Richard Weiss covered this historic event on with his excellent photographs – What follows is Richard’s own account and photographs of the July 1st, 2011 event in Toledo, Ohio:
SS COL. JAMES M. SCHOONMAKER A Century Later: By Richard Weiss
July 1st found me in Toledo, Ohio for what must be a first in the annals of Maritime History. After months of restoration work, the re-christening of the steamship SS COL. JAMES M. SCHOONMAKER exactly 100 years to the minute of the ships original christening and once again wearing her original colors of the Shenango Furnace Company was now only minutes away.
My friend John Belliveau who creates incredibly detailed profile drawings of Great Lakes steamships secured me a pass to the rechristening ceremony. I visited the ship, many times before as the WILLIS B. BOYER, a name she wore after being sold to the Cleveland Cliffs Steamship Company and into retirement as a museum ship in Toledo. Never the less. this was an event not to be missed. As we arrived dockside I was in awe, I could not take my eyes off the ship. I always liked the colors of the Shanango Furnace Company but this company ceased to exist long before I had an interest in ships but here they were in front of me, glistening under the warm July sun with the ship being decked out in Red White and Blue adding to the festive scene it was hard to comprehend that I was looking at a ship that one hundred years earlier looked exactly as I saw her now. It is doubtful she ever could have looked better. Now it must be remembered the midwest had been hammered by unrelenting rain, floods and unusually cold temperatures for much of the spring which kept the entire ship from being completely sand blasted and repainted by the time rechristening day arrived but for what the crowds saw, the unfinished areas were not noticed.
I hoped out of the car and as I framed the ship in my camera’s viewfinder for my first photograph, the vertical one you see here I thought I was looking at vintage Kodachrome slide rather than the real thing, it was impossible to think otherwise. I was impressed to say the least.
We had a little time to look around the ship before the ceremony began. Someone had trucked in an old Russell steam tractor built not far away in Massillon, Ohio probably built about the same time as the SCHOONMAKER herself and there were a number of whistles from former Great Lakes ships hooked up to it being sounded.
As we were on board inspecting the ship we were constantly being serenaded by voices of ships past.
It was really something to be on deck with the smell of Anthracite smoke filling the air and a constant blowing of various whistles. It was almost possible to imagine the Toledo waterfront one hundred years earlier. And why not? This is the very dock where the SCHOONMAKER picked up her very first load. Furthering the impression that we had hopped on a time machine just ahead lay the schooner LYNX and beyond her the Tug NEBRASKA with well over 100 years of continual service.
The rechristening ceremony began at 11:00am, the ships upper decks were lined with the paining crew and below them the ships volunteers. There was a short speach and than a bottle was smashed by Mrs. Schoonmaker, whose mother-in-law, Gretchen Schoonmaker, was a child when she did the ship’s original christening honors a century before.
If you look at the two pictures above you can see the cabins still in the colors of Cleveland Cliffs, a closer look at stern shot you sill see only one side of the ship has been painted.
The ship was re-engined in 1952, almost 60 years ago and at that time she was given a new modern funnel, externally this was the only noticible change in the ships long sailing career.
MARTIN COX - Founder and publisher of MaritimeMatters, inspired by maritime culture and technology growing up in the port of Southampton. He works as a photographer in Los Angeles, and his works has been exhibited in LA, San Francisco, New York, London and Iceland. Martin is the co-writer of the book “Hollywood to Honolulu; the story of the Los Angeles Steamship Company” published by the Steam Ship Historical Society of America. The Los Angeles Maritime Museum has commissioned artworks and collected his photographs.