, long after Lake Superior had become icebound. Fayette could only prosper and forge ahead, and given time, would soon surpass Marquette, and even Escanaba, as the metropolitan city of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

Fayette came into being, not by chance, but to fulfill a necessity, meeting the requirements as being the most favorable site for a proposed project. The Jackson Iron Company, its main offices in Cleveland, and its great iron mine, located near the present city of Negaunee, was producing far more ore than could be delivered to the market during the navigation season on Lake Superior. Ore came out of the mine all year around, but for five or six months of the year, due to the freeze-up of the lake, its shipment to the lower lake ports was impossible, thus requiring expensive stockpiling. To overcome this difficulty the Peninsula Railroad was built between Negaunee and Escanaba, a distance of some sixty-odd miles, this line being opened for traffic in December, 1864. At the same time the railroad was being built, the first ore loading dock at Escanaba was under construction, this being ready for use early in 1865.

Following their completion, the Jackson Iron Company commenced shipping its iron ore to Cleveland, the route across Lake Michigan, through the Straits of Mackinac and into Lake Huron, affording several additional months of lake navigation. However, this did not solve the problem. Eight days were required for a round trip, the most the sailing vessels then in use could carry was less than a thousand tons of ore, and the transportation costs absorbed the profits. It became necessary for the general manager of the Jackson Iron Company to solve the problem.

Fayette Brown

Fayette Brown was born in North Bloomfield, Trumbull County, Ohio, on December 17, 1823. At the age of eighteen, after receiving a substantial education, he secured employment as a clerk in the dry goods establishment of an elder brother in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, becoming a member of the firm in 1845. He removed to Cleveland in 1851, becoming a member of Mygatt & Brown, bankers. In 1857, Mr. Mygatt retired and Mr. Brown conducted the business until the outbreak of the Civil War. He then accepted an appointment as paymaster in the Union Army, resigning in 1862, with the rank of Major. Returning to Cleveland, he became general agent and manager of the Jackson Iron Company.

It was Fayette Brown who conceived the idea, that if a suitable location could be found for a blast furnace to produce charcoal pig iron, it could be delivered to the lower lake ports at far less transportation costs than for the raw iron ore. He put a party into the field to explore the country in the vicinity of Escanaba, which, after some months of survey, recommended the site which was to become the town of Fayette —

its name honoring the general manager. Sixteen thousand acres of hardwood timber lands were secured to insure an ample supply of charcoal.

The site purchased for the town and blast furnace included extensive ledges of limestone, necessary as a flux in the smelting process, and nature provided the small, land-locked haven, Snail Shell Harbor. This harbor, named for its contour, afforded sufficient space and depth of water for the many vessels which would visit the Port of Fayette.

Fayette is situated on the west side of the Garden Peninsula, so named for the village of Garden at its northern end, the center of a small farming community. This 20-mile long, narrow peninsula, is located in the northwest “corner” of Lake Michigan, enclosing Big Bay de Noc at its west, and forming the northeast extremity of Green Bay. Roughly, it is a hundred-mile drive west of the St. Ignace end of the Mackinac Bridge to the Fayette turnoff, this being about thirty-eight miles east of Escanaba on U. S. Highway No. 2. This east and west highway skirts the southern rim of the Upper Peninsula. The 15-mile drive over a paved road southward to Fayette is rewarding, permitting frequent glimpses of the pleasant waters of Big Bay de Noc on the right and an ever- changing view of forest and farm lands on the left. However, at its inception, Fayette was only approachable by water or over rough dirt roads which followed the Indian trails into the depths of the forests.

It was on Christmas Day, 1867, that the first furnace was put in blast, the second stack being completed and placed in service in the Spring of 1870. Homes, business and other buildings were erected and it became the hope of the residents that the fast-growing town would in time surpass all others of the Upper Peninsula. The Company maintained a school for the children, and entertainments and church services were held in a large hall on the second floor of a business block, known as the “Opera House.”

As the town prospered, all too many saloons were opened at its outskirts, the Company not permitting the sale of liquor on its property. Along with them came the bawdy houses and the resultant, loss of law and order. Fayette, in spite of its beautiful setting with forests on one side and the sparkling waters of Snail Shell Harbor on the other, became, for a time, the most disreputable town in the Upper Peninsula. A deputy sheriff, appointed to police the town, failed miserably as an officer of the law, and it became necessary for some of the more substantial citizens to organize a vigilance committee for the administration of summary justice. Over the years Fayette had its ups and downs. Like many frontier towns, built mainly of wood, it had its bad fires, destroying parts of the town, as well as destroying Company buildings and putting the stacks out of production for a time. When the pig iron market was good, Fayette thrived. During the several depression years experienced during Fayette’s short history it became necessary to cease the production of iron.

The beginning of the end came in 1883. Between that time and 1890 the furnaces were in and out of production several times; however, the demand for charcoal pig iron became almost nil and in 1890 the machinery was dismantled and with the dispersing of the population, Fayette returned to the wilderness from which it sprang to join the ranks of ghost towns.

It is not presently known whether or not Fayette Brown maintained a residence in the Upper Peninsula. It is evident that he spent considerable time during the summers in the Lake Superior Country for he was a member of the Munising Fishing Club as well as a member, from 1893 to 1904, of the exclusive Huron Mountain Club. He had visited Marquette as early as 1857, then an infant town of eight years of age, and being an ardent sportsman throughout his long life, undoubtedly took full advantage of the offerings of the lakes, streams and forests.

Brown Electric Unloading Hoist

Harvey H. Brown became assistant manager of the Jackson Iron Company in 1882, and in 1887 became its general agent, taking over the duties of his father. Alexander E. Brown, the other son, with engineering ability, saw in the ore unloading situation a challenging problem. From a knowledge of business gained in his father’s office he became aware of its commercial possibilities. In 1880 he directed his inventive talents to the ore unloading problem which resulted in the development of a system of hoisting and conveying machinery that has long since been brought to a high state of perfection. The first Brown ore hoisting machine was built on the Erie Dock at the foot of Pearl street and the old river bed at Cleveland.

Long before the demise of the town of Fayette, the elder Brown became interested in a number of financial ventures in Cleveland, becoming an industrial giant as well as a banker. He took the leadership in the development of several large manufacturing plants in Cleveland, but was never too busy to deny himself the pleasure of taking an active interest in several sportsmen’s clubs in Northern Ohio. He died at his home on Euclid Avenue — within the limits of that thoroughfare which knew not of the clanging and racket of street cars — during January, 1910, at the age of eighty-six.

Fayette Historic Townsite State Park

Today, Fayette, which has lain dormant for over seventy years, is taking on a new lease of life. The State of Michigan has acquired the property, and through its Department of Conservation, the town is in the process of being restored as a state park. A long-range program for its preservation is under way, the plans including a museum to display the artifacts and articles pertinent to the area of nearly one hundred years ago. It is the expectation that a model blast furnace will be on display so that the visitors can see how the pioneers produced pig iron a century ago. Easily approachable over paved roads, Fayette is as equally accessible for small boat travelers over the waters of Lake Michigan and the upper reaches of Green Bay.

It is fitting that the town of Fayette be preserved, not only as a state park for the enjoyment of weary travelers, but as a monument to a great man, who, during his tenure as general manager of the Jackson Iron Company, did much to further the industrial progress of the Upper Peninsula.


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About the Author: A Charter Member of the Great Lakes Historical Society and former Clevelander, Mr. Ernest H. Rankin now resides in Marquette, Michigan. He is Secretary-Treasurer of the Marquette County Historical Society and has written many articles for INLAND SEAS and for his local papers.

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First Ship to Shore Communication – Summer 1963

The Great Lakes… 84% of the continent’s fresh water… a different story in every drop.
black and white photo of lee deforest

Lee deForest

Within six months after Dr. Lee deForest had invented the first three-element vacuum tube, during the winter of 1906-7, he turned his attention to the development of wireless telephony, practically abandoning wireless telegraphy. His method of transmission was through the medium of an arc immersed in an alcohol flame. After a series of preliminary tests in his attic laboratory atop the Parker Building then located at the corner of Fourth Avenue and Nineteenth Street, New York City, two complete sending and receiving sets were made and shipped to Sandusky, Ohio, on the shores of Lake Erie.

Commodore W. R. Huntington of Elyria, Ohio, was president of The Sandusky Yacht Club and also the owner of a beautiful yacht, Thelma, so named after his only daughter. This club was sponsoring the Interstate Lake Regatta races scheduled to be held at Put-in-Bay nearby, during the week of July 15th to 20th, 1907. The plan evolved by Dr. deForest and Commodore Huntington was to equip the Thelma with this wireless telephone equipment and attempt to “talk via wireless” to a station ashore, reporting the progress of each race, and thus establish a two-way communication. A temporary, duplicate installation was established at Ladd’s Dock, at Put-in-Bay, manned by Frank E. Butler (Ex-associate Editor of Electronic Industries).

The Thelma was a trim little cruiser yacht with an overall length of 72 feet, with ten-foot eight-inch beam and five-foot draught. She carried two 20-horse power Lacy engines and was schooner-rigged, with a wooden hull. The aerial wires led through the roof of the wheel house to a small cross-arm on top of the foremast and thence parallel to a small arm on the main mast.

Ground connection was first made to the propeller shafts of the yacht’s twin screws, but this was found insufficient. In view of the fact that the hull of the Thelma was entirely of wood, deForest and Butler were at a loss to know how to obtain a good and satisfactory “ground” without which the wireless apparatus would not function.


Without further ado the pair went uptown to a hardware store and bought two large sheets of copper and a supply of large-head nails which they brought back to the yacht and hid, awaiting the opportunity of nailing these sheets to the hull at such time when none of the crew or the owner of the yacht were present, since it seemed certain permission to do this on the mahogany hull would not be granted, if asked. A bright moon — and midnight — after all had gone home, provided the time for the two wireless men to go overboard and nail the plates to the hull below the water line. A slight wind caused a choppy beach wash, making the holding of the large metal sheets almost impossible to keep in place for nailing, but by daylight the job was finished.

DeForest and Butler were the Commodore’s guests, not only aboard his yacht, but at his hotel — The Beebe House at Put-in-Bay, which he also owned. His hospitality was overflowing and nothing was too good for his guests. He and his daughter took just pride in their beautiful yacht for it was a winner of trophies, but the success of this wireless test was paramount to all else.

The following morning when the Commodore appeared and beheld the ugly row of large nails driven into the hull of his boat, his jaw dropped in surprise as he also dropped to the deck the bundle he was carrying. He was stunned momentarily, but being the true sportsman that he was, instead of kicking deForest and Butler bodily from his yacht, he quickly gathered his composure and complimented them for their ingenuity and determination not to be stumped by any obstacle, merely remarking: “Holes can be calked up again. Paint and varnish are cheap.”

