The Launch of a Record-Setting Great Lakes Steamship

April 13, 1898

The steamship SS Superior City was launched in the yards of her manufacturer Cleveland Ship Building Company (later renamed the American Ship Building Company) at Lorain, Ohio, specifically on the section of Lake Erie that is at the mouth of the Black River. This launch took place at two o’clock that Wednesday afternoon. The day had been declared an official holiday in Lorain, and approximately 10,000 people altogether assembled both along the river front and out on the water in rowboats to witness the launch. 

The new vessel was christened by a young woman named Inez Pierce, the daughter of a prominent Lorrain banker and businessman. She had been selected for that ceremonial duty by a committee of city residents.

The 450-foot (140-meter)-long Superior City was constructed to transport coal, ore, and grain along the Great Lakes. At the time of her launch, Superior City was the largest vessel ever built on freshwater. She also had the distinction of being the first freighter built with a 50-foot (15-meter) beam. In addition, Superior City had a carrying capacity of about 7,100 tons (6,441 metric tons) and was among the world’s powerful bulk freighters. The vessel was very much a pioneer when it came to bigger, longer, and stronger ships serving the Great Lakes region. 

Superior City’s claim as “Queen of the Lakes” — the informal but widely recognized title for the longest vessel active on the Great Lakes — was superseded just a few months later by the 475-foot (144.8-meter)-long steamship SS Samuel F.B. Morse after her own launch at West Bay City, Michigan. Nonetheless, Superior City went on to serve the Great Lakes region with distinction for more than two decades. Her service came to an abrupt and tragic end on August 20, 1920, when she sank after colliding with the steamship SS Willis L. King in Lake Superior’s Whitefish Bay.

For more information on SS Superior City, please check out SS Superior City – Wikipedia

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