The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
City of Detroit (Steamboat), 13 May 1878

Full Text

Detroit, May 11. -- The present company owning and operating the steamer NORTHWEST and CITY OF DETROIT, and known as the Cleveland & Detroit Navigation Company, were organized some fifteen years ago. Captain L.A. Pierce, of Cleveland, was one of the prime movers in the enterprise, and the company remains substantially the same today as when organized. The Hon. John Owen is president, David Carter, secretary, and Captain L.A. Pierce is general agent. The company have met with the various vicissitudes incidental to lake navigation and have both made and lost money, but on the whole they have been reasonably prosperous, as is evinced by their ability to build and equip two such palaces as the CITY OF DETROIT and the NORTHWEST. The severest loss sustained by the company was on the 10th. day of June, 1877, when the steamer R.N. RICE was burned while lying at her dock in Detroit. This involved a loss of some $40,000, but as the business of the company requires two boats, the steamer SAGINAW was leased for the season until the company could replace the burned steamer. For a time it was thought best to rebuild the RICE, as only her upper works were destroyed by the fire, but after mature deliberation, and after visiting and inspecting various ship yards in the East, a committee, composed of the president, Mr. Owen, the secretary, Mr. Carter, and S.R. Mr. Kirby, recommended that an entirely new composite boat be built, as it would not require the expenditure of more than twenty-five per cent above what it would take to build the ordinary wooden boat. These vessels with iron frames are especially adapted to lake navigation, and are better than those built entirely of iron, as they are more easily repaired in case of damage to the hull, to which they are very liable on the shallow waters of the lakes. Upon the recommendation of the committee the contracts were made with the Detroit Dry Dock Company and Mr. Frank E. Kirby to build a boat to cost $135,000 upon the following specifications furnished by this gentleman: The vessel to be 235 feet keel, 250 feet over all, 36 feet breadth of hull, entire width of main deck 65 feet, depth of hold 14 feet, with a tonnage or carrying capacity of 1,094 tons.
      The contract was carried out so that the new vessel was launched on the 22nd. of last December, and in a few days thereafter was ready for the engine, which is the same one formerly used in the R.N. RICE, and which was uninjured by the fire. This engine was built by Fletcher, Harrison & Co., of New York, and put into the RICE in 1867. Mr. E.A. Mead, the builders foreman, has given it a thorough overhauling, and it now is as good as new, and on recent trial trips evinced the same power and qualities as on the RICE. It is a condensing beam engine. Its cylinder has 11 feet stroke and 62-1/2 inch bore; length of wrought-iron shaft, 29 feet, with a diameter of 18 inches. The paddle-wheels are 30 feet 6 inches in diameter.
      The boilers, two in number, are of steel, each twelve feet in diameter, and eighteen feet long, including the smoke-box. Each boiler has three furnaces and three main flues of a size corresponding with the furnaces. The fire hold is lines with No. 10 sheet iron, and the fire-room and the floor under the boilers is covered with corrugated cast iron three-fourths of an inch thick, thus making both absolutely fire-proof. The boiler and steam-pipes, cylinder and steam chimneys are covered with the best hair felt, with canvas back. Connection with the boiler is maintained by means of steam pipes, so that in an instant steam could be turned into any apartment on the boat. Besides these pipes there are a number of pumps and one extra siphon capable of throwing 1,000 gallons of water per minute.
      The dividing of the hull by three iron bulkheads into four water-tight compartments is one of the leading safety features of the new steamer. By this arrangement, should a leak occur in any part of the boat, water could be kept in that compartment, and though it should fill it would have no perceptible effect. The steamer is also equipped with regulation wooden lifeboats capable of carrying forty persons each, and one large wooden working boat that will contain forty; one metallic boat holding thirty persons and two metallic rafts capable of holding thirty each. Besides the boats and rafts each stateroom is supplied with three cork life preservers. Everything that the ingenuity of man can suggest or money purchase has been done to secure the safety of the passengers and the boat.
      On going aboard the CITY OF DETROIT, the first thing, after glancing at the engines on the opposite side, is the beautifully finished fronts of the steward's and clerk's offices, with the ladies cabin, and the broad stairway leading to the main saloon above. The panelings throughout the boat are all of delicate pink centers with contrasting French gray surroundings and white mouldings. Between the doors of the state rooms this succession of light colors, which would be monotonous, is relieved by rich mahogany Corinthian pilasters, capped with white and touched with gold. Passing from the clerk's office up the broad stairs leading to the main saloon, these rows of staterooms, extending some 200 feet throughout the length of the vessel, present a very attractive appearance amid the surroundings of rich carpets, new furniture, and bright chandeliers. This main saloon, eighteen feet wide and thirteen feet high, is divided into the after cabin, eighty feet long; forward cabin some ninety feet long, and the intervening space of thirty feet is taken up by the engine. The after cabin and the ladies' cabin below are furnished in good taste. The sofa and chairs are in black walnut frame, covered with dark maroon plush. In the center of the back are the monogram letters representing "CITY OF DETROIT." The carpets are body Brussels, with borders to match, all of Turkish pattern and dark colors.
The state-rooms are unusually large. Small halls lead from the main saloon to each section of four state-rooms, which in turn can, if desired, be made to communicate with each other. There are sixty state-rooms, with accommodations for three or four persons each. Each is six feet eight inches long, six and a half feet wide, with height of ceiling seven and a half feet. There are good arrangements for ventilation, and they are all furnished with neat, wide berths, wash stands in cherry, and the rooms are carpeted with a great variety in Brussels, no two, except in the ladies' cabin, being of the same pattern. The lambrequins attached to each berth are of shades to correspond with the carpets.
      Great credit is due Mr. D. Carter, the secretary of the company, for the taste displayed in finishing and equipping this magnificent steamer. He has had ample means at hand, and has been ably assisted by Mr. Frank Kirby, who has furnished the plans and designs. Mr. W.A. Morris, of Cleveland, who constructed the cabin, deserves much credit for the fine work displayed in his department.
      The CITY OF DETROIT, with all the modern furniture and improvements in decoration, is said to much surpass those large boats that were considered so fine some years ago.
      She left her dock at 2 o'clock, and passed the Michigan Central Elevator at a few seconds past 2:27; and from there to a point opposite Bois Blanc Light, a distance of nearly nineteen miles, she made the run in the unprecedented time of fifty nine and three quarter minutes arriving there at precisely 3:27. This beats the best time of the R.N. RICE by about one and a half minutes. On board were Hon. John Owen, president of the line; David Carter, secretary; L.A. Pierce, of Cleveland, general agent; besides a large number of other gentlemen and members of the press from Detroit and Cleveland.
      The officers of the CITY OF DETROIT are as follows:
      Master, William McKay
      First Officer, Kenneth Finlayson
      Second Officer, Archie McLachlan
      Chief Engineer, John Crockett
      Second Engineer, Robert Stage
      Third Engineer, William Tracey
      Clerk, James Menzies
      Steward, Thomas R. Ryan
      One of the shrewdest and best points in the management of this company, after building the best and safest boats, in the care displayed in selecting the responsible men in their employ. Captain William McKay has made an enviable reputation as a good sailor and a brave one.
      Captain D.A. McLachlan, of the NORTHWEST, is well known to the traveling public as a good efficient officer. He is thoroughly competent, and fully trusted by the company.
      This evening, on board the CITY OF DETROIT, these two captains stood together on the main deck and received the thousands that came aboard with a good Scotch welcome. They seemed to know everybody. At the head of the stairs Mr. Carter and Captain Pierce received the visitors, and it is needless to say that they are both proud of the new boat, and congratulations come from all quarters. It seemed for a time as if the whole city of Detroit was coming to see the boat. The cabin became packed, and refreshments were served consisting of cake and ice cream, but it would be of little use to try to serve such a crowd under the most favorable circumstances. The best families were represented, and it was an enjoyable affair. On Monday afternoon, at about 4 o'clock, she will reach Cleveland. Captain Pierce will be glad to welcome all his friends to inspect this fine specimen of modern naval architecture. She will be in Cleveland till Tuesday night, when she will leave on her first regular trip. This route to the northwest is one of the most pleasant and most desirable, as it gives two nights of rest in crossing Lake Erie and Lake Michigan on board of fine steamers. This summer excursion to Detroit will be the great attraction of this line. T. C. P.
      Cleveland Herald
      Monday, May 13, 1878