Vacuum tubes used on the THELMA, on display at the National Museum of the Great Lakes

Put-in-Bay is a landlocked harbor of only a few miles in diameter, with a narrow entrance, the shoreline of the bay forming a letter C. The yacht races were held outside the bay at some distance in Lake Erie. The racing course was a triangular one, measured to a seven mile stretch to each leg of the triangle. At each of the turning points of this triangle was stationed a “judge’s boat” where the time of passing of each racing yacht was noted and officially timed. It was planned that Dr. deForest, aboard the Thelma with the wireless telephone apparatus installed, would follow a wide circle, well outside the racing route and report to Butler by spoken word when each boat rounded a stake. Among those present for this occasion were several newspaper reporters including Frank Skeldon then representing The Toledo Bee (now the Toledo Blade— Mr. Skeldon being still employed on their editorial staff).

The exact words as received and recorded by Butler, as spoken and transmitted by deForest during the morning races of Friday, July 18th, 1907, are as follows:

“9:57½ . . . I will tell you when the first boat crosses the line.” “First boat about crossing the line at 9:59.”

Spray crossed the line about 25 seconds after 9:59.”

(Note: A checkup later with the Judge’s log showed the exact time as being 9:59.5.)

The voice was then interspersed with a few strains of music on the gramophone from two records brought from the laboratory. Every few moments it was necessary for deForest to tap the casing of the old Blake transmitter to dislodge the carbon granules which quickly fused owing to the heat in the tertiary circuit of the voice circuit.

“Second boat just crossed at 10:01½.” “Cleveland finished second at 10:03½ .“ “Borealis . . . 10:04½.”

“Here comes the Oseketa . . . you spell it . . . I can’t.”


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This article was printed in the Summer edition of Inland Seas.  It was reprinted there from Electronic Industries, August 1943

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Sattelite image of Lake Erie

The Water Levels of Lake Erie – Spring 1963

The Great Lakes… 84% of the continent’s fresh water… a different story in every drop.

By F.A. Blust

Projecting a few feet above the edge of the Corps of Engineers’ pier at the Lake Erie end of East 9th Street in Cleveland, Ohio, is a large white box mounted on two sizable black pipes. This box houses a water level gage1 which is continuing a record of the water levels of Lake Erie begun by the U. S. Lake Survey of Detroit, Michigan, in 1859.2 Of course, the gage was not in this precise location during the entire period, nor were automatic recording gages, as are used now, available in the early years.   The Lake Survey has maintained, and is maintaining, gages at other locations on the United States side of the Lake which have various shorter periods of record.

On the Canadian side of Lake Erie, water levels have been obtained since 1860 by Canadian agencies at Port Colborne, Ontario, which is at the upper entrance to the Welland Ship Canal, and also at several other locations for shorter periods.

Sporadic level records for a number of years prior to 1859 are available for several locations on the Lake, including Cleveland and Port Colborne.

Sattelite image of Lake Erie

Lake Erie from Space

Like Lake Ontario3  and the other Great Lakes, Lake Erie experiences a seasonal rise and fall and irregular longer period fluctuations as the result of various natural causes. Based on monthly average levels, the average seasonal rise and fall of Lake Erie has been about 1.6 feet. The maximum seasonal increase on the same basis occurred in 1947 when the Lake rose 2.75 feet between March and June. The maximum seasonal decline of level occurred between April 1930 (which was the month of the seasonal high that year) and March 1931 when the Lake fell 3.17 feet. A prominent period of rising trend of the Lake occurred between 1925 and 1929 when the annual average level rose slightly less than two and one-half feet; a prominent failing trend occurred between 1929 and 1934 when the annual average level declined three and one-quarter feet.

The most prominent highs in Lake Erie levels, based on Lake Survey monthly average levels, which reflect the influence of both long-period and seasonal fluctuations, occurred in the years 1862, 1876, 1883, 1913, 1929, 1943, 1947, and 1952. The extreme range of observed monthly average levels of Lake Erie has been 5.27 feet; the record high was May 1952, and the record low was February 1936. Figure 1 is a hydrography of monthly average Lake Erie levels, referred to Low Water Datum, over the period 1952-1961.

But the description of Lake Erie’s seasonal and long-period water level variations becomes prosaic beside the description of her daily and hourly variations.    Very unlike the other Lakes is Lake Erie’s rapidly changeable character in response to the winds. Child of the placid Detroit River and father of the robustious Niagara, Lake Erie is a combination of the qualities of its origin and its issue. The almost innumerable small craft to be seen on its surface on a summer’s day, some far out on the Lake, demonstrate the quality of gentleness. Yet, the most peaceful such estival scene can be, and often has been, changed in a few minutes’ time to chaos and sometimes disaster by a furious squall.

The big ships, also, are afflicted by the capriciousness of Lake Erie, although mostly as a result of the severe fall storms that sometimes sweep the Lake from end to end, rather than as a result of squalls. In a report entitled “Effects of Gales on Lake Erie,” which was prepared for the United States Deep Waterways Commission in 1896, William T. Blunt, an Assistant Engineer of the U. S. Lake Survey, wrote:

Of all the five Great Lakes, Lake Erie shows the largest fluctuations of surface in heavy winds. The cause is readily seen. Its axis extends WSW and ENE over its main body, with a sharp turn at the islands to W by N and E by S. As hard winds of long duration are almost invariably from SW or NE, and as the lake is, on the whole, comparatively shoal, the effect of wind will be at a maximum. Aside from this, the shallowness of the lake and consequent danger to navigators, and the fact that the greater portion of water traffic from the northwest leads directly to its shores, tend to make changes of level more noticeable and important, even were they not larger than on other lakes.

Engineer Blunt’s statements are essentially correct today.

Water level records of the Lake Survey strengthen the mariner’s characterization of Lake Erie as the most fickle of the Great Lakes. On January 2, 1942, a storm occurred which caused the Lake for a short time to be about thirteen and one-half feet higher at Buffalo than at Toledo.

In addition to the natural factors affecting the levels of Lake Erie, certain works of man have influenced the Lake, although to a relatively minor degree. The diversion of water into the Welland Ship Canal has lowered the Lake. Two other diversions, the diversion out of Lake Michigan at Chicago and the Long Lake —    Ogoki diversion into Lake Superior, have contributed effects because they have affected the supply of water to Lake Erie. In Senate Document No. 28, 85th Congress, 1st Session, dated January 1957, it is stated:

The present effect of diversions through the Welland Canal is to lower the levels of Lake Erie by about 0.32 foot. The net effect of the 3 diversions, that is, the Long Lake — Ogoki, Chicago, and Welland Canal diversions, is to lower the levels of Lake Erie about 0.23 foot.

  1. Spelling preferred by U. S. Lake Survey.
  2. This gage is soon to be replaced by an improved installation to be located near the easterly limits of Cleveland Harbor.
  3. “The Water Levels of Lake Ontario,” by the author, in I NLAND SEAS , Vol. 18, Summer 1962, pp. 136-139.


To learn more about how the USACE measures water levels today (2021) Click Here.

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About the Author: Mr. F. A. Blust is Assistant Chief of the Hydraulics and Hydrology Branch of the U. S. Lake Survey, Detroit, Michigan. He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin and a registered Professional engineer in Michigan and Ohio.

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Allis-Chalmers: Great Lakes Arsenal of Democracy During World War I – Winter 1962

The Great Lakes… 84% of the continent’s fresh water… a different story in every drop.

By Walter F. Peterson

In April 1916, General Otto Falk was elected president of the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company. Four major industrial firms had been merged in 1901 to form Allis-Chalmers, each bringing established leadership in various areas of heavy machinery. The Fraser and Chalmers Company of Chicago was world-famous for its mining machinery, having equipped such major installations as the Anaconda Copper Company and the Homestake Mining Company. The Gates Iron Works, also of Chicago, contributed its famous Gates Gyratory Crusher and an excellent line of cement-making machinery. Blowing engines, compressors, and an excellent tank and plate shop were the contributions of the Dickson Manufacturing Company of Scranton, Pennsylvania. However, the Reliance Works of the E. P. Allis Company, located in Milwaukee, was the heart of this industrial combine. The Allis sawmill department had assumed world leadership through the introduction of the bandsaw mill in the 1880’s and had retained that position into the new century. World leadership had also been achieved in the area of flour milling. The perfection of the roller or gradual reduction process of milling flour, by W. D. Gray in the late seventies, provided the basis for a leadership which the company has never lost. But the real prestige of the Allis Company rested in the highly efficient, enormous steam engines produced in Milwaukee under the personal supervision of Edwin Reynolds.

The merger made it possible for this master mechanic to bring one of his dreams to fruition. The erection of a new super-plant was begun almost immediately on land at the west edge of Milwaukee, now known as West Allis. At a time when most large plants had grown up in a haphazard manner, the West Allis Works of Allis-Chalmers was so planned that all work, from blueprint to finished machine, moved in one direction. This plant, which was designed to eventually employ 10,000 men, was a model of efficiency.1

Otto H. Falk

To this excellent combination of plants and products Otto H. Falk brought a genius for industrial leadership. His background included military service from 1884 when he graduated from Allen Military Academy in Chicago until 1911 when he retired from the Wisconsin National Guard with the rank of brigadier general. But this military service did not preclude participation in his family’s business interests, for in 1913 he was vice-president of the Falk Corporation, a steel foundry company, and noted manufacturer of gears and other heavy machinery. Industrial efficiency was of prime consideration to the General, and one of his first actions was to consolidate the scattered plants so that Allis-Chalmers could produce more goods at lower cost. An excellent training program brought the best men within the company to top administrative positions, thus producing the necessary internal loyalty and high morale.2

On the eve of World War I, the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company was in a position to become an “arsenal of democracy.”3  However, the immediate effect of the war in Europe in the Fall of 1914, was a partial paralysis of existing business. No one knew how widely the war might spread or how long it might last. Foreign trade was violently disrupted, and as unemployment spread, the Winter of 1914/1915 became a very lean one indeed. But when recovery arrived early in 1915, it came in sweeping fashion. The basic cause was the discovery by the Allies, particularly the British, that they could not hope to win the war without buying great quantities of war materials and supplies abroad.

In our industrial society it is industry that provides the basis for military power in time of war, and Allis-Chalmers was a prime supplier of power-producing machinery.       As early as 1904 the company had boasted that it was the only one in the United States to have mastered the four powers: steam, water, gas and electricity. A decade later, Allis- Chalmers was the only company in the world to build all three types of hydraulic turbines —Francis, propeller, and impulse. The largest steam turbines in the country were being produced at the West Allis Works.

Three-quarters of the giant gas engines used primarily in steel mills bore the Allis-Chalmers trade-mark. And by the war years, the two electrical giants, General Electric and Westinghouse, had accepted Allis- Chalmers as a permanent and major supplier of electrical equipment.4

Obviously, a significant amount of the machinery which produced the primary power for American industry came from the Allis-Chalmers shops — and power meant eventual victory.

Because the United States became the “breadbasket of democracy” during the war, a high priority was placed not only on the production of food but on the production of processing machinery as well. The milling industry could order all the equipment it wanted, and in some cases mills ordered more than they needed, storing equipment for future use. Since Allis-Chalmers was the primary manufacturer of grain milling equipment, it received the lion’s share of all orders, sales in 1919 tripling those of 1915.

