The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), 12 Oct 1877

Full Text

Yesterday forenoon a party of gentlemen under invitation of David Carter, Secretary of the Detroit & Cleveland Steamboat Line, went aboard the steamer Northwest for a trip to Wyandotte to view the new iron steamer now in course of construction at that place. Among the party were the newly appointed Supervising Inspector Capt. Joseph Cook, local Inspector Phineas Saunders, Capt. Wm. McKay, formerly of the late steamer R.N. Rice, several gentlemen interested in ship-building and a marine reporter from the FREE PRESS.

The run to Wyandotte, despite the rough weather, was made in the remarkably short time of thirty-four minutes. Arriving there the party visited the yards of Kirby & Son, where the work on the steamer is done.

The building of iron steamboats is a rarity seldom seen on the Western lakes, and this yard has the honor of building the first.* Here the steamers Queen of the Lakes, Sport and Eber Ward, Jr., have been built. The first mentioned boat was small and now plies on an interior lake. The last two are now owned at Chicago, where the Sport is now running as a river tug; the Ward is at New Orleans, towing at the lower end of the Mississippi.

Work on the new steamer is progressing rapidly, although it has been somewhat detained during the past week by the breaking of the horizontal punch used in punching the holes in the plates for the rivets. One hundred and twenty-five men and boys are engaged, and at noon yesterday, eighty-three of the 150 frames had been put up and secured in place. The work of bending each frame and punching the rivet holes at the proper places proved quite interesting to the visiting party, many of whom have never witnessed the operations. From that portion of the frame already up a good idea can be obtained of the model, especially in the bow, and the critical observers pronounced her lines remarkably fine.

That she will possess great strength as well as speed is clearly shown by her framework. Each "rib" is eighteen inches apart and is in turn covered on the keel, bilge and four feet below the gunwale with a thick iron sheeting. The space left uncovered by iron sheeting is strongly braced by iron plates running diagonally from the gunwale to the bilge plate. Over all this entire frame there is to be a sheeting of Southern pine five inches in thickness. This pine is very tough, full of pitch, which with age hardens the wood till, it is said, it nearly equals oak, and at the same time is much lighter. The work of putting on this sheeting was commenced yesterday noon. The timber used comes partly from Georgia and partly from Florida, and is is sawed at Newburgh, New York.**

The dimensions of the new boat are, length, 253 feet over all; length of keel, 235 feet; breadth over all, thirty-six feet; depth, fourteen feet; sheer,*** five feet forward and three feet aft.

For passenger accommodations the steamer will have sixty-five state-rooms opening from the main saloon, and ten opening from the lower saloon. By a new architectural device, a small hall running from the main saloon opens into every section of four state-rooms, which in turn can be made to communcate with each other. This will offer improved accommodations for families. Each state-room is six feet eight inches in length, six and half feet in width, with the ceiling seven and one-half feet above the floor. The main saloon is to be 210 feet in length, eighteen feet wide at the widest part and height of ceiling fourteen feet, and like the state-room is to be finished in cherry and mahogany, carved and ornamented. The entrance to the saloon is gained by a straight, broad stairway aft. The arrangements for light and ventilation are excellent. A new feature to be introduced by the new steamer is a separate mess room for the officers which is located on the port side, across the hall from the pantry. Smoking rooms, bath rooms, closets, all fitted with modern improvements, will be at the liberty of passengers on this boat, which when completed will probably be one of the finest equipped passenger boats in the business, and a pride to the cities between which they run, as well as to those who own and officer her. It is expected that she will be ready to launch by the 20th of next month, and the names already suggested to be used in christening her are Cleveland, Detroit and David Carter. One of these will undoubtedly be chosen, but which one is yet to be determined.****

Media Type:
Item Type:
*This is an exaggeration if "Western lakes" has its usual meaning, encompassing all of the Great Lakes. Iron steamers had been built on both sides of the lakes since the early 40's, and the David Bell Shipyard of Buffalo had been turning out iron freighters and tugs for at least 9 years by the time the QUEEN OF THE LAKES was built in 1872. The QUEEN was the first iron steamer built west of Buffalo. For more on QUEEN and SPORT, see my web page ( The WARD was still operating out of New Orleans in 1895.
**This type of design, known as a "composite" hull, was supposed to take advantage of both the resiliency of wood and the durability of iron and in fact most of the few built at Kirby's (later Detroit Dry Dock) had remarkably long lives. Improving steel technology soon rendered composite designs all-but-obsolete.
***sheer - the amount of upward curvature of the main deck from its lowest point. In this case, the forward tip of the deck was five feet higher than the lowest point.
****The vessel came out the next spring as CITY OF DETROIT.]
Date of Original:
12 Oct 1877
Local identifier:
Language of Item:
Dave Swayze
Copyright Statement:
Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
WWW address
Powered by / Alimenté par VITA Toolkit

My favourites lets you save items you like, tag them and group them into collections for your own personal use. Viewing "My favourites" will open in a new tab. Login here or start a My favourites account.

Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), 12 Oct 1877