SS Col. James M. Schoonmaker

SS Col. James M. Schoonmaker

SS Col. James M. Schoonmaker history:

The Great Lakes have always been a vital step for the transportation of resources, and the need to transport materials in large quantities led to the creation of lake freighters. This is how the SS Col. James M. Schoonmaker came to be built at Great Lakes Engineering Works, a freighter that was considered the Queen of the Lakes.

Named in honor of the prominent Civil War colonel and launched on July 1, 1911, she became the flagship of the Shenango Furnace Co. She was 617 feet long, 64 feet wide and had a tonnage of 12,000, immediately earning the title of Queen of the Lakes, given to the longest Great Lakes vessel at the time. The Col. James M. Schoonmaker made her successful maiden trip from Toledo, Ohio to Sheboygan, Wisconsin with a cargo of 12,650 net tons of coal, later transporting grain and iron ore, breaking several cargo records due to her large size in her first year.

But this freighter not only stood out for her size; unlike other ships on the Great Lakes, she had luxury suites, a lounge and dining room for the comfort of the guests, those people who wanted to know the ship. The ship held the record of Queen of the Lakes until 1914 and continued to serve as a freighter; however, she was sold to the Interlake Steamship Co in 1969, who leased it to the Republic Steel Corporation. 3 years later she was acquired by the Cleveland Cliffs Iron Co, who renamed the freighter as Willis B Boyer in honor of the company's president. 

The freighter continued sailing the lakes until 1980 and 7 years later was acquired by the city of Toledo, who turned it into a museum. Today the SS Col. James M. Schoonmaker, which regained its original name on July 1, 2011 to commemorate its centenary, is the great attraction of the National Museum of the Great Lakes, where it is remembered as the colossal lake freighter and continues to captivate many.