The demand for lumber also increased during the war. Mills were rebuilt, and old equipment was replaced to help fill government requirements. In addition, it was found that spruce was the strongest and toughest soft wood for its weight, and ideal for the airplanes of the period. The demand for spruce was so great and so sudden that the United States Signal Corps formed a Spruce Production Division with headquarters in Portland, Oregon. In furnishing equipment for the production of spruce lumber, Allis-Chalmers played a more important role than any other manufacturer in the United States. When old spruce mills, remodeled and improved, still could not satisfy the demand, Allis-Chalmers was called on to furnish two completely new lumber mills at Port Angeles, Washington, and Toledo, Oregon. With such demand it was little wonder that sales of wood processing machinery rose from a quarter million dollars a year in 1915 to nearly a million and a quarter dollars in 1919.

Those Allis-Chalmers products mentioned thus far were all standard product lines for the company. But as early as November 1914, Charles M. Schwab of Bethlehem Steel was in London arranging for munitions contracts. Although he returned to the United States late that month announcing that a business revival was imminent,5  it was not until March of 1915 that this prosperity began to reach Allis-Chalmers in the form of a subcontract for shells for Bethlehem Steel. Immediately upon announcement of this contract, the German-American Alliance adopted the following resolution: “Shrapnel shells are manufactured by the Allis-Chalmers Company. We greatly regret that shells are being made for such purposes.  Furthermore, we regret that a man in whose veins runs German blood is the head of a concern that makes weapons to be used to kill the Germans.”6  General Falk, though always friendly to Germany in the past, had also been an outspoken advocate of democracy as represented by British and American political institutions. The criticism raised no question in his mind, and production of shells by Allis-Chalmers proceeded apace.

The contract with Bethlehem Steel was for 1,750,000 3.3” British shrapnel casings and 1,000,000 3.3” British high explosive casings. Once we entered the war, Allis-Chalmers produced 1,000,000 75 mm. high explosive casings for the United States Government. In the process the company designed and manufactured a complete line of special single purpose machines for the manufacture of shell casings. These were used by other shell casing manufacturers in Italy and France as well as in the United States.

As the shortage of skilled labor became ever more acute, the company hired whatever men were available for this repetitive type of work. One machinist reported: “It is a continuous circus out there. Lathes are being run by tailors, carpenters, shoemakers and all kinds of men.” Even under these conditions a high level of efficiency was maintained. By the end of August, 1915, Allis-Chalmers was turning out close to 10,000 shells a day in their “closely guarded” shop. The company received the following citation from the ordnance Department for this major contribution to the war effort:

Having no other space available, the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company of West Allis, Wisconsin, cleared off the south end of the ground floor of its Pattern Storage building and on a space 160 x 250 feet undertook a contract for 75 mm. high explosive forged steel shell.  Its daily production which ran from 7500 to 9550 was the second largest from any plant in the country irrespective of size and was declared by the visiting foreign commission, British, French, Italian and Belgian to be the highest in the world per square foot of space occupied.7

Maintaining this level of production became a constantly increasing problem as the competition for materials became ever more acute. President Falk gave notice to the salesmen and department managers to be careful about promising definite delivery dates, for the company was experiencing increasing difficulty in securing materials. As early as March, 1916, bars and plates that ordinarily had a delivery time of 30 to 60 days were then requiring a minimum of four months. As the tempo of the war effort increased, the situation became worse: “We have recently had quotations on cold rolled steel with shipping promise of one year.” G. William Warner recalled that purchasing agent Fred Haker was often called on to take a flying trip to the East to find a billet of steel and bring it back in a baggage car.8

Soaring costs of materials posed another problem. An indication of the incredible rapidity with which prices rose can be seen in the percentage increases of some crucial materials from March 1915 to March 1916.

Copper                   100%
Pig Iron                 60%
Tool Steel              600%
Steel Castings        33%
Forging Billets       150%
Steel Plates        300%
Electric Steel      150%
Tin                         50%
Lead                      150%
Manganese             1000%

This was now a seller’s market, and President Falk reminded his men that “orders that do not carry a profit are unattractive under existing conditions.” This did not mean that the company was making exorbitant profits, but that it was entitled to a “fair return.” While the prices authorized often appear high in comparison with those previously quoted, salesmen were assured that they carried “no more than a reasonable profit.”

General Falk considered war the enemy of the economic stability necessary to plan and build business ventures wisely. When war did come, the constant emphasis was placed on the standard product lines. By the end of 1915, the war orders constituted less than 20 per cent of the company’s product. Save for the shell contract, Allis-Chalmers refused to accept war orders which would require special equipment or special organization because the General did not want temporary business to interfere with the regular product lines. Rather, he advocated that in a seller’s market Allis-Chalmers should take advantage of war orders to improve and increase its equipment and experience in the standard lines, so that the company would be better able to serve its customers when peace was restored.9

Corliss engine

Allis-Chalmers’ Reynolds-Corliss engines had gained world-wide reputation because of their remarkable economy, efficiency and reliability. As a result of this excellent reputation, the company received an order for seventy-seven 18” x 36”, 350-horsepower, single-cylinder Corliss engines for the Du Pent powder plants then being erected. In spite of material shortages, August Werner, boss of the engine erecting shop, was able to maintain a remarkable production record, of one of these engines a day for seventy-seven consecutive working days. Known as “the man who always had an ace in the hole,” he made it a practice to keep parts on hand for nearly a complete engine, so that if the production process was in any way disrupted, he could still maintain his production schedule.

Because of the excellence of its equipment, the efficiency of its plants and the diversity of the products, Allis-Chalmers during World War I was able to move into a field related to its previous experience; the field of maritime products. Hundreds of tons of steel plate were fabricated and drilled for cargo vessels built at Hog Island by the Submarine Boat Corporation. Work was done on 16-inch gun turrets, and forty-five 16-inch gun slides and mounts were produced as well as 5- and 6-inch gun barrels. However, most of the gun slides and mounts were never installed; the battleships for which they were intended were scrapped by the action of the Washington Naval Conference following the war. The company also made forgings for marine engines, produced by other builders, as well as propeller and line shaftings. These special orders for marine and naval products were given to Allis-Chalmers because the West Allis Works was so well equipped for such production.

The famous Reynolds triple expansion pumping engine had long been one of the company’s standard products, and a triple expansion marine engine operated, of course, on the same principle. AS a consequence, Allis-Chalmers was asked to produce twenty 1400-horsepower marine engines for the wooden ships of the emergency fleet, together with nine 2000-horsepower and twenty 2800-horsepower engines for other cargo vessels. The first triple expansion marine engine contract was with the Grant Smith-Porter-Guthrie Company of Portland, Oregon, for eight 1400-horsepower engines with a 19 x 32 x 56 x 36 stroke. Dated October 4, 1917, the terms called for 10 percent of the total contract price when the contract was executed, 20 percent when the principal castings and forgings were made, 20 percent when the principal castings and forgings were machined, 25 percent when the engine was erected in the shop, and the remaining 25 percent when the complete shipment was made. The total shipment weighed approximately 1,036,000 pounds with one-third of this total shipped on the Chicago Northwestern Railroad to Minnesota and then by the Northern Pacific to Oregon. The remaining two-thirds was shipped on the Milwaukee and St. Paul road to Minnesota and then west on the Great Northern.10

Greys Harbor Shipyard of Grant Smith Company, 1918-1919

On February 19, 1918, Irving H. Reynolds, nephew of the more famous Edwin Reynolds, wired the company office in Seattle:

Have entered order eight additional engines for Grant Smith per your telegram nineteenth stop Will try to ship first engine five months but feel it may be impossible because at that time we shall be completing last engines of original Grant Smith order and first engines of Sloan order thus bunching shipments but probably can deliver last engines at higher rate than two per month.11

The order from Sloan Shipyards Corporation of Olympia, Washington, was for four engines to the same specifications as the sixteen for the Grant Smith Company. The Hanlon Dry Dock and Shipbuilding Company of Oakland, California, ordered twelve 2000-horsepower vertical triple expansion engines as of May 3, 1918; and the United States Shipping Board, Emergency Fleet Corporation of Philadelphia placed an order on August 31, 1918, for twenty 2800-horsepower engines. With a total of 52 engines to deliver, the company set up a production schedule calling for the delivery of one engine every ten days.12

The production schedule established by the Hanlon Dry Dock Company called for the keel of the first ship to be laid on July 19, 1918; the engine to be delivered no later than October 16; the launching to take place on November 16; and final delivery date for the completed vessel on February 16, 1919. The rapid rise in cost of materials is reflected in the two Hanlon contracts. The price for six 2000-horsepower engines on May 3, 1918, was $565,500. The second contract for six identical engines dated November 25, 1918, and allowing the same margin of profit came to $600,000.13 The last launching of the Hanlon Dry Dock Company was in 1921, but it is interesting to note that as of 1959 one of these ships equipped with an Allis-Chalmers engine was still in operation. Originally commissioned as the Medon, the name was later changed to the Mary Olson.  The gross tonnage of the 320-foot vessel was listed as 3474 tons.14

A letter from the Grant Smith Company dated February 1, 1919, to the Seattle office of Allis-Chalmers is no doubt indicative of the quality of all the triple expansion engines delivered by the company during the war:


During our construction for the Emergency Fleet Corporation, we have received engines from some eight different firms, and we wish to take this opportunity to compliment you on the quality and the excellence of workmanship in your engines. Your firm is especially to be commended because you have not allowed the hurry and rush of war work to lower your standard of workmanship.

Yours truly,

Grant Smith-Porter Ship Company By P. N. Carlson

The largest single order filled by Allis-Chalmers up to World War II was for $7,950,000 worth of marine main propulsion turbines and attendant fittings for 34 destroyers. These turbines were made to plans drawn by Warren Flanders of Westinghouse. The Westinghouse Company recommended Allis-Chalmers for the job because of its reputation as a builder of fine machinery. Although Allis-Chalmers was the smallest of the three major turbine builders of the day, it was actually best-fitted for the job, for it had the most stable shop and most experienced personnel. Since each destroyer had two shafts, the company produced a total of sixty-eight units, each with a high and low pressure turbine for a total of 750,000 horsepower.

Torpedo Boat Destroyer in 1919 cruising on open water


Fourteen United States Torpedo Boat Destroyers, numbers 185 on, were built at Newport News. Twenty identical destroyers, numbers 231 on, were built by the New York Shipbuilding Company. The Clemson, built at Newport News, set efficiency records for all ships of her class while the Brooks, built at New York, set the speed record for her class. Both were equipped with Allis-Chalmers turbines.

