Chicago Tribune, October 15, 1860
Vessel Building in Chicago
At one of the best known ship yards on the North Branch, a new firm, as will be seen, i another column, succeeds Messrs. Doolittle & Miller, long and favorably in repute among all interested in our lake marine.
The new firm, Messrs. Miller & Hood, is one eminently well calculated to take advantage of the era of improved business now opening, and even extend their department of industry to limits not before reached here. The senior, Mr. Miller, is well known to our community, and is a gentleman of experience, practical knowledge, and well earned means. His associate, Capt. Hood, has resided for some years in our State, where he has many friends. He was formerly and for years one of the most noted of Massachusetts ship builders, and has sent out some of the most splendid and famous of our ocean merchant fleet, as well as fulfilled several important and credible ship-building contracts for the U.S. Government. He has been very successful in shoal water craft, and is throughout a thorough going, wide-awake and enterprising ship-builder.
We confidently expect that they will from their yard as above, make some A No. 1 additions tom our lake marine. The market for first class sailing vessels is a better one than for some years past, and meanwhile, disaster and wear and tear have cut down considerably the list of the best grade of vessels. Chicago is now certainly a point where vessels can be built either for the Lake or ocean trade under favorable and excellent advantages. The firm named possess the ability, backed by the skill pluck, needed to test the question fully. Theirs will be made one of the most completely furnished yards on the chain of the lakes.
Chicago Evening Mail, October 7, 1872
Our reporter next wended his steps in the direction of the shipyards and drydocks of this city, seeking information, regarding workingmen, their habits and their wages. At the entrance of the drydock of Messrs. Bates & Co., on Wells street, he encountered a shipcarpenter and caulker, when the following conversation took place.
Reporter. Who carries on business in this drydock?
Shipcarpenter. Bates & Co.
R. Who is the company?
S.C. The stockholders, to be sure.
R. Well, who are stockholders?
S.C. They are carpenters and caulkers, who lent their money to Mr. Bates, so that he might be enabled to purchase the lease and improvements from the former owners of the dock, Olcott & Doolittle.
R. You said they were in company with Mr. Bates.
S.C. They are in company with Mr. Bates as far as getting the preference of what work is being done in the yard.
R. What do you mean by preference?
C. I mean that when the work is slack, and if a good job comes to the yard, those men are selected to do the work, while the other men who have not lent Bates any money, or, as we term them, non-stock holders, have to wait until something else comes alon, or go to some other yards to get work.
R. How many more yards are there carrying on this business in the city?
C. There are two more dry docks besides this one, and one boat yard, and several jobbers are following the business on the river.
R. What wages do you men receive?
C. From $2.50 to $3.50 per day.
R. Do the caulkers get the same pay?
C. They get from $3 to $3.50 a day.
R. How often do get paid?
C. Once a week—on every Tuesday morning.
R. Do you get your wages in cash?
R. Do you get on pay night what you earned through the week?
C. No. If we make a full week we get from $15 to $0.
R. When do you get this money back?
SC. Whenever you demand it.
R. How much do you average a month?
SC. About $50 a month.
R. That would be about $600 a year.
S.C. That is more than I earned last year at this trade.
R. Is that the general average of all men working at this business?
S.C. Yes, and if anything above it.
R. What are your expenses weekly?
S.C. Well, I have a family consisting of my wife and four children, the oldest is but 12 years old and the youngest 3 years. My wife is very economical, and in the thirteen years I have lived in this city I have put $320 in the Savings Bank.
This man being called away at this pointb our reporter crossed Polk street bridge and called at the yard of Messrs. Olcott & Doolittle, where he encountered a number of men who appeared to be idle, and found the cause to be that there was no employment for them on that day. Calling one of the number one side, our reporter asked him if he was a carpenter, he answered by saying he was, but of late he worked at caulking altogether.
R. Do you do much work in this yard?
C. No, not a great deal, our employers depend altogether on the dockage.
R. What do you mean by that?
C. I mean the less work done on the vessel and the schooner she is got out of the dry dock the better it is for Olcott & Doolittle.
R. Why is tat the case?
C. Well, in the first place it is the best dry-dock in the city, as we can take in the heaviest draft of water of any dock, and they make more money by docking vessels.
R. Is that steamer coming into the dock?
C. Yes. She is coming in to have her fore foot repaired.
R. How long does it take to pump out this dock?
C. Well, if Tim Hurley, the engineer, gets up a good head of steam he can pump it out in two hours and a half.
R. How long does it take to let out a steamer when she is done?
C. About fifty minutes and she’s in the middle of the creek.
R. How many men are employed in this yard?
C. About thirty men, and nearly all of them work at both branches of the trade.
R. What wages do you average in this yard?
C. Well, the other day the men were talking over the articles that are appearing in the Evening Mail regarding the different trades and their wages, and we came to the conclusion that the men employes in this yard do not average over $625 a year.
