The most important announcement in this regard is the sale of two steel steamers, PENNSYLVANIA and TEXAS, building at the works of the Cleveland Ship Building Co., Lorain, for A. B. Wolvin and others. The ownership of these vessels has been transferred to the office of Pickands, Mather & Co., Cleveland, but whether for the Federal Steel Co. for other interests represented in that office is not definitely known as yet. These vessels were probably not sold for less than $275,000 each, a price that represents a very great margin over the figures at which contracts for them were made by Mr. Wolvin a few months ago. It is also more than probable that within the next few days announcement will be made of the sale to the Federal Steel Co. of the five other steel steamers of the Wolvin fleet that are known as the Zenith Transit Co. ships. This sale is understood to be already as good as closed. Mr. Wolvin has been at work on the matter in New York for several days past. The steamers are the ZENITH CITY, QUEEN CITY, SUPERIOR CITY, CRESCENT CITY and EMPIRE CITY, all of them big carriers and modern in every way, with a combined value of probably a million and a quarter. The American Steel & Wire Co. has been negotiating for some time past for steel vessels to be added to the fleet which they secured in absorbing the Cleveland Rolling Mill Co., and it has been said that the Carnegie company was bidding against the Federal Steel for the Wolvin fleet, but there is nothing official about this latter report. It is the general opinion, however, that conditions like those now prevailing will force the Carnegie company to undertake on its own account the transportation of that part of its ore (a very large proportion) that is not provided for by contract with John D. Rockefeller. The sale of the Wolvin fleet undoubtedly means that Mr. Wolvin is to leave the lakes and take up for James J. Hill of the Great Northern railway the establishment of a line of ships to the Orient from the terminals of the Great Northern on the Pacific coast.
The Marine Review
March 23, 1899
The vessel owner of the lakes who has no connection with producing or consuming interests in iron ore attaches considerable significance to the sale, within the past few days, of seven steel steamers, known as the Wolvin fleet, to two of the big steel combinations. This purchase means first that the steel interests are willing to pay high prices for modern freight carriers in order to immediately strengthen themselves in the struggle that is going on for industrial supremacy. It means also that the transportation of ore, alike to other branches of the iron industry, is to be eventually controlled by the combinations to a far greater extent than was expected a short time ago. The important question, therefore, with the vessel owner who has a few modern steel freighters. and who could now find a sale for them at profitable prices, is whether it would be to his advantage to sell out on the present rise in values, or continue in the business with the hope that the combinations will not last, or that there will always be a place for the individual owner who keeps up with the times by selling off old ships and building a few new ones from year to year.
Although it was at first thought that the entire Wolvin fleet of seven steel steamers would go to the Federal Steel Co.. only two, the PENNSYLVANIA and TEXAS, building at Lorain, went to that interest. The premium paid for the transfer of contract covering the construction of these two vessels has not been made public but it is understood that stockholders in the Zenith Transit Co., owning the five vessels sold to the American Steel & Wire Co., were paid $125 a share for stock that cost them $100 a share, It is still generally understood that as a result of this sale, Mr. A.B. Wolvin will quit the lakes and undertake for the Great Northern Railway the establishment of a steamship line on the Pacific. between Puget Sound, China and Japan, but Mr. Wolvin has not said as yet that his mind is fully made up on this score. If he should take up this project for the Great Northern. his first year in the undertaking would very probably be spent in Europe planning for the construction or purchase of the five or six big steamers that would be required for the service. The offer for his services is said to involve a salary of $25,000 a year and a contract covering a term of five years.
The Marine Review
March 30, 1899