While the Allis-Chalmers turbines met the efficiency specifications and the ships met the speed requirements, the process of naval inspection and acceptance was totally new to the company. Commander J. H. Rowan and forty-two naval inspectors were stationed at the plant during the production of the steam turbines. To test these turbines, a special steam boiler was built which subjected the cylinders to 500 pounds of pressure. The cylinders were tested by holding a mirror around the joints and some other parts of the cylinder. If no vapor appeared on the mirror, the cylinder was pronounced tight, and accepted. The turbines also had to pass acceptance tests at the shipyards, and final acceptance came 15 months from 12 o’clock noon of the day the trial voyage was made. Only then did Allis-Chalmers receive final payment.

On November 11, 1918, thousands of Allis-Chalmers workers spontaneously left their work upon news that victory had at last been won! With pieces of tin, sheet steel — anything they could find that would make noise — they paraded for miles down Milwaukee’s Grand Avenue. General Otto Falk, whose dynamic leadership had provided the basis for the company’s brilliant record during the war, appraised the situation a bit later in a less dramatic fashion:

The Company has endeavored to pursue a course which would enable it to meet present-day problems and at the same time build for future permanent success and what has been thus accomplished is directly due to the splendid effort and hearty co-operation of the Company’s employees.15

The challenge had been met; Allis-Chalmers had been an arsenal for democracy; the war had been won.


  1. The First Hundred Years, 1847-1947, Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company, 1947, Also, Pioneer Power, A Story of the Growth and Development of Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company, Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company, 1942, passim.
  2. Walter Peterson, “Otto Falk of Allis-Chalmers,” Historical Messenger of the Milwaukee County Historical Society, March, 1961, pp. 26-29. Also, Walter F. Peterson, “Falk of Allis-Chalmers, Professional Industrialist,” paper pre- sented at Annual Meeting of the State Historical Society of Wisconsin, 1961.
  3. The phrase “arsenal of democracy” is taken from a Message to Congress delivered by President Franklin Roosevelt on January 6, 1941.
  4. A-C Views, September 27, 1954, pp. 2-12. Also Walter F. Peterson, “Built to Last — The Allis-Chalmers Gas Engine,” Wisconsin Academy Review, Spring, 1961, pp. 63-66. W. W. Nichols to Walter Geist, June 2,
  5. Walter Minis, Road to War, (New York, 1935), p.
  6. The Milwaukee Journal, March 20, 1915. General Samuel Pearson failed in an attempt to secure a court injunction to prevent the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company from manufacturing munitions of The Milwaukee Journal, May 21, 1915; The Milwaukee Sentinel, May 20, 1915.
  7. History of the Chicago District, United States Army United States Government, 1918. Extract in Allis-Chalmers files.
  8. W. Warner, “What Allis-Chalmers Did During the Last War,” undated MS. Sales Bulletin, March, 1916, p. 1.
  9. Third Annual Report (1915), 8. Sales Bulletin, August, 1916, p. 2; Sales Bulletin, December 1915, p. 1.
  10. J. Kern to author, June 15, 1961. Order 2066, entered October 4, 1917, with Grant Smith-Porter-Guthrie Co.,   Seattle, Washington.
  11. Order 2137, entered March 13, 1918 with Grant Smith-Porter Ship Co., St. Johns, Oregon.
  12. Order 2153 entered February 7, 1918 with Sloan Shipyards , Olympia, Washington. Orders 2138 and 2139 entered May 3, 1918 and November 25, 1918 with Hanlon Dry Dock and Shipbuilding Co., Oakland, California. order 2136 entered August 31, 1918 with U. S. Shipping Board, Emergency Fleet Corp., Philadelphia, Pa.
  13. Orders 2138 and 2139 entered May 3, 1918 and November 25, 1918 with Hanlon Dry Dock and Shipbuilding , Oakland, California.
  14. Malcolm Maloney to author, June 13, 1961. Record of the American Bureau of Shipping, (New York, 1959), p. 964.
  15. Otto Falk, Sales Bulletin, December, 1919, p. 27.


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About the Author:

Dr. Walter F. Peterson is Chairman of both the Department of History and the Social Science Division of Milwaukee-Downer College, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and has been Consultant in History to the Allis-Chalmers Manufacturing Company for the past three years.

Since receiving his Ph.D. in history from the University of Iowa, in 1951, he has been a Visiting Professor of History at Ball State Teachers College, Muncie, Indiana, and the University of Wisconsin, at Milwaukee, during several summers. Currently, he is President of the Wisconsin-Illinois Chapter of the American Studies Association, Director of the Milwaukee County Historical Society, Vice-Chairman of the World Affairs Council of Milwaukee, and President of the Milwaukee Chapter of the American Association for the United Nations.

Dr. Peterson has also written articles for a number of other historical journals.

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Large yacht pulled up to a long gangway. The yacht is the Britannia.

From Trading Post to Seaport – Fall 1962

The Great Lakes… 84% of the continent’s fresh water… a different story in every drop.

By Anna G. Young

The sun rose over the Capes of Sleeping Giant and Passage Island in Lake Superior with a sublime sense of the importance of that historic morning, July 11, 1959. Even in the dawning there had been a sweet anticipation pervading it all.

A gentle breeze fluttered the pennants of the fine freighter Fort York dressed for the occasion. The flags on shore installations fluttered free. The crowds gathered early along the waterfront where the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the local constabulary were at their stations along the route that the Royal procession of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II would take. The stage was magnificently set.

There was a gentle hush, almost a listening, upon the waters. Then it happened!

Large yacht pulled up to a long gangway. The yacht is the Britannia.


Like a silver sail on a silver sea gleamed H. M. Y. Britannia. As she entered at the foot of the Sleeping Giant, passed Passage Island Lights and steamed toward the breakwater, the Royal Standard flew from her masthead. In perfect formation followed her escort ships, Saguenay, Kootenay, and Ulster.

The sun was dancing over a silver sea as they passed Harbour Light. The log booms in the inner harbor bobbed gently on the surface as the Royal Yacht slowly passed through the welcoming lines of small craft. She passed across the waiting harbour, the flotilla following in her wake. The crowds cheered, whistles blew. How much of the historic character of this arrival was really appreciated in the exciting spectacle before us?

Slowly the prow of the Royal Yacht turned and steamed to her anchorage just beyond the breakwater. Her escort followed. It was a few short minutes later when the Royal Barge came skimming over the water to her mooring on the C. P. R. dock.

President Eisenhower with hat over his heart and Queen Elizabeth II at the opening of the st. lawrence seaway

Queen Elizabeth II and President Dwight D. Eisenhower

Queen Elizabeth II of England, and Prince Phillip stepped ashore beneath a canopy lettered in blue “Termination of the Seaway.” A charming, womanly figure, in pale yellow summer attire, dramatically symbolized a brave kingdom in this heart of a water Empire. The Queen greeted port dignitaries and then moved on in splendid procession to meet her people.

There had been many such occasions the length of the Seaway. Not all viewing these demonstrations had given thought to the historic preparation the nation had made, in a continuous effort over one hundred years, to make safe a continuous avenue for water-borne traffic.

Her Majesty’s path was the identical trail of moccasined warriors, coureurs de bois, explorers, traders, trappers, missionaries, navigators, geologists, navies, farmers, builders, engineers.

Through “The Passage” long before lights burned on Trowbridge and the Passage, had come the canoe, the schooner, the early steamboat, the supply ships, and the pioneers themselves. The present growth was not the work of princes or parliaments but the unconscious work of self- exiled immigrants. The Lakes carried many cargoes but none with the potentials of the immigrant. The temperate latitudes provided a perfect climate to develop strong characters. The first English words had been the voices of Cabot’s little company, whispered in the sober silence of a great discovery close by Atlantic shores. Now these voices have swelled to a mighty chorus that the world regards as the voice of a nation.

Voices of many nations are joined in this mighty chorus today; voices that have merged into a common language that echoes not alone through the rocky shores of rugged Lake Superior, but across the prairies, through the rocky passes to the far shores of the Arctic Sea. Eager faces, often bewildered, homesick, a little frightened, have found freedom and a new way of life. Their resourcefulness, often severely tested, developed in them a profound sense of belonging and possessing, rare ingredients of citizenship.

After Her Majesty’s later departure to the prairie provinces, H. M. C. S. Gatineau moved to her berth in the inner harbor.

The setting sun cast exquisite opalescent light through the light clouds over the Sleeping Giant. It touched to shell pink the soft mountains of cloud overhung by varying shades of silvery blue. The grey mist hung close to the glassy waters. The breakwater seemed a cordon of steel as the first blinking light of red marked the Gap.

The long terminal arms of the inner harbour were strangely quiet, lights came on at the piers. Now feeling her way in the deepening twilight, scarcely a wisp from her diesel-powered engines, a departing grain carrier maneuvered a reddish brown hull, reflecting amber in the still waters of the inner harbour. Cautiously turning her prow and swinging her jeweled stern, she slipped away through the Gap and out into the night. The labor of the port resolved itself in slumber, as away on the horizon, blinked the green light of the Passage. H. M. C. S. Gatineau gleamed with an incredible silver sheen, her bow floodlit at the pier

The potentialities of a new era slept with the night.

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About the Author: Greatly cherished by Miss Anna G. Young is her memory of the historic arrival of Her- Majesty Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Phillip at the termination of their voyage on the Great Lakes, after the official opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway on June 23rd, 1959.

Members of the Great Lakes Historical Society and readers of Miss Young’s book, Off Watch, published in 1957, will be happy to know that a copy of this volume was placed on board the H. M. Y. Britannia.

Miss Young received the following acknowledgment:

“Her Majesty, the Queen, on the recommendation of His Excellency, the Governor-General, has been pleased to accept the autographed copy of your book Off Watch: Yesterday and Today on the Great Lakes.  In doing so, the Queen has asked that her warm thanks be conveyed to you for your thoughtfulness in sending her this most interesting and informative book. It will be placed on board H. M. Y. Britannic.”

Miss Young, a generous supporter of our Society, and contributor to INLAND SEAS, is a resident of Guelph, Ontario.

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Four images showing the receding glaciers 14000 - 3000 years ago

The Great Lakes in Ancient Times and a Glimpse into the Future – Summer 1962

The Great Lakes… 84% of the continent’s fresh water… a different story in every drop.

By E.B. Williams

The dramatic part of our story began about a million years ago — geologically, a rather recent period. Many hundreds of millions of years before, events took place which set the stage for the great drama, the like of which has occurred nowhere else in the world. The original North American continent was a mass of igneous rock which lay to the north of the Great Lakes region. Forces beneath the surface caused a series of uplifts and downward foldings, and the seas receded, only to come again. Even mountain ranges were formed, worn down and then thrown up again, over the eons of time. The Great Lakes area was a sort of submerged basin or bowl which gradually became lined with layers of materials, some hard and some soft, but finally, when the whole region was above sea level, a great river system existed. Then came the epoch known as the Pleistocene, the age of great glaciers, and our story begins.

