The Maritime History of the Great Lakes
British Whig (Kingston, ON), 10 Oct 1907

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The steamer Wacondah, on her way west, is windbound at the dry dock.

The scow Mary Louise arrived from Rideau river points, this morning, with a general cargo.

The schooner Acacia arrived from Sodus, with coal, and is being unloaded at Crawford's.

The barge Dorchester, of the M.T. company, rebuilt this summer, was successfully launched yesterday afternoon.

The Richelieu & Ontario Navigation company has given the contract for raising the burned steamer Picton to Frank Simpson of Toronto.

M.T. Co.'s elevator: the steamer Robert Wallace, from Chicago, with 76,000 bushels of wheat; steamer Canadian from Duluth with 81,000 bushels of wheat; schooner Keewatin from Pickering harbor, with 12,000 bushels of barley.

Swift's: steamer Hamilton up last night; steamer Belleville down last night; steamer Cornwall down today; steamer Aletha from bay ports today; steamer Chieftain III from Garden Island; schooner Clara cleared for Oswego for coal.



Big Cargoes On Giants Of Lakes.

[William E. Curtis, in Chicago Record-Herald]

Capt. Alexander McDougall, the inventor of the whaleback, and for twenty-five years or more commander of vessels of the Anchor line fleet on the great lakes, has left the wheelhouse forever and is now one of the most prominent and solid citizens of Duluth. He is engaged in several important enterprises, and has not lost his interest in shipping affairs. While we were sailing around the harbor the other day he talked about old times on the lakes, and gave some interesting reminiscences of the life of a lake captain and his own adventures. He described the development of the shipping industry and, speaking of the growth of the freighting capacity of vessels, declared that the hold of the steamer Thomas F. Cole, which had recently come out, in a single voyage would carry a cargo equal to the combined capacity of every boat of every description that floated on Lake Superior at the beginning of the civil war - every steamer, every sailing vessel, every barge, every batteau and every canoe. Mr. Philbin, superintendent of the Great Northern railroad, recalled a speech which was made the other day by Capt. A.B. Wolvin at the launching of the steamer Ward Ames. Capt. Wolvin said that twenty years ago he was master of the steamer Victor Swain, which at that moment was moored to a dock within sight of the guests, and he declared that it would require every regular trip of that vessel for two years and a half to carry from Duluth to Cleveland as much ore as would be carried by the Ward Ames on her first trip.

There are four big steamers of the type of the Thomas F. Cole being built at Cleveland. Each will be able to carry 12,500 tons of coal, drawing eighteen feet of water. If they are loaded down to nineteen feet, they can carry 14,000 tons of coal. If they could be loaded to their full capacity they would draw twenty-four feet of water and could carry 19,000 or 20,000 tons of ore, but the channels in Detroit river, St. Clair Flats and the St. Mary's river will not allow more than twenty feet at the outside, and twenty feet is the limit of safety. These boats are 606 feet long, 58 feet beam, 32 feet deep and have 34 hatches for loading and unloading. Everything is done by machinery, which has been invented and come into use within the last three or four years. Their crews consist of between thirty and forty machinists and firemen. There are no sailors on the lakes today, Capt. McDougall says. They can load with ore or coal in from three to four hours and can be unloaded in from seven to twelve hours.

These are the limit of draft and dimensions that can be operated upon the lakes until the channels are deepened, which, Capt. McDougall thinks, must be done within the present generation to meet the demands of commerce.

"The first fleet of iron ships upon the lakes was launched at Buffalo in 1871 for the Anchor line," continued Capt. McDougall. "They were called the China, Japan and India, and cost $180,000 each - the most complete, staunch and expensive freight and passenger carriers that had ever been seen upon the lakes up to that time. They carried about fifty passengers in comfortable and what was then considered luxurious staterooms and about 1,200 tons of cargo. I commanded the Japan for many years."

"These ships did not pay. The depression caused by the panic of 1873 was so great that they couldn't make a living for several years, but the business picked up in 1879 and the development has been very rapid ever since."

"The next step in the evolution of the lake carrier was the big wooden steambarge that carried from 1,200 to 1,400 tons in her hold and towed a sailing vessel in her wake. They were very useful and profitable, but their construction stopped fifteen years ago, when steel became cheaper than timber. Steel and fresh water agree better than fresh water and oak, and steel construction is cheaper than timber. These barges, however, are now obsolete. Most of them have been laid up. Occasionally you see one loaded with lumber."

"The whaleback appeared in 1880 as a consort originally for those wooden steambarges. It was my invention, and I built forty-five whaleback steamers and barges here in Duluth, including one passenger ship, which was intended for excursion business during the world's fair at Chicago, and carried 1,700,000 passengers that year. It has unloaded 5,000 people in five minutes. It is still running between Chicago and Milwaukee. About twenty whalebacks went to the ocean and carried cargoes along the coast. Three are now carrying coal between Baltimore and Tampico. They do very well on the ocean. They will outride the heaviest storms. Some of them came back into the lakes and had to be cut in two and freighted up the St. Lawrence, although they ran down all right. One whaleback was built in England. It is now running on the Danube river, carrying wheat."

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10 Oct 1907
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  • Ontario, Canada
    Latitude: 44.22976 Longitude: -76.48098
Rick Neilson
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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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British Whig (Kingston, ON), 10 Oct 1907