Passenger Ships of the Great Lakes
"To Preserve and Make Known the History of the Great Lakes," the mission statement of the Great Lakes Historical Society, was promoted in the talk given Wednesday, April 15 by James Lundgren at Wakeman Hall. Using PowerPoint illustrations of all types of passenger ships, from early 1800s sailing vessels to luxurious steamers of the 1920s, Lundgren told their long forgotten stories.
The sidewheel steamer the "Anthony Wayne," also known as the "General Wayne," was built in Perrysburg in 1837 and sank in 1850 when her two boilers exploded. All passengers and crew were killed, estimated between 80 and 100. It was known that the wreckage was only eight miles offshore in Lake Erie in about 50 feet of water. Not until 2007 was the ship located using sonar technology. Lundgren showed murky underwater photos of archaeologist divers surveying the ship.
During World War II the "Seeandbee" passenger steamship was converted to use in the training of naval aviators in carrier take-offs and landings and renamed the "Wolverine." About 1,700 pilots were trained in Lake Michigan until 1945.
One hundred years ago the "SS Eastland," a passenger ship used for tours, rolled on its side while tied to a dock in the Chicago river, killing 844 passengers and crew. Although the largest loss of life on the Great Lakes, the tragedy is largely forgotten. Lundgren said plans are being made for special events on the anniversary of its sinking in July.
Collisions, explosions and fires sank many other ships, one so terrible it led to the use of dental identification. The Great Lakes Museum, operated by the Great Lakes Historical Society, has a map showing 8,000 shipwrecks. Lundgren, who is Director of Operations, urged the large audience to visit the museum, now rated number four on the top list of things to do in Toledo.