A gradual climatic change of longer winters, in which the snows of one year overlapped those of the next, caused the formation of two glaciers, one to the west and one to the east of Hudson Bay, known as the Keewatin and the Labrador glaciers. As they grew, larger and deeper, over hundreds of years, these glaciers spread out and gradually merged together. They were pushed outward by their own weight and reached a thickness estimated to have been as much as six miles in places. Consider a jet plane, leaving a vapor trail 30,000 feet high and then imagine a mass of ice that thick — twice the height of our highest mountains. Great masses of rock were sheared off the hills and mountains and shoved along the path, gouging out whole regions where the surface rock was softer, and spreading the debris to the south, all the way to the Ohio River, into the Adirondacks and westward beyond the Mississippi, as far south as the northeast corner of Kansas and the upper third of Missouri.

Four images showing the receding glaciers 14000 - 3000 years agoAt times it melted faster than it advanced, and receded, only to come again. There were four great advances, but the last one, known as the Wisconsin glaciation, was the most important to the Great Lakes area. It did not extend quite as far south as previous ice movements had done and, like the others, came and went in pulsating movements, each leaving its mark in morainic drift, thus telling the story of its life. This last glacier came in lobes, which left ridges roughly following the contours of the Lakes themselves. Strangely enough, however, one section in central Wisconsin was left unglaciated and the famous Dells of the Wisconsin River developed. As time went on, these lobes became more like individual glaciers and occupied the basins of the Great Lakes.

As these glacial lobes retreated northward, tremendous quantities of run-off water drained into the Mississippi valley. But in time, the lobes reached the drainage divide where the land sloped toward the ice front. At such places, large crescent-shaped lakes would form. The first of these, at the western end of Lake Erie, has been called Lake Maumee. It covered the northwest corner of Ohio and reached down to Fort Wayne, Indiana, where it drained into the Wabash River. The Wabash, of course, was much larger than it is today and later, when the Maumee River itself became established, it flowed in the opposite direction. Thus was born the first of the Great Lakes, the ancestor of Lake Erie. Its level was 230 feet higher than the present level of the Lake.

Lake Maumee grew to a much greater size, while similar lakes formed at the ends of other glacier lobes, Green Bay, Saginaw Bay and Lake Michigan, all draining down the Mississippi. There were several stages of the Erie basin and their beaches can be seen today in the vicinity of Cleveland. Most clearly defined are the beaches along Detroit Road and Center Ridge Road. Another lobe of interest formed in the vicinity of the Finger Lakes in New York State, which drained down the Susquehanna River into Chesapeake Bay. At this time, however, Lakes Superior, Huron, most of Michigan and Ontario were still under the glacier.

Gradually, through many centuries, the Labrador Glacier withdrew, leaving the end of Lake Superior, which drained down the St. Croix River to the Mississippi. In the east, a long, crescent-shaped lake developed at the upper end of Lake Ontario and drained down the Mohawk. Then, in time, all the Great Lakes merged together and the principal outlets were the Mohawk, Lake Champlain and the Hudson River, which was also an estuary of the Atlantic Ocean. Lake Erie, at this time, had ceased to be fed by the glacier, or by the northern lakes through Lake St. Clair, which was then just a swampy area. Consequently, the surface of Lake Erie dropped to its lowest level, some twenty or thirty feet below the present level.

During all this formative period in Great Lakes history, another great change was taking place — slowly at first, and then with more speed. As the tremendous load of ice melted, ran off and receded to the north, the earth’s surface rose. This fact is revealed by old beaches, once level, but now sloping. In fact, this rise was near a “hinge line,” extending in a northwesterly direction from Ashtabula, across Lake St. Clair to Grand Rapids and then more westerly across Lake Michigan. As a result, the old outlets into Lake Erie and the Illinois River were reestablished, but Georgian Bay had an outlet into Lake Ontario and from that Lake into the Mohawk. The St. Lawrence River, however, did not then exist, but a lobe of the Labrador Glacier drained down the Hudson.

Finally, when the glacier had receded beyond the lakes region and the Great Lakes were drawn down almost to their present levels, the three Upper Lakes drained principally from Georgian Bay to Lake Nipissing, down the Ottawa to the St. Lawrence. The St. Clair River again was just a trickle and the surface of Lake Erie was lowered. Then, as the lands to the north lifted still further, the outlets changed once more and established the system which exists today. Lakes Superior and Huron became independent, the higher waters of Lake Superior being held back by the rim of the old Cambrian sandstone ledge at that point.

At this time, I would like to back up a few million years — just how many is not important — when the rock formations in the Great Lakes basin were being established. As I mentioned before, this basin became lined with layers of rock, the oldest of which is known as Cambrian. Above the Cambrian came the Ordovician, which was mud deposited from an ancient sea, and becoming a soft shale. Then came Silurian time, when climates were mild and marine life was abundant.

Great quantities of shellfish skeletons lined the bottom and gradually a hard limestone was formed. This Silurian limestone is also called Niagaran, which is exposed in the vicinity of the Niagara River. This rampart extends in a northwesterly direction, across Ontario, in a broad arch separating Georgian Bay from Lake Huron. It forms the southern shore of the upper peninsula of Michigan and then circles southward between Green Bay and Lake Michigan and down the Wisconsin shoreline.

1830s colored drawing of Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls

When the ice of the Ontario lobe of the Labrador Glacier withdrew far enough north so that the “melt waters” fell below the level of the Niagaran escarpment, the overflow from Lake Erie fell over the rocky ledge near Lewiston, New York, and Niagara Falls was born. Gradually the softer shale below the limestone washed away and the overhanging limestone broke in chunks, falling to the lower level and forming a gorge. Upstream, the gorge becomes narrower when the water supply was reduced because of the first separation of Lake Erie from Lake Huron; but with the tilting of the land mass, a greater flow resumed and the gorge widened, as the Falls worked upstream to the location of the present whirlpool.

During an earlier period, before the last ice invasion, a river flowing in a northwesterly direction poured over the Niagaran escarpment near the town of St. David, and cut a gorge as the Falls worked upstream. The glacier then passed over and completely filled this gorge with rock debris, which then became compressed and cemented together, but not as hard as the surrounding rock. This condition resulted in a great whirlpool, as the Falls itself continued to work its way upstream to the present location.

Satellite image of the Great Lakes

Great Lakes Today

In summary, this brief, thumbnail sketch of the Ice Age in North America began about a million years ago. The glaciers reached their southernmost limits about half a million years ago. The Wisconsin glaciation occurred about 200,000 years ago and, in its final retreat, some 35,000 years ago, the Great Lakes began to be established. Niagara Falls was born about 20,000 years ago and the Lakes, as we know them today, are roughly only 3,000 years old.

In addition to the Great Lakes themselves, nature, a billion years before, created the iron ores of the Lake Superior region. Any living organisms existing at that time were of a very low order, so we cannot claim that it was intended for us! However, it is there, but somewhat more difficult to mine than it was seventy-five years ago. For the making of steel, we also have coal and limestone in great abundance. Man can be proud of his creative genius in learning how to use these raw materials, but after all, how puny are the working of man, as compared to the workings of God!

Jacques Cartier

Let us move now to more recent times. Jacques Cartier was the first white man to sail up the tremendous and seemingly endless river he had entered on St. Lawrence’s Day in 1535, only forty-three years after Columbus had discovered America. He finally reached an impassable barrier, the Lachine Rapids, and there he stopped. Eighty years later Samuel de Champlain reached Georgian Bay, then Jean Nicolet explored the Straits of Mackinac and beyond. Meanwhile, the Iroquois Indians, along the southern shores of Lake Erie, prevented travel from that direction and Lake Erie was yet to be discovered and seen by the white man.

Father Hennepin was the first to see Niagara Falls; this was late in 1678. Hennepin was one of LaSalle’s aides. LaSalle had spent ten years preparing for his shipbuilding venture and voyage up the Great Lakes from Lake Erie. The story of LaSalle and his Griffin is well-known. The tiny vessel, only 60 feet long, set sail on August 7, 1679, to cross Lake Erie and the unknown waters beyond.

Let us skip over the next 283 years, which brings us up to the present moment. The Great Lakes are still here, as beautiful as ever, all 95,000 square miles of them, and in recent years we have conquered the St. Lawrence River and we have the long-sought access to the sea. Ships of all the world can now reach our shores. But what of the future? In particular, what does the future hold for our Great Lakes fleet of ore carriers? We have reached an economic crossroad. Foreign competition is making a strong bid for a share in the supply of this raw material.

At one time there were over 500 ships in the Great Lakes fleet. Ten years ago there were 300 in the ore trade alone. Today that figure has shrunk to 200 and many of those will probably see little service in the future. During the past decade, while the number of vessels was diminishing, the annual carrying capacity remained fairly constant, because our newer ships are also much larger than the old-timers. In a very few years, however, even our existing fleet will be cut in half and our annual carrying capacity will be down to about 55 million long tons. At that time, however, say in 1966, if our industrialists continue to display the aggressive intelligence with which they have been endowed, our Great Lakes fleet will begin to regain its rightful prominent position in the movement of iron ore and will again become the envy of the world. The revolutionary changes in the Lake Superior mining areas and the equally basic changes in the making of iron and steel, present a challenge to all who are responsible for transporting the raw material to the blast furnaces.

Our maximum size ships today can carry 25,000 tons and their operating season is restricted to about seven months. Foreign ships, with foreign crews, are competing in this business, with deliveries right here in Cleveland. Other foreign ships, of twice the above capacity, can deliver foreign ores to our east coast ports at rates sufficiently low to overcome the long rail haul to Pittsburgh.

How can we cope with such formidable competition? Subsidies might help but this would be temporary relief only. A faster tax write-off would help and this is fully justified. A more realistic tax climate in the mining areas would help and this is also justified. High iron content pellets from the Lake Superior ranges are in great demand and pellet production is increasing. To turn the trick, however, we must have larger ships and a longer operating season.

Overhead view of the Soo locks taken from the west looking east

Soo Locks today (photo from 1992)

Our Government has now started construction of the new lock at the Soo. It will be at least 1,000 feet long and 100 feet wide. Our current dredging program has provided minimum channel depths of 27 feet, so that the larger ships may draw 25 feet 6 inches at low water datum. This is the opportunity for our naval architects and vessel operators of this generation to come through with bold new thinking. What will be the nature of our new fleet?

I believe there will be a group of maximum size ore carriers capable of carrying 35 to 40,000 gross tons of ore and I believe that such ships, and others for that matter, will be operated for fully nine months in an average season.      Such vessels could each carry up to two million tons in a year.

Time does not permit discussing the details of these “dream” boats but I will say that many designs are on the drawing boards today. The trend, I believe, will be toward self-unloaders, but whatever their technical characteristics may be, we must have an integrated transportation system. New building berths are necessary, new dry docks, new loading facilities and new unloading terminals. Any enterprise of this magnitude must be supported by industry groups, just as many of the new mining developments are joint efforts.

The extended operating season demands no new or unknown techniques. We know that it can be done; it is just a matter of doing. The pellets can be handled on conveyor belts, winter and summer. Air bubbling systems can keep the harbors open, Deicing equipment will be necessary on the ships, at the locks and at the terminals.

Much more could be said about the geological history of the Great Lakes but I will leave it to your more leisurely moments to read or reread this fascinating story. Much more could be said about the future of our Great Lakes ore carriers but I have already taken too much time.


