Water transportation has played a key role in the Great Lakes region’s settlement and economic growth, from providing entry into the new lake states to offering cheap transportation for the goods they produced. There are numerous tales surrounding the Great Lakes shipping trade, but few storytellers have addressed the factors that influenced the use, design, and evolution of the ships that sailed the inland seas. Sail, Steam, and Diesel: Moving Cargo on the Great Lakes provides a comprehensive overview of the evolution of Great Lakes ships over the centuries, from small birch-bark canoes originally used in the region to the massive thousand-footers of today. The author also looks at the economics of vessel operation in the context of the expanding scope of the shipping industry, which was crucial in catapulting America into becoming an industrial juggernaut. The captains of industry and the sailors whose labor propelled the trade populate this account, which also offers solemn acknowledgment of the high cost paid in both lost ships and lives. Although they might not realize it, millions of Americans have owed their livelihoods to the Great Lakes boats, and this volume is an excellent way to recognize the importance of this regional industry.
The author has clearly devoted years to his research, and the end result is a truly remarkable summary of his discoveries. Hirsimaki has shared with today’s readers the evolution of Great Lakes watercraft, along with the personal experiences of sailors on many generations of those vessels, both merchant and military crewmen. He has also supplemented his work with informative appendices and footnotes. Sail, Steam, and Diesel: Moving Cargo on the Great Lakes promises to be a very popular source of Great Lakes history! —C. Patrick Labadie, maritime historian and underwater archaeologist, former director of the Saugatuck Marine Museum, and former director of the Lake Superior Maritime Museum in Duluth
This volume is a good read for those who know about Great Lakes shipping and an easily accessible work for those who don’t. It’s well organized and covers a lot of material in an economical yet coherent way. Put it this way: I read—and dismiss—a lot of books on the topic of Great Lakes ships and shipping, but this one is a keeper. —Roger LeLievre, editor and publisher of Know Your Ships
This book makes a substantial contribution to the field of Great Lakes maritime history. The author successfully blends a wide array of factors into a complete story, including modifications to the travel routes, gradual increases in ship sizes and carrying capacities, changes in the nature of the crew makeup, port loading and unloading operations, and technological advancements such as radio’s impact on navigation. While there have been a substantial number of works about nineteenth-century ships and their cargoes and crews, the author does the audience a great service in bringing out and synthesizing what has happened on the lakes in the last century to tell the significant stories that affected the industry. —Scott M. Peters, curator of collections, Michigan Historical Museum
A standout, one-of-a-kind work on the fascinating story of Great Lakes maritime expansion from the very first lake traders to today’s vast diversity of world commerce on the Great Lakes. —Matthew Weisman, member of the Association for Great Lakes Maritime History and coauthor of nine books on shipbuilding