Maritime History of the Great Lakes

Scanner, v. 30, no. 6 (March 1998), p. 4

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Ship of the Month No. 241 WILLIAM C. MORELAND 4. When in Volume 1, Number 10, our issue of May 1969, we started what was to become our "Ship of the Month" series with a brief history of the steamer VICTORIOUS, little did we know what we had begun. "Scanner" then was in its infancy and we did not realize that there was such an avid readership out there, waiting for in-depth, nitty-gritty histories of the ships that have operated on our Great Lakes. If someone had suggested back in 1969 that our feature articles (then illustrated with pasted-in prints) could grow to ten pages in length, with six pictures on professionally-produced photopages, or that we still would be writing such features twenty-nine years later, we would rapidly have summoned the guys with the butterfly nets and the funny, white jackets with the straps on the sleeves! But here we are. And over the years, we have revisited some of the ships we featured in the early issues of "Scanner" in order to produce histories of them which are more in line with those we have written more recently. As we are now in our thirtieth volume of "Scanner", it is high time that we took a return look at another of the ships we described so briefly those many years ago. Accordingly, we now return to our issue of December 1969, in which appeared Ship of the Month No. 4, the steamer PARKDALE (II). When that two-and-a-half page article appeared, PARKDALE was still on the lakes, albeit inactive, but it was not long afterward that she was sent overseas for scrapping. The fea­ ture that we penned concerning her back then touched on the highlights of the unusual career of this handsome ship, but did not really do justice to it. So it is only fitting that we now write at more length about this steam­ er which, in reality, died twice and not just in a Spanish scrapyard in 1970. We also will take a different tack and feature her under her original name, carrying which she underwent the most unusual part of her history. The Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation had been in business for fifty years before it became a shipowner on the Great Lakes with the building of the big steamers B. F. JONES (I) and JAMES LAUGHLIN in 1906, these two freighters being named for the founding partners of the firm. Nobody who saw the immense Jones and Laughlin steel plant on the right bank of the Ohio Ri­ ver at Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, when it was in operation, could ever ques­ tion the fact that J & L was a major player in the steel production busi­ ness. But today, J & L no longer exists, the Aliquippa plant no longer func­ tions (although derelict parts of it still blight the river shore), and the Jones and Laughlin lake fleet is but a distant memory in the minds of only a very few living ship enthusiasts. In fact, the ownership of the Jones and Laughlin lake freighters was held by a subsidiary of the steel company, the Interstate Steamship Company, of Cle­ veland, Ohio. Interstate was managed for J & L by William Horatio Becker, who had been born at Oswego, New York, in 1860, and who had become a shipow­ ner in his own right, following in his father's footsteps. What became known as "The Becker Fleet" comprised a large number of owned vessels together with others operated for owners such as Jones and Laughlin. Late in 1920, Interstate assumed the operation of its own ships, with Capt. R. W. England as its marine manager. He was succeeded in 1942 by Paul L. Tietjen, and on May 24, 1949, Interstate was absorbed into the parent Jones and Laughlin Steel Corporation. J & L remained in the lake shipping business until November 15, 1952, when its ships were sold to the Wilson Transit Com­ pany, of Cleveland. But by then, the ship which we feature in this article was many decades gone from the company's ownership, making her untimely exit from the fleet after having completed only four trips for her owners. That any part of her survived the accident that claimed her was, indeed, some­ thing of a miracle. In 1910, the Interstate Steamship Company placed orders for the construction of two steamers which were to be virtual sisterships. The first to be com­

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