1904-built Great Lakes Steamer J.B. FORD

The "as built" EDWIN F. HOLMES, one of eight identical bulk carriers. Photo by Louis Pesha from the William S. Carmen collection courtesy of Paul C. LaMarre III.

The Great Lakes Steamship Society was founded in 2010 with the key goal of preserving the J.B. FORD, originally the 1904-vintage iron ore bulk carrier E.F. HOLMES commissioned for the Commonwealth Shipping Company. She was built by American Shipbuilding Company in Lorain, Ohio, measured 440 by 50 feet and was powered by Scotch boiler-fired triple expansion steam engines that produced 1,500 shaft horsepower.

The E.C. COLLINS, ex HOLMES. Tom Manse and Paul C. Lamarre Jr. collection.

In 1916, the HOLMES was sold to the Pittsburgh Steamship Company and after some minor structural modifications, renamed E. C. COLLINS. In 1944, she was traded to Kinsman for service as a grain carrier, lasting until 1956, when she was sold to the Huron Cement Company.

J.B FORD. Photo and copyright Roger LeLievre.

After a two year layup, the ship was converted into a self-unloading cement carrier.  Renamed J.B. FORD in 1959, she commenced her new service, lasting until 1985. She was subsequently used as a storage ship, first at South Chicago and then from 2001 at Superior, Wisconsin. In 2008, the J.B. FORD became redundant and faces the likely prospect of being sold for demolition.

The ship is a rare remnant of a once vast fleet of turn-of-the-twentieth-century lakers.  Her vintage hull and many of her structural elements, woodwork and steam machinery remain the same.  The FORD also, quite remarkably, survived both the 1905 “Mataafa Storm” and the 1913 “White Hurricane” which devastated the region and claimed many lives.

The Great Lakes Steamship Society is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization consisting of Great Lakes shipping industry professionals and maritime historians.  They are actively seeking donations and volunteers in their efforts to preserve this important ship as a floating museum in the Great Lakes area.

For more information on the Great Lakes Steamship Society and a detailed history of the J.B. FORD, please click here.

With special thanks:  Steven Haverty


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