The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
Detroit Free Press (Detroit, MI), Dec. 15, 1901

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Not Much Change Likely in Next Year's Insurance Business

Chicago, December 14. - The one item of 133 losses in the crowded channels between Lakes Huron and Erie the past season of navigation has called the attention of vessel owners and underwriters to the dire need of government protection in the handling of vessel property in that, the most important waterway on this continent, if not in the world. Through no other channels anywhere is as much freight carried as through the Detroit and St. Clair Rivers. Although the procession of boats is a constant one, every captain is for himself and vessel owners and underwriters pay for the liberty or license.

It will be proposed at the coming meeting of the Lake Carriers Association in Detroit next month to place navigation on Detroit river from Mama Juda light to Bar Point in the hands of the revenue marine, the same as done with navigation of the Soo* river. After they had lost nearly $1,000,000 in one season by disasters in the Soo river, the vesselmen themselves petitioned the secretary of the treasury to take charge. Marine men say the time has come for the same action in the Detroit river.


The season as a whole has not been disastrous to the underwriters, nor has it been a time of profit. It is said that if an average was struck of the past ten years, 1901 would be about the average. It is estimated that for the insurance of vessels themselves, about $1,200,000 was paid over to the underwriters, and for cargoes about $700,000 went the same way. The number of ships carrying no insurance was largely increased by the coming of the steel trust, which has insured its own tonnage, and the passing of a large fleet of vesselmen who assumed their own risks. As the uninsured interests happened to have an unusually large list of disasters, the underwriters did not lose much by the change.

There were reported in the Marine Insurance Bulletin during the season 717 losses of all kinds. Last year the losses numbered 502. In 1899 there were 569 and in 1898, 386. It is in this increase in the number rather than the importance of disasters that the source of losses to the underwriters is to be found. Around every drydock on the chain of lakes there are now grouped dozens of ships waiting for their turn to be repaired. The underwriters will pay the bills.


Fire has played a more important part with the underwriters than for many years, if not ever before on the lakes. There were 37 serious fires, a large percentage of which were total losses. This is believed to portend the material advance in fire insurance rates the coming season.

The single largest item on the list are boats aground, which numbered 202. There were injured in collision 107, and 145 went ashore. Sixty-eight were reported as leaking or waterlogged, and 146 were disabled. Twelve foundered, carrying with them part or all of their crews. At the Lime Kilns alone, 34 ships met disaster, marking this as the danger spot of all the lakes. It is here that the Detroit river passes through a rock cut into Lake Erie, and nowhere are stringent regulations so much needed.

The ice blockade in the St. Clair river in April was responsible for eighteen disasters. Underwriters, however, paid the losses most cheerfully, for they felt they were indeed fortunate that no big ships were sunk in trying to force a way through many miles of the solid ice that blocked the passage for nearly four weeks.

The insurance companies doing a large business in grain, have made a good profit, a fair proportion of the $500,000 taken in as premiums remaining with them at the finish.


On the other hand, companies insuring lumber have gotten decidedly the worst of it. It is anticipated that there will be a great change in lumber insurance next season, and prohibitory rates will be named for lumber on boats of low grade. Cargo insurance on iron ore and coal has been about an even thing. In fact, it is going to be more difficult than ever to get insurance at all on old boats in 1902. Underwriters say they have good reason for looking askance at the old-timer. Last season their owners went begging for insurance, and only got it at extremely high rates. Next spring, it is claimed, even high rates will not attach policies to many old craft that have been covered the past year.

In the way of total losses, 51 vessels valued at $814,700, passed out of existence. Last year the total losses amounted to 45 vessels, valued at $474,600. In 1899 they numbered 42 vessels, valued at $226,200. The high-water mark of the decade was in 1898, when 58 ships of 29,194 tons were lost. The past season the tonnage of boats lost was 23,798, compared with 17, 415 tons in 1900 and 18,198 tons in 1899. Fire accounts for $287,700 of the total losses for the past season.


The heaviest individual loss was the steamer Hudson, which foundered in Lake Superior in the fall with her entire crew. This one loss cost the underwriters on ship and cargo over $250,000. In the value of property this is perhaps the heaviest loss in the history of the lakes.

Underwriters say it is too early to begin figuring on next season's business or rates. It is the general impression that there will not be much change from the season just passed. A few verbal changes in the policies to make their meaning more plain may be made. What a "voyage" consists of will be better defined. The policies this year have left it in doubt, and shippers have held that they had the right to start out their boats from terminal points and take on cargoes afterwards, even if the time for insurance had expired in the meantime. Rates on steel and modern wooden vessels will likely be about what they have been, and there will not be much change in grain, coal or ore. So far as known now, the same combinations of companies will be in the field next spring as have done business the past year.