R. Do many take the Mail?
C. Yes. A good many of our men take the Mail. They like it for its friendship for the workingmen. We generally make our complaint to Frank Lawler when we fail to receive it, who generally attends to sending word to the Mail office.
R. Do the men bring it to the yard to read?
C. Yes. Dennis McCarty, one of our men, brings it to the yard every day.
R. What wages do you receive?
C. The standard wages in this yard are $3.50 a day.
R. How often do you get paid?
C. We get all the wages we earn on every Tuesday night.
R. Would the men not save more money if they were paid on Saturday evening, so that they might deposit their surplus earnings in a savings bank?
C. Some of the men might, but as a general thingtheir necessary expenses take all they earn.
R. Can you give an idea what it costs you to live per week?
C. No; all I can say is that I have a very saving little wife, and three children, and my weekly wages but meet our current expenses.
R. Are you a drinking man?
C. If I work very hard I take a glass of beer, if not, I do not touch it.
R. Do other men at this trade drink up any of their wages?
C.As a general thing the men working at this trade do not spend $10 a year for drink.
R. Do all men working at this trade belong to the Union?
C. Not at all, but I think at the next regular meeting they will all join.
R. Where do you hold your meetings?
C. At the Globe Theatre building. We will hold our next regular meeting on Tuesday evening next, at the hall.
At this point Mr. Olcott called upon the men to go spinning oakum, when our informant left.
Our reporter believing that a visit to the yards of Messrs. Miller Bros. would gibe some additional items about this trade, started for the North Branch, but upon arriving there it was the hour of 6 o’clock p.m, and the men were found putting away their tools and hurrying to their homes. The reporter, on his way down town, coming along Chicago avenue, overtook one of the men working in the yard, from whom he learnt that the rate of wages paid in that yard ranged from $2.75 to $3.50 per day, receiving their cash in full weekly.
R. What is the opinion of the men on classification?
Informant. We are opposed to classification.
R. Why are they opposed to it?
I. Because it gives the inferior workman the preference of the work.
R. How do you make that out?
I. Why you see if a first-class mechanic is sent to work, the employers make but 40 cents commission on his days work, while on the inferior man, they can make double or treble what they can make on the good mechanic, that is why we are against classification. Classification would be very good if there was no more charged for the inferior workman than what was paid to him, with the commission in proportion to the good workmen.
R. I do not quite understand you.
I. You don’t, well I’ll show you; you see the employers pay the inferior workman $2.75 or $3, and charge the vessel owner for that man’s days wages $3.90, in that way they make three times as much on the poor workman as they do on the good one, three of those men with one good machine to lay out the work for them, can work along and will not be noticed by the captain of the vessel. Still they are supposed to be number one ship-carpenters. That is what we complain the most.
Our reporter’s informant at the corner of Sedgwick and Chicago avenue, bid him good night, and departed swinging his dinner pail as happy as any prince, king or potentate, while our reporter took his way to our office to write up his interview with the chip and oakum of Chicago, well pleased with his afternoon’s work.
Chicago Evening Mail, October 16, 1873
At the yards of Olcott & Dolittle 60 men have been employed, and a large business done until lately, mostly in the way of docking vessels. At present there are about 25 men at work.
At the docks of W.W. Bates & Co., one of the larger docks in the city, there are usually about 65 men at work, where there are about 150.
Miller Bros. are building an additional dry dock, which serves to keep a larger number of men employed than would otherwise be the case.
Chicago Tribune, July 31, 1880
A NEW DRY-DOCK TO BE BUILT.
Some time since THE TRIBUNE announced that Mr. Orville Olcott was making preparations to construct a large new dry-dock on the North Branch, just below the dry-docks and shipyard of Miller Brothers. Mr. Olcott’s arrangements are so far completed that details of the enterprise can safely be given. The new dock will be situated on Lots 8, 9, and 10, Block 98, Elston’s Addition, or at the entrance to the Ogden Canal on the North Branch. It is to be 300 feet long, sixty-four feet wide at the top, and forty-two feet at the bottom, with a floating depth of twelve feet over the blocks. The pumping machinery will consist of two fifteen-inch centrifugal pumps of the celebrated White, Clark & Co., Baldwinsville, N. Y., make. Their lifting capacity will be 32,000 gallons per minute, and as the capacity of the dock is estimated at 1,500,000 gallons it will readily be seen that the pumnping-out process cannot fail to meet expectations. The pumps are to be operated by an engine of 150-horse power.
