Chicago Tribune, December 20, 1889
Chicago now steps into her rightful place in the marine of the great lakes. As announced exclusively in The Tribun yesterday, the new shipyard of the Chicago Shipbuilding Company, backed by millions of capital, will at once enter the lists fully equipped to win.
In the plans for the great plant on the Calumet not an item has been overlooked which might add to the excellence of its work or tend to decrease the cost of operations. All the plans are not alone for the present, but for the future. The approaching period when boats 400 feet in length and 4,000 and 5,000 tons in burden will sail the lakes is fully anticipated. Not only are the moving spirits of the new organization preparing for the lakes, but they are looking forward to the time whe lake-built craft shall be found on the great rivers and on the ocean.
The new shipyard will be located right at the gateway to a field for steel shipbuilding now entirely unoccupied. When the drainage canal is dug from Chicago to the Illinois River then will Chicago construct the fleets of steamboats that are currently destined to ply on the Mississippi River and its great tributaries. Notwithstanding its admitted excellence for river steamboats over wood the use of steel is now practically unknown in river navigation. The great length and width but shallow depth of these craft make them extremely weak, and yet this cannot be remedied with wood. Steel fulfills all the requirements.
The great industry that is to come in building steel rive steamboats must fall to Chicago’s lot. No other lake shipbuilding point is located where it can enter the field. All that is needed is the drainage canal to float the boats to La Salle, and then the way is clear.
Manager Babcock said:
- I have had numerous queries about building steel boats for the rivers, but the difficulties were too great to be overcome under the present conditions. It would now be necessary to send the boats in sections by rail to river points and there put them together. The cost shut us out, but if we could tow the boats fully built to the rivers I feel assured of a great trade in store for us.
For the first time in the history of the inland marine a steel steamer is being built at Bay City for service in the Atlantic. When completed she will be taken to Buffalo, cut into two sections, and then towed to deep water navigation on the St. Lawrence. Then the parts will be put together, and the steamer will be put together, and the steamer proceed to her destination under her own power. This opens a new era in American shipbuilding. Steel steamers are built at a much less cost on the lakes than in Atlantic shipyards, and the lake shipyards are reaching out for the trade. The day the canal is opened to the Illinois River they will be well in shape to command the construction of nearly every American steel steamer not over 300 feet in length that will be added to the American marine. Ships of that size can easily be floated in eight feet of water and can be towed to deep water on the Mississippi without much cost. It will be quite within the bounds of reason to predict that the new marine under the American flag, with the exception of extra-sized ocean greyhounds, will be launched from lake shipyards.
As to the style of boats that the future is to see, they will have no masts except the forward one. The engines will be aft and the houses well forward. The relics of the time when ships used sail in the three and four masts will be cleared away. The new craft will not be pretty, and will violate time-honored ideas of what a great ship should be, but utility is rapidly doing away with the traditions of earlier periods.
An Independent Organization.
The Chicago Shipbuilding company is declared not to be a combination between the Illinois Steel company and the Globe Iron Works of Cleveland. It is a separate and distinct corporation. The Globe people as individuals control the company, having taken a majority of the stock. The owners of the Minnesota Iron company and of the Illinois Steel company have also taken stock, presumably in the interest of their respective corporations, but not in the name of several companies.
W. L. Babcock, Superintendent of Construction for the Minnesota Iron company, will be the manager of the new company, and, with W. L. Brown and Robert Forsythe, is one of the three Chicago directors. Jay C. Morse, President of the Minnesota Iron company, is mentioned as the heaviest investor among the Chicago stockholders. He is also interested in the Illinois Steel company. Mr. Babcock was formerly with the Union Dry Dock company of Buffalo, and has had large experience in shipbuilding. He is a young man, full of energy and executive ability, and he speaks confidently of the bright future for the new enterprise.
Mr. Babcock, when seen at the office of the Minnesota Iron company in the First National Bank Building, said yesterday:
- The Tribune’s report this morning was correct. We will lay the keel of the first steamer about April 1. By next summer we will have 1,000 men at work. After the shipyard is i working condition we will put in a dry-dock for ship repairing, aq machine shop, boiler shop, and foundry.
The company is stocked at $350,000, a majority of which amount has been taken by Cleveland people. The few shares that yet remain will probably be placed within a short time. The organization of the company has practicality been brought about within thirty days. The property we have purchased is on the east side of the Calumet River, about a mile above the Illinois Steel company. It includes about twenty acres, with 1,300 feet river frontage, the most of which belonged to John B. Brown. We will build three ships at once so that six ships at a time can have building berths. The Government dredgers are now within 1,000 feet of us, and before spring we will have a channel 200 feet wide and sixtenn feet deep in which to float our boats down to the lake.
We will build steel ships exclusively. The Globe Works at Cleveland will not be abandoned. In our business transactions we will not interfere in any way with the Globe compqny. The Globe makes wooden ships, as well as steel. The offices of the new company will be located, at least temporarily, in the First National Bank Building.