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About the Author: Mr. E. B. Williams, a Trustee of the Great Lakes Historical Society, is also Naval Architect of the Society’s Museum at Vermilion, Ohio. Retiring earlier this year as Vice-President, Sales, of The American Ship Building Company, at Cleveland, he is now Consultant for the Company.

This paper was presented at the Annual Meeting of the Great Lakes Historical Society, June 13, 1962.

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The large round shape of a side wheel steamer wheel box with hogging arches curved above it.

The DART was the Target – Spring 1962

The Great Lakes… 84% of the continent’s fresh water… a different story in every drop.

By William A. McDonald

At the opening of navigation at Detroit in the Spring of 1860, Captain Selah Dustin and his associates, owners of the side-wheel steamboat Dart, were uncertain as to where they would operate their boat. The preceding season had been a poor one and the Dart was deeply in debt.

Early in April, announcement was made that the Dart would go to the Sault (St. Marys) River and engage in towing. Some of the local steamboat operators were of the opinion that the report was intended to divert attention from the real objective. Their hunch was borne out when later in the month the Dart was advertised to leave S. P. Brady’s Dock at Detroit on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for Port Huron and Lexington. Fares to any river port were set at from 5¢ to 50¢ depending on distance and extra accommodations. The owners of the Dart had been eyeing the lucrative business enjoyed exclusively by the steamboat Forester on the river run and decided to cut in.

The large round shape of a side wheel steamer wheel box with hogging arches curved above it.


Now the Forester had a competitor and a war was on. The usual tactics employed in competition soon started. Bumpings and scrapings were almost daily fare, none of the incidents caused much damage and were accepted as part of the opposition game. As the season progressed, the popularity of the Dart began to exasperate the owners of the Forester. Near the end of the season the rivalry culminated in three attacks in one day that indicated the animosity of the opposition, and almost ended disastrously for the Dart (330 tons), a much smaller vessel than the Forester (503 tons), and quite unequal to the mode of warfare.

On December 4, 1860, under the heading “Steamboat War — Serious Consequences,” the Detroit Daily Advertiser reported the events that had occurred on the previous day.

The Dart had left Port Huron on the morning of December 3rd, to cross to Sarnia. Just before reaching the dock she was run into by the Forester, which struck her amidships and broke in the bulwarks. When the steamers left Sarnia, the Forester ran across the bow of the Dart and struck her, tearing away the stem and turning it to one side. The injuries were not severe enough to require stoppage and the Dart kept on course across the river and landed at Vicksburg (now Marysville). While she lay at the dock, the Forester came downstream and aiming directly at the Dart’s stern, ran into her with tremendous force, cutting through the stern and into the hull for a full 16 feet.

The rudder was carried away, the cabins wrecked and her hull cut down to within a foot of the waterline. With a little more headway the Forester’s long bow would have split the Dart in two. The crash was terrific and consternation and fear reigned among the passengers and crew, as they feared the Dart was sinking. Women passengers in the upper cabin fainted. A seaman asleep in the lower cabin was struck by the bow of the Forester and thrown several feet into the cabin. His escape from death was considered almost miraculous. The wheelsman in the pilothouse was severely injured when struck by the steering wheel, which rotated rapidly due to shock communicated through the rudder chains. But for a narrow margin of 18 inches the Dart would have sunk on the spot. The steamer managed to stay afloat and was brought to Detroit the same day, lashed to another vessel. She was through for the season.

The Master of the Forester claimed that the collision was an accident, the engine had gotten on center and was immovable, and that his vessel could not be checked or backed. Captain Dustin of the Dart complained to the U. S. Inspectors at Detroit and demanded an investigation. In his complaint he accused Captain Ward of the Forester with incompetency and recklessness in managing his boat, to the detriment of the river business and endangerment to the lives of passengers and crew of the Dart. The Inspectors suspended Captain Ward’s commission, pending a decision on the charges. It was thought that their action and the results of the investigation to follow would have a salutary effect and that all steamboat officers would be more careful in the future.

During the winter of 1860/61, the Dart was thoroughly repaired and was again in good shape. In March of 1861, her owners announced that the engine shafts and wheelhouse would be lowered and tow posts installed, and that she would engage in towing between Lake Erie and Lake Huron. The announced intention so similar to the one made the previous Spring apparently was not accepted by some of her possible competitors. They undertook to put the Dart out of competition entirely.

On April 2, 1861, the Advertiser reported that two attempts had been made in one week to sink the Dart at her dock, at the foot of Woodward Avenue. On Friday of that week, the watchman aboard heard water rushing into the hold and discovered that a plug had been removed.

The mischief was discovered and was remedied in time to prevent her sinking. On Saturday night another attempt was made and the boat was not so fortunate. At daylight on Sunday the hull was found full of water, a plug had again been removed. The Dart had sunk to her guards and she would have gone to the bottom, but the hawsers to the dock held her up. A pumping engine was procured and got her afloat again. The newsman naively goes on to remark that “some evil disposed person must be responsible for removing the plugs for the purpose of sinking the boat. The object to be subverted by such ends is not plain and must have been motivated by malice. There is no clue to the perpetrator.”

The owners of the Dart must have had all they could take and decided to get out of the passenger business. At a stockholders’ meeting in Port Huron on April 23, 1861, it was decided to have “the Dart engage in towing until she pays for the cost of refitting and is out of debt, instead of assessing the stockholders for the amount. No alterations will be made to change her status as a passenger boat.”

The story ends with an item in the marine column of May 29, 1861: The sidewheel steamer Dart passed up on the 28th and presented a decidedly patriotic appearance. The top of the wheelhouses were tastefully painted red, white and blue. The Dart was towing the British schooner Ayr and the American schooner Emeu.

*    *    *

Both the Dart and Forester were wood hull, side-wheel steamboats with vertical beam engines; both had berths for overnight passengers.

Dart — 330 tons, 160x23x8 — built at Detroit in 1853. Dismantled in 1863 — machinery installed in City of Toledo, built 1865, at Toledo, Ohio.

Forester — 503 tons, 195x26x9 — built at Newport (Marine City) in 1854. Dismantled and made a barge 1867 — machinery installed in Alpena, built 1866, at Marine City, Michigan.


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About the Author: John Borman was born and raised on Put-in-Bay and knew Captain Parker all his life. John even helped raise three of Captain Parker’s grandchildren and wrote, “I am very proud of them!” Borman has many fond memories of riding alongside Parker in his wheelhouse.

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All Around the Mulberry Bush – Winter 1961

The Great Lakes… 84% of the continent’s fresh water… a different story in every drop.

By Erik Heyl

A silly title for a steamboat story! Yet, most appropriate and fitting for the following tale! Some years ago the writer was trying to locate a picture of the City of Buffalo, the last of the Palace Steamers of the Great Lakes. She was built in Buffalo in 1857, was in service between Buffalo and Toledo from the end of July 1857 until early October of the same year when she was laid up, the panic having prostrated shipping. Still laid up in 1858, she was put on the Buffalo and Cleveland run in 1859 and continued on it until late in 1861. In 1863 she was dismantled, her machinery shipped to New York to be put into the Morro Castle, while the hull was converted into a bulk freighter, propeller driven.

Numerous inquiries addressed to various museums and historical societies failed to locate a picture of City of Buffalo as a passenger steamer, although the Rev. Edward J. Dowling, S. J., did send to the writer a picture of her as a freighter. All hope of ever coming across a portrait of her as a Palace Steamer had been scuttled, when a message came from Buffalo Historical Society that a photograph of an engraving or woodcut had been located, which showed a white, side-wheel passenger boat clearly bearing the name City of Buffalo. It goes without saying that no time was lost in getting a copy of that print.

Engraving from the Buffalo Historical Society

But! Even a superficial glance showed that the artist who was responsible had only a vague idea of the architecture of a boat. But aside from this, the picture just did not look like the style and kind of work produced in the 1850’s; the entire layout did not look right. Furthermore, some of the details of the boat simply did not fit in a vessel built in the late 1850’s. For example, the name was in big lettering on the bow, not on the wheelhousing; the pilothouse was a typical, middle-1870 Arabian or Moorish ornamental bird cage; the paddle wheels seemed to be recessed into the hull. To sum up, the more that print was examined the greater were the doubts it raised as to its authenticity.

The writer finally mailed the print to Captain Hamilton of Kelley’s Island, figuring that he should be able to make an identification. Captain Hamilton promptly wrote, admitting that he was stumped, also expressing his opinion that the picture was an out and out fake. However he did not want to run into shoal water by expressing a final opinion, so he had forwarded the print to Mariners’ Museum, figuring that if anybody could identify this boat, Mariners could.

Several months passed, when one fine day the writer received an important looking package from the Library of Congress. When the package was opened — yes, you guessed it — here was that same print in all its glory, together with a letter, saying that the Library of Congress had received the enclosed print from Mariners’ Museum, who were unable to identify the subject, and could the Library please help out?

Undoubtedly the Library staff spent time, effort and toil before giving up the chore as a bad job. Then they sent the print to the writer, and would he please give them a hand? Chickens came home to roost!

Where do we go from here? There must have been some good and valid reason for having this engraving made. If it was not a magazine illustration, or used for advertising, what could it have been used for?

The writer finally contacted Mr. Robert W. Bingham, the former director of Buffalo Historical Society, and explained the impasse. Pay dirt was struck, as Mr. Bingham remembered the picture, describing it in detail and explaining that it appeared on a sample sheet of vignettes of various designs published by the American Bank Note Company. These vignettes were used as the central designs on bank notes issued by various banks. Undoubtedly the name on the bow of the steamer was chosen to impress some Buffalo bank, undoubtedly also, this name was on a slug, so that any other name could be used instead which would be appropriate to the location of a prospective customer.

While the mystery of this print has been solved, no picture of the City of Buffalo, as a Great Lakes Palace Steamer, has yet been found. We did find however, an effusive word picture of her in the Buffalo Morning Express, of July 25, 1857. It is a question which we leave for the readers to answer, — which shows the greater imagination, the dreamed up engraving or the flowery newspaper description which we here quote:

“Space will not permit us to designate all the beauties and improvements which are lavished upon the City of Buffalo, nor to dilate upon the minutia which go to make her perfect. But the more important features we will sketch as well as we can where all is so complete and beautiful.

“To enlarge upon her exquisite model would be useless, after what we have said in former articles upon her, or to praise the power and finish of her engines, or the speed she is capable of attaining, would be superfluous. All these and much more may be briefly summed up in saying that she surpasses all preconceived ideas of the perfection of steam ships.

“Mr. Cleaveland Forbes, the agent of the Michigan Southern Railroad, has done himself great honor by his successful superintendence of the beautiful ship. She is an honor to our city and bears its name; may she be always prosperous.