The total losses for the season are:
Canadian tug Tecumseh, May 3, 33 tons; foundered in Lake Huron. Loss $6,000.
Schr. Fostoria, May 10, 237 tons; sunk by ice in St. Clair river. Loss $1,000.
Passenger str Bon Voyage, May 15, 500 tons; burned in Lake Superior, Loss $13,000.
Steam yacht Nymph, May 11, 47 tons; ashore in Lake Erie. Loss $14,000.
Tug Cora, May 12, 14 tons; burned at Detroit. Loss $3,000.
Schr. Narragansett, May 13, 316 tons; foundered in Lake Huron. Loss $1,200.
Schr. Montmorency, May 23, 299 tons; ashore in Saginaw Bay. Loss $1,000.
Str. Baltimore, May 24, 1,160 tons; foundered in Lake Huron. Loss $40,000.
Schr. George Davis, May 24, 93 tons; ashore in Saginaw Bay. Loss $1,000.
Tug Constance, May 24, 31 tons; destroyed by collision at Menominee. Loss $4,000.
Schr. Little Georgy, May 25, 52 tons; ashore in Lake Michigan. Loss $800.
Schr. H. Rand, May 24, 124 tons; waterlogged in Lake Michigan. Loss $1,100.
Canadian str. Hero, June 14, 342 tons, burned at Belleville, Ont. Loss $10,000.
Str. Hennepin, June 27, 1,372 tons, burned at Buffalo. Loss $45,000.
Tug Fern, June 23, 48 tons; foundered in Lake Superior. Loss $6,000.
Str. Avon, June 30, 1,702 tons; burned at Sault Ste Marie. Loss $30,000.
Canadian str. Alberta, July 7, 68 tons; ashore in Lake Huron. Loss 2,500.
Tug Sir Luke, July 10, 23 tons; ashore in Green Bay. Loss $3,000.
Whaleback barge Sagamore, July 29, 1,601 tons; sunk by collision in St. Mary's river. Loss $80,000.
Schooner Smith & Post, August 7, 213 tons; burned on Lake Erie. Loss $2,500.
Steamer George Stauber, August 21, 43 tons; sunk by collision in St. Clair river. Loss $2,000.
Steamer Eliza Strong, August 21, 781 tons; waterlogged in Lake Superior. Loss $32,000.
Schooner Driver, August 31, 137 tons; capsized in Lake Michigan. Loss $1,000.
Canadian steamer John Long, September 3, 201 tons; burned in Meldrum bay. Loss $12,000.
Schooner Amaranth, September 7, 272 tons; ashore in Lake Huron. Loss $2,000.
Schooner Sea Gem, September 10, 103 tons; ashore near Charlevoix. Loss $1,000.
Schooner G. Ellen, September 16, 85 tons; waterlogged in Lake Michigan. Loss $400.
Schooner Jupiter, September 16, 253 tons; waterlogged in Lake Huron. Loss $2,000.
Steamer Hudson, September 16, 2,294 tons, foundered in Lake Superior. Loss $160,000.
Steamer City of Cleveland, September 19, 1,610 tons; ashore in Georgian bay. Loss $55,000.
Steamer Fedora, September 21, 1,848 tons; burned in Lake Superior. Loss $85,000.
Tug Empire, September 20, 51 tons; burned in Detroit river. Loss $2,800.
Schooner Ella Ellinwood, September 29, 157 tons; ashore near Milwaukee. Loss $1,800.
Steamer M. M. Drake, October 2, 1,102 tons; foundered in Lake Superior. Loss $35,000.
Schooner Michigan, October 2, 1,056 tons; foundered in Lake Superior. Loss $19,000.
Schooner Mont Blanc, October 13, 238 tons; foundered in Lake Erie.
Schooner Elvina, October 13, 296 tons; sunk in Thunder bay, Lake Huron. Loss $2,000.
Schooner William Stone, October 13, 185 tons; ashore in the Straits of Mackinac. Loss $4,000.
Steamer State of Michigan, October 13, 736 tons; sunk in Lake Michigan. Loss $18,000.
Steamer Swallow, October 19, 256 tons; foundered on Lake Erie. Loss $12,000.
Schooner Montgomery, October 19, 709 tons; waterlogged in Lake Superior. Loss $6,000.
Schooner C. Michelson, October 30, 137 tons; ashore in Green bay. Loss $2,000.
Steamer A. B. Taylor, November 7, 103 tons; burned at Grand Haven. Loss $10,000.
Schooner Eureka, November 8, 338 tons, waterlogged in Lake Huron. Loss $2,000.
Schooner George Irving, November 10, 73 tons; waterlogged in Lake Huron. Loss $700.
Schooner Peoria, November 12, 167 tons; ashore in Lake Michigan. Loss $2,000.
Steamer Porter Chamberlain, November 12, 279 tons; burned in Georgian bay. Loss $10,000.
Schooner H. J. Webb, November 13, 431 tons; burned in Georgian bay. Loss $7,000.
Schooner Marine City, November 15, 337 tons; foundered in Lake Huron. Loss $2,000.
Steamer Elfinmere, November 16, 1,054 tons; burned in Green bay. Loss $40,000.
Tug Keystone, November 19, 94 tons; burned at Ashland. Loss $15,000.

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Item Type:
*St. Mary's

Of these insured losses, at least five were recovered: ELFINMERE, A. B. TAYLOR, ELIZA STRONG, HENNEPIN and LITTLE GEORGY. There were also a number of apparently uninsured losses in 1901 which don't appear on this list.
Date of Original:
Dec. 15, 1901
Local identifier:
Language of Item:
Dave Swayze
Copyright Statement:
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), Dec. 15, 1901