A decided advantage that this dock will possess over any others in the city is the control of 500 feet of river front, where a vessel can lie and undergo topside repairs without moving. This is a necessity that has long been felt. The firm engaged in the enterprise will be styled Olcott, Hannahs & Co. The dock is to be known as “Olcott’s Marine Dry-Dock.” Mr. Orville Orcott will act as agent, and the services of John Gregory, the well known marine architect, have been secured as master mechanic. The contract for dredging the slip that is to be converted into a dry-dock has been secured by Harry Fox & Co., who propose to begin work either to-day or on Monday. The estimated cost of the improvement, complete, is $25,000, and is to be completed by the 1st of October.
Orville’s Marine Dry-Dock
Block 98, Lots 8, 9, and 10
Robinson Fire Map
Chicago Tribune, September 15, 1880
THE NEW OLCOTT DRY-DOCK
The dredging for Olcott’s new marine dry-dock was completed yesterday by Harry Fox & Co. The next work will be to place a coffer-dam at the head of the huge ditch and pump the water out so that pile-driving and sheathing may be carried on. The new dock will hardly be ready before the 1st of December. It will be the most eligible in the city, as the location is such that vessels can be run directly into it from below, without the necessity of winding. The boiler is already on the ground and pumps are well under way.
Chicago Tribune, October 25, 1880
Work on Olcott’s new marine dry-dock at the lower end of Goose Island is making satisfactory progress. The dry-dock basin is being floored and lined, and the boiler engine, and centrifugal pumps are already on the ground. The dock will be ready for use by the 15th of December.
Miller Brothers Shipyard and Dry-Dock
North Branch of Chicago River
North Branch of Chicago River
Chicago Tribune, April 14, 1881
OLCOTT’S MARINE DRY DOCK
Work upon the new dry-dock of Olcott, Hannaha & Co., Goose Island, is now so nearly completed that arrangements are being made to dock the schooner R. B. Hayes (US 110338) at once.Yesterday afternoon a dredge began removing the coffer-dam, with the view of letting the vessel by Saturday. The dock will be under the management of Mr. Orville Orcott, as agent, and known as Olcott’s Marine Dry-Dock. The dry-dock is 300 feet long, sixty-four feet wide at the top and forty-two feet at the bottom, and has a depth of twelve feet of water over the blocks. To free it of water two fifteen-inch centrifugal pumps, capable of discharging 32,000 gallons of water per minute, are employed. These pumps are driven by an engine at 150-horse-power. The boiler and smokestack attached are those formerly in use of the old side-wheel steamer Huron, which laid the foundation of Capt. A. E. Goodrich’s present princely fortune, she having been the first steamer ever owned by him. Although second-hand and old, it is still serviceable. The engine also is not a new one. Connected with the dry-dock are 500 feet of river front, at which vessels can tie while undergoing topside repairs. Thus is supplied a need that has long been felt in connection with Chicago ship-yards and dry-docks. The new dry-dock and ship-yard are situated at the lower end of the Goose Island tract, between the Ogden Canal and the North Branch. Vessels can be run into the dry-dock by the tugs towing them, which is also an advantageous arrangement because of the amount of time and labor saved thereby. The cost of the new dock with its machinery will not fall much short of $30,000. The large schooner Rutherford B. Hays is the first vessel booked to occupy it.
Rutherford B. Hayes
US No. 110338
Launched Detroit, MI, October, 1877
Sank Near Racine, WI, April, 1893
Chicago Tribune, April 19, 1881
A DRY DOCK CAVED IN
Early yesterday morning workmen employed upon Olcott’s new marine dry-dock discovered that the pressure against the Ogden Canal bank portion of it had caused a serious leak, and that there was imminent danger of a caving in of not less than 100 feet of that side of the dock. They therefore promptly and very wisely opened the gate-valves and allowed the dry-dock to fill with water. Workmen are now engaged in an effort to locate the leak and discover the full extent of the damage, Mr. Olcott does not anticipate a delay over two or three days in making needed repairs, but but knowing ones intimate that fully two or three weeks’ time will be necessary to complete the work. The visit of the schooner Hayes to the dock is postponed indefinitely by the misfortune, and may have to be taken elsewhere in order to complete her repairs by the opening of navigation through the lakes.
The Inter Ocean, May 18, 1881
A NEW DRY DOCK
OLCOTT, HANNAHS & CO.
Another monster dry dock in Chicago was completed yesterday. It is in the North Branch just east of the Miller Brothers’ shipyard, and the proprietors are Olcott, Hannahs & Co. There is a shipyard in connection, of course. Mr. Olcott is an old shipbuilder and dry-dock proprietor in Chicago, and needs no introduction. Mr. Hannahs comes from South Haven, but is also well known here and elsewhere on the lakes. The new dock is 303 feet long, 44 feet wide at the bottom and 67 feet on the top, and can take in a vessel that draws 12 feet of water. The lot and dock cost $50,000.