Interest of the Illinois Steel Company.
E. C. Potter, Second Vice-President of the Illinois Steel company said
- The Illinois Steel company has taken no stock and given no money inducement to the new company to locate where it has. We have said all we could, of course, and there is also an understanding between us that we are to furnish the steel plates. It would be a great advantage to us in giving us a home market for our new steel plate mill. Last summer we purchased quite a tract of land at South Chicago adjoining our works for the purpose of adding steel-plate making to our present business. There is at present no steel plate mill west of the Alleghenies. We will have four new blast furnaces to increase our pig-iron capacity, and also an open-hearth plant and a plate mill, giving employment to about 1,500 more workmen, The blast furnaces are all well under way. Two of them will be running by July 1, and the other two by Nov. 1. The open-hearth plant and plate mill will hardly be in operation in less than a year. We will make all sizes of plate and sheets, not alone ship plate, but boiler and tank plate.
I believe the Chicago Shipbuilding company will become the leading builders on the great lakes of steel ships. This distinction now lies between the Detroit Dry-Dock company and the Globe Iron-Works of Cleveland. The Globe yard is a most valuable one and will undoubtedly continue business. The Globe people may concentrate their building interest in the Chicago Shipbuilding company, in which case the Globe yards would still be retained for repairing. Chicago is surely entitled to the leading shipyards on the great lakes.
Chicago Tribune, January 27, 1894
The new dock will be 425 feet long, with an easy extension to 475 feet, 100 feet wide at the top, and 80 feet wide at the bottom. The width of the gate will be 70 feet and there will be 17 feet of water over the miter sill. The longest boat on the lake is 380 feet long. This will be the maximum for a few years. With harbor improvements the size of boats will again increase, but the margin of forty-five feet for ten years is considered ample. The great depth of the new dock is for the twenty-foot channel. It is not believed that any vesselman now living will ever see deeper waterways than twenty feet between the great lakes.
Chicago Shipbuilding Company
101st and Calumet River
With a river frontage of about 1,400 feet and an average depth of over 600 feet, the works cover over twenty acres, affording ample room for the shops necessary for all the various trades and occupations concerned in the building of the complete ship, with large storage ground for material besides. Atthe south end of the property, three slips, each 400 feet long by 100 feet wide, have been excavated to a depth of twelve feet of water, at a right angle to the river, whose sides give berths for building six ships of the largest class at one time, which will be launched sideways into the slips. Across the heads of the slips, equally convenient and accessible to all the berths, stretches a building 540 feet long by 75 feet wide, containing the boilers and shop engine, heating furnaces for plates and angles, blacksmith shop, plate and angle shops, small machine shop, pattern shop, and in the second story a mould loft with a clear floor 200 feet by 50 feet Here the lines of the ships are laid down full size from the models and dimensions furnished from the drafting office, and the wooden moulds made by which the steel angles and the plates are shaped. The shops below are filled with machinery of the latest and most modern types—shears, punches, planers, counters-sinkers, rolls, etc.
The steel comes into the yard from the mills over a side-track from the Calumet River railroad, a branch of the Pennsylvania system. It is unloaded from the cars and delivered to the shops by a traveling crane of sixty-two feet span, built by the Brown Hoisting and Conveying Machine Company, of Cleveland, Ohio. A system of overhead tracks in the shop carries it to the various tools, and leaving them, a narrow-gauge railway takes it to
the building berth. Here a steam cantilever crane of 120 feet span, built of steel by the same company, and running on trestle-work fifty feet above the ground, picks it up and delivers each plate, beam or angle to its appointed place. The engines will also be put in by thiscrane before launching. The boilers will be hoisted in place by a steel derrick on the river front after launching.
The company are now at work on their first contract, two steel steamers for the Minnesota Steamship Company, to go into the Lake Superior iron ore trade. They are to be 292 feet keel, 308 feet over all, 40-foot beam, and 24½ feet deep, with triple expansion enginesand steel boilers, and are to be ready for the opening of navigation this year.
By 1900, just after it became part of the American Shipbuilding Co. (also based in Cleveland), the Chicago Ship Building Co. employed 1,200 men and ranked as the leading builder of steel ships on the Great Lakes. The company, which remained part of American Shipbuilding, continued to operate on a relatively small scale through World War II; it never regained the leading position it had held in the 1890s.
By 1898, the company was to experience even further organizational changes. It became apparent that fierce competition among the various shipyards on the Great Lakes was undermining profit margins. The answer was consolidation; the Chicago Shipbuilding Company joined the newly created American Shipbuilding Company.
The Chicago Shipbuilding Company, as a subsidiary of American Shipbuilding Company, continued to build ships and to do repair work throughout the early part of the twentieth century. The company again expanded, and in 1912 it took over the Ship Owner’s Dry Dock Company of Chicago. In 1913, it closed the North Yard and built a new dry dock area near the South Yard. Today the Chicago Shipbuilding Company is mostly involved with ship repair and operates under the name of the American Shipbuilding Company.