Hiram Walker & Sons New Excursion Steamer
Her Trial Trip Saturday - Description of the Boat
There was an excursion on the new steamer Sappho Saturday afternoon, which was thoroughly enjoyed by about 250 invited friends of Hiram Walker & Sons, the owners. Although the boat has been in commission since the excursion season opened, no formal trial trip was made till Saturday, the owners wishing that when it occurred the boat should be complete in appointment, so that nothing would detract from the success of the trip. To this initial trip 600 invitations were sent out and the 250 that responded were principally from Detroit, although large representations were present from Walkerville and Windsor and a fair sized delegation of students from Ann Arbor, friends of Mr. Frank Walker. Leaving Chene street at 2:30 the Sappho took on a large number of the Detroit people at the Woodward avenue wharf and, crossing the other side, took the Winsor and Walkerville gentlemen on board. Before the trip of the afternoon was begun, a general inspection for the new candidate for excursion patronage was made by those aboard, and the general verdict was that no better equipped or more nicely arranged excursion vessel floats on the river.
The dimensions of the Sappho are: length over all 119 ft., 6 in; beam 44 ft. 6 in. She was built last winter by the Detroit dry dock company at Springwells,* and was launched about the middle of April and has up to this time carried out two excursion parties, one of which numbered over 700 persons. Her model is not different from that of other boats constructed for pleasure purposes, her upper deck being very roomy and specially adapted to the needs of large dancing parties.
The power of the engines is furnished by a steel boiler, 8 feet shell, ½ inch plates, double riveted and allowed to carry 104 pounds of steam. It is the work of Desotel and Hutton of this city. The engine is manufactured by Christie and De Graff, is a double non-condensing engine 20x24 and is sufficiently powerful to make the Sappho a speedy boat. The wheel is 8 feet, 9 inches in diameter, and has 11½ feet pitch. The boiler room is sheeted with galvanized iron, rendering the spreading of a blaze in that part of the boat almost impossible, while it proves a decided advantage in the running of the boat. Near the entrance to the boiler room are three hose connections, permitting the obtaining of streams of water at a moment's notice.
For the protection of life in case of accident the most ample provisions have been made in the way of life preservers, floats, buoys and boats. There are on board about 810 cork life jackets, two large life boats of the Dean patent, besides rafts in positions where they can be used with little delay. Arranged on the outer edges of the promenade and hurricane decks are wires which run the entire length of the craft and support cork jackets, which can be instantly thrown to the decks by halyards placed at either end of the boat.
In the hurricane deck is skylight having stained glass windows. There is a receptacle for hanging baskets of flowers, giving the upper deck a very pretty appearance. The cabins, two in number, are handsomely furnished. The boat complete cost $35,000, and the inspection on Saturday was very satisfactory. It demonstrated that in her construction, speed, safety and elegance in appointments were all considered by the owners, and that the Sappho deservedly ranks among the best excursion boats on the river.
The officers of the new boat are all uniformed. The are as follows:
Captain - George Shanks
First Engineer - T. W. Robinson
Second Engineer - Wm. Webster
The trips Saturday was from the city around Belle Isle, down the river some distance to the fort and back to Woodward avenue. The ride on the river was pleasant. Spiel's opera house band, 16 pieces, furnished the music. Before the boat reached the city speeches were made by Sol. White, M.P. from North Essex, J. C. Patterson, M.P., Judge Brown of the United States district court, William F. Kingsley, manager of the Merchant's bank of Windsor, Dr. Wright, T. H. Hinchman of this city, Mr. Benjamin Vernon acting as chairman of the meeting. The speeces were exceedingly happy, and the subject of the annexation of the provinces was incidentally touched upon by all of the speakers, but the remarks in the main were of a congratulatory character, reference being made to the beautiful vessel, her enterprising owners, and to the princely treatment accorded those who were present at her trial trip. The Sappho landed the Detroit guests about 6 o'clock.
Detroit Post and Tribune
Monday, June 18, 1883
*now part of Ecorse, Mi
Dave Swayze's Note: - According the Hiram Walker & Co.'s web page, Hiram Walker was a Detroiter who had built his large distillery and the surrounding company village of Walkerville in Windsor, Ontario, for tax purposes. He made a daily commute from Detroit by boat, a job which was handled by the chartered ferry ESSEX until SAPPHO took over in 1883.
The Walker Distillery, long noted for its fine Canadian whiskies (e.g."Canadian Club") had made great profit by buying spoiled wheat, hop and corn cargoes from sunken or damaged Great Lakes grain schooners. Walker paid cents on the dollar and received a raw material that had already begun the fermentation process! Walker's has always had a tight connection to Detroit, from its "alleged" secret dock and dealings with rumrunners during prohibition, to the huge red "Canadian Club" sign facing the city from Walkerville.
There is an excellent small book on the Detroit River ferries, The Ferry Steamers, by William Oxford, brought to my attention by Joe Barr.