For nearly ninety years, lake freighters belonging to the Inland Steel fleet transported the raw materials required for the manufacture of steel at their owner’s industrial complex at Indiana Harbor, Indiana. This volume traces the history of this company’s involvement in the Great Lakes shipping industry throughout most of the twentieth century, achievements in which included the commissioning of groundbreaking vessels such as the steamers Wilfred Sykes and Edward L. Ryerson.
In addition to chronicling the marine operations of the Inland Steel Company, this book also includes complete historical accounts for each of the ten vessels that served in the steel maker’s fleet over its long history.
During a special meeting held on April 3, 1936, the stockholders of the Inland Steamship Company approved a resolution to discontinue further business and to dispose of the corporation’s property and assets following the payment of outstanding debts. Thirteen days later, the company announced plans to place its three steamers up for sale at an auction scheduled for May 1, 1936 at Chicago, Illinois. Despite the outward appearance of these events, the Inland Steel Company had no intention to liquidate its marine fleet interests.
At the beginning of the 1980 shipping season, the Inland Steel fleet stood at six vessels with a single trip carrying capacity of 129,000 gross tons. Ranging in age from the 72-year old E. J. Block to the modern Joseph L. Block, the fleet represented a microcosm of Great Lakes freighter design stretching back to the beginning of the twentieth century. With an average age of 39.2 years, the vessels in this fleet owed their longevity to the singular purpose of providing the Inland Steel Company with a dedicated method of transporting its raw materials.
Designed by the naval architecture firm H. C. Downer & Associates of Cleveland, Ohio, the Inland Steel Company chose Manitowoc Shipbuilding of Manitowoc, Wisconsin to build their new $8 million steamer. This contract was unique in the fact that with the exception of the motor vessel The Inland, every ship operated by the Inland fleet up to this time had come from the yards of the American Ship Building Company or that firm’s subsidiary, the West Bay City Shipbuilding Company. Optimized specifically for the transport of iron ore, the cabins of this vessel incorporated a number of modernistic aesthetic features styled by industrial designer Karl Brocken.
With a lifelong interest in Great Lakes Shipping and military history, Raymond A. Bawal Jr. has written several books on these two subjects.