The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Success (Ship), fire, 4 Jul 1946

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THE convict ship SUCCESS exhibited at many lake and ocean ports within the last thirty years and known to thousands of Americans, was destroyed by fire on July 4, as she lay in Lake Erie Cove, off Port Clinton, Ohio.
Built in 1790 at Moulmein, Burma, the town familiar through Kipling's "Mandalay," she was entirely constructed of Burmese teak, one of the hardest woods known. She was 135 feet long, 29 beam, copper fastened and treenailed throughout.
Originally an East India merchantman, she differed from most in having her own guns. Shotmarks of an encounter with a French armed vessel in the Bay of Bengal were still visible on her hull close to the water line. Likewise the teakwood mainmast contained a dent left by a pirate's cannonball. Once she was captured by pirates, but soon recaptured by a fleet sent out by the East India Company.
In 1802 she was converted into a transport for prisoners bound for Australia, remaining in this work for fifty years. Those were the days when stealing was punished in England by transportation to Australia for a term never less than seven years, often much more. The cruelties perpetrated upon the unhappy prisoners below far surpassed those visited upon the cargo of the slave trading ships, for slaves had economic value if delivered in good condition, and convicts had none. Visitors to the SUCCESS in her latter days on display shuddered at the heavy chains, the black holes and the instruments of punishment used at the Officers' whims.
      In 1852, when transportation was abolished, the SUCCESS became a prison hulk, anchored in Sydney Bay. The better to isolate her and discourage attempts at escape, a cordon of buoys was moored round the yellow painted hulk, seventy five yards away. Anyone passing the circle without proper authority was liable to be instantly shot.
In 1868 she was abandoned as a prison hulk. For a time she was used as a women's prison. Later she became a storage ship for powder.
In 85 the SUCCESS was prepared for exhibit in Sydney, but maliciously scuttled, went to the bottom, where she remained for nearly five years. Then she was raised and began the tours which carried her around the world and on thousands of miles. For some years during the Cleveland Exposition of 1935 36 and after, she lay off East Ninth Street, in curious company with the flagship that carried Admiral Byrd to the Antarctic. Later she was to be seen off Sandusky, apparently abandoned by her owners. Finally taken in hand, she was being stripped of valuable parts when her unexplained ending came on July 4, the Day of Freedom witnessing the last of a vessel which had lived more than half her life as a prison.
      Inland Seas
      October 1946 p. 276

Media Type:
Item Type:
Reason: fire
Lives: nil
Freight: nil
Remarks: Total loss
Date of Original:
Local identifier:
Language of Item:
Geographic Coverage:
  • Ohio, United States
    Latitude: 41.62783 Longitude: -82.82213
William R. McNeil
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Maritime History of the Great Lakes
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Success (Ship), fire, 4 Jul 1946