The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), November 17, 1878

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DETROIT RIVER TUGS AT CHICAGO. - The Chicago papers of Saturday, in noticing the arrival of the tugs Champion and Crusader, with their disabled schooners, make particular mention of the Champion for her size and beautiful model. The Times calls her the "giant tug." The Inter-Ocean says:

The Champion is one of the finest and most powerful tugs afloat anywhere. She has never been in Chicago before, and was regarded with a great deal of interest. The following are her dimensions: Length, 134 feet 6 inches; beam 21 1/2 feet; depth of hold 7 feet, 8 inches; measurement, 263 tons. She had two beautiful high-pressure engines, 26 1/2x30*, which were designed by Mr. Thomas Murphy, the well-known machinist and engineer, and who acted as engineer of the Champion this trip. She also has a patent grate, gotten up by Mr. Murphy, which will burn slack coal**, and which is considered a decided and useful improvement. Several experts visited the boat as she laid at the dock, all of whom were loud in their praises of her in every respect. Her model is good; she is strongly but smoothly built, and is completely equipped in every detail. Her great power, however, is what always attracts attention to her. She is the property of the Strong estate, and is managed, among other boats, by Mr. John R. Gillette, of Detroit.

Concerning the disabled schooners which they had in tow the Tribune says:

Both the James C. King and the Crossthwaite [sic] were disabled in the tow off a week ago last Thursday by the loss of their canvas. The King was towed from Tawas, and the Crossthwaite from Crawford's Quarry. There was only a jib left of the King's sails, and not one whole piece of the Crossthwaite's canvas. The towing bill of the former was $1,900, and some dispute arose over it on the arrival of the vessel in port. When a vessel is disabled, the large tugs charge $250 for their services, but under ordinary circumstances $80 would have been charged the King for towing her up from Tawas.

Capt. Ballentine, of the Crusader, stated Friday evening that he would probably proceed to Cheboygan and remain there for the rest of the season in the towing and wrecking business.

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Through the latter third of the 19th century, Detroit was home to some of the largest and most powerful tugs in the whole lake system. The towing of sail vessels through the Detroit-St Clair river complex from Lake Erie to Lake Huron was big business in the day. The tug CHAMPION , built in 1868, was at the time arguably the most famous tug on the lakes and she is still often to be seen in the much-published Whipple painting of her on the river dragging an eight-schooner tow. When she ventured out of her home turf, she made news, as shown in this article.             *bore and stroke of each engine's single cylinder, in inches.       **Slack coal - coal broken into small pieces.
Date of Original:
November 17, 1878
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Dave Swayze
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Public domain: Copyright has expired according to the applicable Canadian or American laws. No restrictions on use.
Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), November 17, 1878