The Hayday of Great Lakes Shipbuilding

The times of greatest shipbuilding in the Great Lakes region was during the lumbering era. From 1839 until the early 1890s, the virgin old-growth Michigan forests were cut down to produce lumber for growing towns and cities in the lower Great Lakes. Michigan was the nation’s leading lumber producer from 1869 until about 1900. The only way to transport finished milled lumber from the shore side mills in the Great Lakes was by ship.

I recently ran across an online resource for Great Lakes Shipping enthusiasts.  The Fr. Edward J. Dowling, S.J. Marine Historical Collection offers an ever-expanding data set of ships, Great Lakes shipbuilding, and ship names that span back to the 1830s. It’s a fascinating resource for Great Lakes shipbuilding.

Great Lakes Ship Building
Steamship Alpena

“The collection also contains 52 notebooks filled with more than 70 years worth of compiled data on virtually every steamship (about 10,000) of more than 100 tons that has navigated the Great Lakes. The data includes the years of which the ships were built, their owners, the ships’ dimensions, equipment used on them, final disposition, and other data. Besides, the collection has details on almost every fleet navigating the Great Lakes.”

Great Lakes Ship Building
Steamship Interior

I became very interested in the Great Lakes shipbuilding in the Thumb when I found that Caseville’s Frances Crawford built a schooner, the Frank Crawford, on the Pigeon River in 1861. See the post,  Ship Building in Caseville, to find out more.

Great Lakes Ship Building
Steamship Alpena

Fr. Edward J. Dowling was a noted Great Lakes historian, an associate professor of engineering graphics at the University of Detroit, and a special lecturer in marine travel and commercial shipping on the Great Lakes. He authored Lakers of World, published by the University of Detroit Press in 1967, and numerous journal articles on Great Lakes shipbuilding and shipping.

Sources for Great Lakes Shipbuilding

Ships depicted are the City of Alpena from the Dowling Collection.

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