“We will begin with her hull, and briefly point out the peculiar improvements embodied in it, which make her a remarkable craft. In the first place, it is strongly built, with every addition to strengthen which science or experience could invent. It is divided into five separate compartments by solid timber bulkheads, which render it impossible to sink her; it is enclosed by a band of solid wrought iron five inches in width and nearly an inch in thickness. Substantial arches are thrown through her length, which renders her as staunch as wood and iron can make her.

“The boiler room is made perfectly fire-proof, as a salamander safe. The bottom of the ship is covered with a bed of plaster, on which are laid half-inch iron plates. In the centre of the room are the furnaces and boilers, which are surrounded by a casing of boiler-iron at a distance of two or three feet, thus forming a gallery, which may be entered through an iron door, and through which easy access is gained to any part of either boiler. On the outside of this boiler-iron jacket, is another passage between it and the sides of the ship, of some three feet in width. By this method of construction, an air chamber of five or six feet separates the fires from any part of the woodwork, and this air-chamber is divided into two by the casing of boiler-iron.  By an ingenious arrangement, the fire-room itself is included in this casing. This room is air-tight, and fed by flues running down from the deck. When these are turned on at full blast, a torrent of cold air is poured into the room, which makes it cool enough for comfort. The air-chamber around the boilers is continued up around the smoke-stack to above the hurricane deck, so that equal safety is obtained through the wood-work of the cabins.

“The forward main deck is fitted up with iron cattle-guards in a manner much better than any former boat has been arranged. The figure-head is a large gilt Buffalo, natural and in good taste. She has two fire engines, one worked by steam, the other, just forward of the baggage room, worked by hand, with sufficient hose ready reeled for an emergency. The baggage room is large and well contrived, composed of strong oak lattice work. The engine room is a model of convenience, and shows the finer parts of the grand engine to great advantage. Everything about the boat is finished in excellent style, even to the brass hand-rails and capstan-heads. The ladies private cabin, on the after main deck, is excellently arranged; it is handsomely furnished with rich brussels carpets, rosewood furniture, upholstered with fine plush. Beneath the ladies’ cabin is the nursery, with every facility required for the care of children, with bath and wash-rooms and water closets. Everything which could minister to the comfort of travelers is consulted, even to the most trivial matters. The nursery is well lighted by day by the stern-lights, and at night by lamps. Passengers, upon going on board, enter a fine reception room furnished with sofas, marble-topped tables, etc., and in the centre is a pretty fountain. The Captain’s and Steward’s offices are off from this room.

“Proceeding up the grand stairway, at the first landing, on the floor, we notice a large brass Buffalo, and overhead a handsome mirror and splendid landscape painting. This introduces us to the grand cabin, lighted by skylights, and a splendid stained glass dome at the further end.

On either hand the doors open into the state-rooms. The cabin has an arched ceiling, which, together with the panels, are ornamented by gilt mouldings, the white and gold making a very rich appearance. This cabin is like a gallery as we look down into the cabin below. Several splendid chandeliers light it by night, the centre one of which is double, the lower portion lighting the ladies cabin. The furniture is of the richest rose-wood, with damask and plush upholstering; the carpets are costly brussels, and the tout ensemble magnificent. The fairy palaces of the imagination were never so gorgeously furnished; nor could the famous barge of Cleopatra, with its silken sails, rival this noblest of steamers; fable becomes a reality as we look at her fair proportions and exquisite fittings; and the bridal chambers might be the envy of an empress — so beautiful are they, in all that luxury or good taste could desire. The furniture of these rooms is superb, and a happy couple can be as secluded as they desire, the intention being to allow meals to be served in them to those who desire privacy.

“Proceeding forward, we digress into the pantry, a neat room, well designed for its purpose, with a handsome oak case at the back end to display the silver, of which there is a superb dinner and tea set. Directly under this is the kitchen, where an unrivaled cook, upon an excellent range, prepares the rich and rare viands, which distinguishes our steamers from all others in another particular. Messrs. Dudley & Sons had charge of fitting up this department, as well as the plumbing, and a large and beautiful water-cooler, which stands in a recess off from the dining room and gentlemen’s cabin.   Crossing to the opposite side of the boat, we find a capitally arranged and fitted up wash-room and barber shop, with a bath-room attached. Reentering the dining-room, which is handsomely furnished with oak chairs, etcetera, we are struck with the perfect neatness prevailing; everything is in order, and the waiters come and go about their duties as noiselessly as mutes.

“The old fashion of a long table, crowded with voracious passengers, is dispensed with. The tables are placed across the cabin, and parties of friends can be together, with their own servants, and be served as if they were at home. This is an improvement which all readers see the benefit of.

“The state-rooms are neatly and handsomely furnished, with washing utensils, fine bedding and handsome curtains; the ventilation of these rooms is superior on board the City of Buffalo to that of any other boat. Extending her entire length, next to the ceiling, is a handsome open wood work, which allows the free passage of air, while it cannot be removed or allow the passage of any person. — Besides being an advantage it is highly ornamental.

“The officers of the boat are men of tried capacity and courage. Commodore Perkins is an amiable gentleman, and an able officer. Mr. Bowles, the purser, will be found to be a capital gentleman, whom the public will appreciate by becoming acquainted with. The Steward, Mr. Logan, is peculiarly fitted for position, and is, besides, an accommodating gentleman.

“The carpets and upholstery are from the establishment of A. T. Stewart & Co., New York.

“This review does not do the City of Buffalo justice, nor is our vocabulary equal to describe the splendor and convenience of this crowning triumph of marine architecture.

‘We must not take leave of our subject without describing the suit of colors bestowed upon the boat by an association of friends. The city government was appealed to to make some recognition of the compliment paid the city by naming her after it, but with their usual felicitous stupidity they offered a paltry $100 towards a suit of colors. This was refused by the gentleman who applied, and they purchased a set at a cost of $1,000.

“The suit comprises the broad pennant of Commodore Perkins, the Union Jack, the Whip, which is ninety feet in length, the Ensign for the mast-head, with “The City of Buffalo” thereon, and the Stars and Stripes — an ensign which is about sixty feet in length by fifteen feet in breadth. These are made of the heaviest and finest silk which could be procured, and the colors, blue, scarlet and white, are exceedingly brilliant. We have never seen any suit of colors which could approach them for magnificent richness. Readers cannot form an adequate idea of what we have attempted to describe without seeing for themselves, and we advise them to make an examination. Commodore Perkins and his officers will take pleasure in showing visitors the thousand attractions brought together in this fine steamer.”

Not being able to see for ourselves, it seems a pity that neither are we able to see this fine vessel accurately through the eyes of a contemporary artist.

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Clevelander fire tug fighting a dock fire

Fire Fighting Ships – Fall 1961

The Great Lakes… 84% of the continent’s fresh water… a different story in every drop.

By Herbert W. Dosey

The importance of fire protection from the waterside became increasingly apparent in the major lake ports toward the end of the last century. Warehouses and other dockside structures had been hastily erected in an era that knew little about fireproof construction, and wooden wharves were burdened with piles of newly sawn lumber from the Upper Lakes. Some areas were hard to reach with vehicular fire extinguishing equipment and the number of available hydrants had been woefully inadequate to cope with major conflagrations.

Early Use of Tugs

The practical way to improve fire protection in the harbors was to equip small steam propelled vessels with high pressure steam pumps. Maximum maneuverability was essential for most effective action in confined harbor waters and since the tug type of hull with its large rudder area gave optimum flexibility, this hull type was adopted. While a tug is basically a towing vessel, this type of hull had inherent advantages which led to its universal adoption for services other than towing. Thus the misnomers ‘fish tug” and “fire tug” were popular designations of a distinct hull form, rather than a service title.

Harbor tugs have their towing bitts fitted well forward of the rudder stock to enable them to pivot freely while under the tension of a taut towline. This feature results in a long afterdeck which lends itself to the safe and proper handling of towlines. But the fire tug was not confined to towing requirements so the deckhouse was extended aft to accommodate the pumps.

Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee and Chicago have had elaborately equipped fire tugs for many decades and some of the smaller ports now have added fire protection from a high pressure nozzle mounted on the deckhouse of a local harbor tug with a suitable pump.

The Joseph L. Weatherly

The first fire tug in Cleveland was the Joseph L. Weatherly, whose historical record is rather incomplete, but from data supplied by Captain M. J. Masterson of the Cleveland Fire Department we learn that she was built by Thomas Manning, at Cleveland in 1886, from plans and specifications developed by William Cowels, a prominent New York naval architect. She was named after the Volunteer Fire Department Chief who later became the first president of Cleveland’s Board of Trade. Two sets of plans were submitted, for either steel or wood construction. The dimensions for both were identical with one exception. The overall length for the wooden hull was 79 feet exclusive of sheer, which was one foot longer than the designed length for a steel hull, the difference probably being due to the larger stern in a wooden hull.

After several conferences, it was decided to build the tug of wood and the principal dimensions were:
Length Overall       79 feet
Length at waterline 70 feet
Beam         22 feet 2 inches
Draft          8 feet 4 inches
Displacement         136 tons
Pump capacity        3,200 gallons per minute

The Excelsior Iron Works built the engine and Clapp & Jones had won the pump contract on their bid of $6,865.00. This contract was subsequently cancelled when Thomas Manning, Jr., and Company bid $5,940.00.

Lieutenant C. Anthony of Hook and Ladder Company No. 2 was appointed supervising inspector and the vessel was launched at 3:00 P. M. on August 4th, 1886. On trial trip from Cleveland Harbor Light to Rocky River, the Weatherly steamed seven miles in 41 minutes, which was a credit to her builders, and her master, Captain Moffett, her engineer, Thomas Mooney, and mate, C. C. Campbell, who held a Fire Department rating of lieutenant. Some green timber seems to have found its way into her hull because extensive dry rot was discovered after a few years and she was condemned in 1894.

The Clevelander and the John H. Farley

Clevelander fire tug fighting a dock fire


Her successor, the Clevelander, was also built in Cleveland by Thomas Manning, and commissioned on June 1, 1894. She cost $33,000.00 and was a most imposing vessel with a large rounded front pilothouse and a pleasing sheer. The hull was painted black, the deckhouse was red and all hose connections and deck fittings were polished brass.


Due to the frequency and intensity of fires in the lumber yards and oil refineries along the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland, it was deemed advisable to have two fire tugs. The second vessel, named the John H. Farley, was slightly smaller than the Clevelander but she was also a very symmetrical and capable little ship. The Farley was built by the Union Engineering Company in Buffalo and commissioned January 11, 1895. Her high pressure non-condensing engine was built by the Thomas Manning Company and her fire pumps were those of the dismantled Weatherly.

In 1916 the Clevelander was retired from service and towed to Manitowoc by the wooden freighter Roumania. In the Manitowoc shipyard the Clevelander’s main engine and pumps were transferred to a new vessel and her hull was burned.

The George A. Wallace

Fire Tug Wallace docked with flat water and reflection


The successor to the Clevelander was named the George A. Wallace in honor of the Cleveland Fire Chief, and commissioned July 18, 1916. She was constructed of steel, had an overall length of 86 feet 6 inches, a beam of 20 feet 6 inches and her draft was 11 feet 6 inches. Gross tonnage was 112; net 72. Her pumping capacity was 4,000 G. P. M.