      . . . . .

      Arrival Of The CITY OF DETROIT Yesterday - Fastest Time On Record.
      The arrival from Detroit of the new steamer CITY OF DETROIT, at 4:30 yesterday afternoon, was witnessed by a large number of people, drawn there by the previous announcement of her coming. The entire line on the east side of the river, from the Detroit boat landing to the end of the pier, was thronged, and nearly every vessel in the harbor displayed some sign of welcome, while many tugs went out loaded with people, and having flags flying, and one or two with bands playing -- all serving to make a gala occasion of her arrival. One tug had on board a small cannon, which again and again boomed out its loud-mouthed welcome as the beautiful steamer ploughed her way in from the lake. Mr. John Kist chartered a whole tug and band himself to go out and escort her in, and his turn-out formed no small part of the interest on the occasion.
      On touching the wharf she was boarded by as many of the throng as could get on her, and for the next hour or so her interior was subjected to the searching but friendly criticism of the curious visitors. Her Officers presented a splendid appearance in the new uniform of the line, in which Mr. Carson appeared to take great pride, and Captain McKay walked the deck of his new vessel with evident pride and satisfaction. Captain McKay is a Scotchman by birth, about forty-nine years of age, and has seen some thirty years of service upon the lakes. His personal bravery has been proved on numerous occasions, and is well known. In October 1864, he saved a portion of the crew of the United States Steamer WINSLOW in our harbor, when he received from the citizens of Cleveland a handsome gold watch in recognition of his bravery. On November 17th, 1874, the schooner CECILIA JEFFREY was wrecked near Cleveland and the crew driven to the rigging, when Captain McKay took the men off in sight of some 500 people. While on an excursion to Put-in-Bay he saved a little girl by jumping overboard, and on another occasion, while on the CASPIAN, he saved a lady and child who had fallen into Buffalo Creek. He also saved the life of a boy while on an excursion to Black River. When the CASPIAN was breaking up at Cleveland he saved three lives, and once extinguished a fire on board the ARCTIC on Lake Michigan when the crew became panic-stricken.
      The time of the trip was six hours and six minutes, being fourteen minutes better than the fastest time ever made. The next best time was made by the R.N. RICE, with the same engines, in six hours and twenty minutes.
The CITY OF DETROIT will leave for Detroit on her first regular trip to-night. To-day she will by open to visitors.
      Cleveland Herald
      Tuesday, May 14, 1878

Media Type:
Item Type:
trial trip & description
Date of Original:
Local identifier:
Language of Item:
William R. McNeil
Copyright Statement:
Copyright status unknown. Responsibility for determining the copyright status and any use rests exclusively with the user.
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.

City of Detroit (Steamboat), 13 May 1878