These two able fire fighting ships protected the Cleveland waterfront from fire losses until September 5, 1936, when they were sold to H. J. Dixon in Toronto. The Farley was converted for towing and steamed east to Montreal where she was engaged as a harbor tug.

The venerable Wallace was rebuilt by the Toronto Dry Dock Company who dealt kindly with her, keeping her name and certain embellishments out of pure sentiment. For instance, the galloping white horse remained on her red pilothouse door, and fire axes and holders were retained wherever possible. She ultimately entered the colorful but rugged career of an icebreaker in Halifax.


During World War II, the United States Coast Guard provided fire protection to Cleveland shipyards and other defense industries with a 64 foot converted steel fishing vessel CG64022 -F. This craft was purchased by the city in 1945 and is still in service as the Marvet.

A new Clevelander was built by the Paasch shipyard in Erie in 1954. This is a diesel powered craft with a pumping capacity of 6,000 G. P. M. Upon completion of a new fire tug now on the stocks in Erie, the Marvet will be retired. Thus two diesel powered fire boats now serve the port of Cleveland but, in conformity with the modern trend, they are strictly and austerely functional and entirely devoid of the character and personality of their predecessors.

Other venerable fire tugs which earned well deserved recognition were the W. S. Grattan (re-named Firefighter and now the Edward M. Cotter) and the George R. Potter in Buffalo, the James R. Elliott and James Battle in Detroit and the Illinois, Joseph Medill and Graeme Stewart in Chicago.

The sight of a fire tug in action during a roaring night fire was truly inspiring as the pilothouse windows and the brass fittings reflected the glow of the flames. Black smoke unfolding from the stack, blended with the white exhaust steam that shrouded the vessel in an eerie sheen of unreality. The pumping position was usually head-on to the fire with a slowly turning propeller to offset the thrust of the high pressure nozzles which had a tendency to push the vessel astern. The hiss and thud of water thrown against burning timbers and the pulsating exhaust of the steam pumps gave very impressive tones to an exciting and unforgettable scene.

When the fire was out, and all danger had been allayed, the fire tug returned to her station where she gently nudged her dock and patiently awaited the next urgent call to duty. Here her decks were swabbed and she was polished and groomed while the slowly escaping steam whispered a sibilant lullaby to a true “Sleeping Giant.”

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Pipes of multiple sizes and colors in a semi-dark passageway

Color and Color Psychology on Shipboard – Summer 1961

The Great Lakes… 84% of the continent’s fresh water… a different story in every drop.

By Harry Sheid

Attractive color styled ships beam a hearty welcome-on-board to crew and passengers alike. Pleasant quarters, and safe, color- coded working conditions maintain high crew morale and boost alertness and efficiency. Besides, authoritative color styling increases the effectiveness of good lighting and seeing.

In the past, color has been used mainly on-board luxury liners. However, in the last few years a number of cargo ships have dressed up most attractively in the colors of the rainbow.

Today the color consciousness of the traveling public (paying as well as paid ones) has advanced to a stage where management of public carriers (and for our purpose this includes cargo ships) is compelled to give color a more prominent role in the decor of their ships, planes and trains. The result has been striking. People love the well-designed color styling of the vessels and vehicles, and travel in them in unheard of numbers to every corner of the globe.

Obviously, the terrific increase in travelers is due in considerable extent to greater comfort and more attractive accommodations that carriers offer today. This applies not only to the passengers, but to the crew as well.

In this jet age, the crew of a modern steamship, be it a transatlantic or lake ship, no more resembles the old-time deckhand, than a modern gas station attendant resembles the old “grease-monkey.” The modern crew — men and officers alike — expect and get comfortable quarters, friendly and cheerfully color styled, well lighted and spacious — at least visual spaciousness —achieved by scientifically and psychologically chosen colors.

Now, let us start with the ship’s quarters. Hardly need it be said that they should have an atmosphere of home-away-from-home. With due consideration to rank and work the quarters should be homey: soft pastel wall colors with pleasing accents in furniture and upholstery. The deference to rank should and does become apparent in location, type and size of the quarters in addition to special furnishings and decor.

5 people sitting at a table with coffee cups in wood paneled room

Modern (2015) passenger quarters

The color decor of living rooms, mess rooms, recreation rooms should be relaxing in character and conducive to pleasant camaraderie. On the other hand, corridors, passageways, storage spaces and similar areas should be as light as practical in order to prevent mishaps, yet, by no means need they be monotonous.

Engine rooms and machinery are the pride of every engineer — just as the captain is proud of his ship. On coal-fired ships the boiler and engine rooms were subject to much coal dust and smoke which made the use of attractive clean color impractical; and with generally poor lighting prevalent, the extensive use of high gloss white was all but mandatory.

We can readily imagine and practically feel the terrific eye-strain those engineers had to endure in looking all day long at two of the strongest contrasts — glossy white walls and dark deck and machines. And with no safety-color-coding whatsoever, the engineer’s job was a very hazardous one to boot.

Due to the modern streamlined ship installations, a most effective color styling of engine rooms can be accomplished today. There is no excuse any more for an engine room to be dingy, depressing and hazardous; it can be clean and smart looking, to put an up-to-date kitchen to shame, and with “Safety First” color-coding given first consideration.

The clinical white and dark grays have disappeared from the engine rooms as they have from hospital operating rooms. In the place of the stark gloss white, pleasing pastels in soft sheen have appeared on the walls and lively and deeper values of greens, blues, terra cotta and turquoise on machines are seen. Controls and handrails are accented with bright yellow, fire equipment in bright red, whereas first aid stations are marked by “safety green.”

Pipes of multiple sizes and colors in a semi-dark passageway

Engine Room

These “safety” colors dramatically placed, stress attention. With powerful insistence they impress upon the crew the location of safety devices so that his reach for them in cases of emergency will be instantaneous — regardless of where he may find himself or what he may be doing.

Pleasant color styling commands cleanliness, to the worker or crew there is no difference between his beautiful home and his clean and neat workshop. His sense of neatness and cleanliness is stimulated and he knows that he is expected to keep his equipment clean and in order and he takes pride in doing so, enjoying his work and shop all the more. This is a potent psychological influence of color.

The exterior colors must be practical for the purpose for which the vessel is being used — a nice clean white hull would hardly be suitable for an iron ore carrier or oil tanker. Dashing colors for this type of ship will have to be limited to parts of the superstructure. Hull colors should be, more or less, cover-ups, i.e., make spillage less visible, yet provide the best protection possible.

Now to a few facts vs. fancies about color styling. Fancy has it that “any color will do as long as it looks sharp and snappy,” be it kitchen gadget, giant drill press or ship. The fact is that a color to serve its purpose well should be chosen with painstaking care and consideration. And fancy has it also that any color is good to brighten things up and modernize with; the fact is that only a careful selection of colors —- based upon scientific and psychological principles — can work the beauty miracle expected of them in new creations or modernizations of old ones.

Finally, a few remarks about the psychology of color applied on shipboard. Naturally, the color decor of the interiors and color styling of the exterior should be in keeping with good design (proportion of color) and discriminating taste without going to such extremes as a Cartier or Tiffany color styling for bulk carriers.

What is more dreaded than fire on board ship, especially on the high seas? Therefore, RED — the international color and signal for danger and fire — is used only for the fire fighting equipment and fire station markings. It may be important to mention here that fire retardant paints that produce a dried film that will not support combustion are widely used and specified for interiors, not only for naval vessels but in commercial shipping as well.

To return to color, ORANGE, being the most aggressive hue, is used in industrial plants to spot dangerous moving parts of machinery that might cut, bruise or crush. On ship it is now being used on all life saving equipment and on the inside of lifeboats.

YELLOW, a sacred color in the Orient, is without question the gayest color of the spectrum; although no captain would want to see the yellow flag hoisted on his ship — it means quarantine, a contagious disease has broken out on board. However, a strong intense yellow is ideal for the controls of machinery in order to be seen and reached instantly from the corner of the eye; it is excellent to edge the treads of stairs to prevent stumbling; besides, it lends the equipment and interior areas a fresh, smart and spirited sparkle.

GREEN, the easiest color to use — perhaps because of our familiarity with it in grass and foliage — can be used anywhere in its various values of light, medium or dark; but its strongest use is reserved for first aid station and equipment markings — usually with a green cross.

BLUE, like green is cool and soothing in effect and when wisely used, can be exceedingly attractive and pleasing.

VIOLET is reserved in industry for atomic installations, or for identifying pipes with special or very valuable contents. RED-VIOLET, the color of pomp and state, in times past was the exclusive prerogative of kings and cardinals.

WHITE is ideal for certain corners to keep them clean and sanitary. Pure colors are powerful in effect and are very tiring when used on large areas; yet they are to an interior or exterior what costume jewelry is to a woman’s dress; they get attention, therefore, their immense value in “safety first” codes.

Shades or deep colors are “heavy”; they foreshorten a room and make an object appear heavier or more substantial than it is in reality. Being masculine in quality, men prefer them; they absorb heat and make an interior hotter.

Light colors, called also “tints” or “pastels,” have a reverse effect visually and psychologically; they make a room seem larger and more spacious and an object lighter than it is. Their delicate nature, generally speaking, appeals to women in particular; they reflect heat and make an interior cooler. This fact of physics is very much taken advantage of by the petroleum industry to cut down the evaporation in tanks storing volatile materials.

Blue/Green passenger vessel - Aquarama


No longer is it just theory, that colors have a most decided effect and influence in our lives — literally from the cradle to the grave. The experience an infant has had with a certain colored object — whether it was shock or joy — will stay with him all his life, subconsciously, to be sure. Certain color combinations can make an interior happy and easy to live in, others cause tension and ill will. It should be stressed that color styling for interiors where men work, eat and relax, always in close proximity to each other, is not only attractive and satisfying to the esthetic sense and the appreciation of beauty, but also that these same colors are psychologically sound and compatible.

There are safety and decorating colors; there are colors that neutralize and soothe; there are depressing colors and colors that excite; there are boring colors and stimulating colors; but all colors cause definite emotional, mental and spiritual reactions — yes, frequently even severe physical reactions.

Red freighter with white cabins on very blue water - Edmund Fitzgerald


Surely, this diverse influence of color can cause reactions on the passengers and crews of a ship as well as in people in stores, offices, homes or industrial plants.      The colors and color combinations should reflect the nature of a vessel — the Aquarama would be differently color styled than, say, an ore carrier like the Edmund Fitzgerald. Then too, it should and does reflect to a large extent the character of the shipowner. Color can mean light and life, or sickness and death. Color is the garment of nature and a mystery to man.


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About the Author: Mr. Harry Scheid, Color Consultant for the Sherwin-Williams Company, Cleveland, Ohio, read this paper as background for an illustrated lecture given before the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, Great Lakes and Great Rivers Section, in Cincinnati, Ohio, on May 19, 1961.

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