SS America


Package Freighter
Detroit Dry Dock Company
Detroit Dry Dock Company
164.6 feet; lengthened to 182.6 feet (1910-11)
681 tons
Triple expansion steam engine 15"-24"-38"-24"
Dunbar & McMillan
U.S. & Dominion Transportation Co.
Edward Smith
John Wick
Passengers & Fruit
Booth Fisheries Company
S.S. America Salvors, Inc., c/o James Marshall
Hull insured, $60,000
U.S. 107367
North Gap of Washington Harbor
Minimum 2 feet; maximum 80 feet
0; 1 pet dog (Spike)


merica was built to act as an excursion vessel between Michigan ports and Chicago. During this time, as many as 1,200 excursionists would be aboard. In 1902, America was purchased by the Booth Company and was moved to Lake Superior. The vessel now moved from Duluth, Minnesota, Isle Royale, to Thunder Bay, Ontario. The vessel was known for its friendly captains and prowess in the fog.

On June 07, 1928, America had dropped off passengers at Washington Harbor, on the southwest side of Isle Royale. Captain Edward Smith turned the wheel over to first mate John Wick, who was new to America's crew and Isle Royale. Heading outbound of Washington Harbor, Wick clipped the vessel on a reef; luckily the engineer was able to ground the vessel in the North Gap. Captain Smith had five life boats launched and everyone, save one pet dog, was able to get off America before it sank.

A portion of the bow remained above the water, before becoming fully submerged sometime following the summer of 1929. The forward cargo hold remained mostly accessible throughout this time. For several weeks after the wreck the ship's fruit cargo continually surfaced and washed ashore. Island resident Stanley Sivertson once remarked, "We ate fruit all summer".

The vessel was not fully salvaged due to the oncoming Depression years. There had beed multiple attempts to salvage, and eventually raise the America, however none of these were successful. This is the most popular dive site at Isle Royale. It is possible to see the affects of natural site transformation processes. Ice shove affects shallower parts of the vessel.


SS America: Kenneth E. Thro Collection, ISRO Archives.

AMERICA was Hull Number 127 for Detroit Dry Dock Company(Edward N. Middleton notes, Canal Park Marine Museum Collection, Duluth). Events surrounding the launch of the AMERICA'S hull on Saturday, April 2, 1898, were carried by the Detroit Free Press (May 22, 1898):

Yesterday afternoon at 3:26 o'clock the steel passenger steamer AMERICA was launched at the Wyandotte yards of the Detroit Dry Dock Co. There were about 400 people present .... At exactly 3:17 the first click of the hammers was heard and in just nine minutes the axmen had cut the ropes that held the big beams in place and the boat slid gracefully off the ways .... She was christened "AMERICA" by Mrs. E. C. Dunbar, wife of one of the owners.

The new boat, which was intended for the Lake Michigan service between Michigan City and Chicago, was built on the same general lines as the CITY OF ERIE, though much smaller (Detroit Free Press April 3, 1898).

Less than a month later, after the new ship was completed at the Detroit Drydock (about June 10) and began the daily run between Chicago and Michigan City ( Detroit Free Press May 22, 1898), Chicago marine men were expressing their satisfaction with AMERICA and remarking on its speed of 15-17 miles an hour.

SS America: Frank Warren Collection, ISRO Archives.

AMERICA'S first document of enrollment was a temporary one issued on June 13, 1898 in Detroit. This document listed E. C. Dunbar of Michigan City as 3/4 owner and M. B. McMillan of Detroit as 1/4 owner. The master of record is Capt. M. F. Morgan. A master must be assigned at the time of ship enrollment. In many cases this master, as shown on the documents, is not actually the captain of the vessel, but rather a representative of the company or individual who owns the vessel. In this instance, Capt. M. F. Morgan was also the captain. The document shows AMERICA was built by Detroit Dry Dock Company in 1898 at Wyandotte, Michigan. United States registry number 107367 was given to AMERICA, which was classed as a steel hull screw steamer. This document states the steamer had one deck, no masts, plain head, and round stern, with registered dimensions of 164.6 feet in length, 31.0 feet in breadth, and 11.0 feet in depth. The gross tonnage was calculated to be 486.37 tons, consisting of 309.79 tons capacity under the tonnage deck and 176.58 tons capacity of enclosures on the upper deck. AMERICA'S net tonnage was 283.40 tons, allowing for deductions of 28.90 tons for crew quarters, 28.90 tons for master's cabin, 18.43 tons for anchor gear, and 155.64 tons for propelling power (Temporary Certificate of Enrollment, No. 69, Port of Detroit, issued June 13, 1898; Detroit Free Press (May 22, 1898).

AMERICA'S engine and boilers were listed as built in 1898 by Dry Dock Engine Works of Detroit. It is a triple-expansion engine with cylinder diameters of 15, 24, and 38 inches and a stroke of 24 inches. The engine produced 700 indicated horsepower at 160 RPM. Steam for the engine came from two Scotch boilers, 10.0 feet in diameter and 10 feet 2 inches long. The boilers had four furnaces with grate surface of 48 square feet, and heating surface of 2,242 square feet; working pressure was 125 psi.

The hull of AMERICA was lengthened in 1911 at the shipyard in West Superior, Wisconsin. When work was complete, AMERICA was 18 feet longer with 12 added staterooms for 50 additional passengers. The freight capacity was also increased by about 100 tons. The beam of 31 feet and depth of 11 feet remained unchanged. However, the new length was 182.6 feet and registered tonnages increased to 937 gross and 593 net tons (Doc. of Enrollment Sept. 9, 1911). The speed remained unchanged, but handling and appearance were reported improved with the addition of the 18-foot section.

Captain Edward C. "Indian" Smith, Minong Lodge: Wolbrink Collection, ISRO Archives.

Master of AMERICA was listed as E. C. Smith with Louis P. Hogstad of Duluth as the owner's representative. The approximate number of crewmen required was listed for the first time as 20 persons (Permanent Certificate of Enrollment, No. 79, Port of Duluth, issued June 9, 1911). By the time of its sinking, AMERICA would be required to carry 30 crew members.

Minimum crew requirements were specified as 1 licensed master and pilot, 1 licensed first-class pilot, 5 able seamen, 3 seamen, 11 certificated lifeboat men, 1 licensed chief engineer, 1 licensed first assistant engineer, 3 oilers, 3 firemen, and 4 watchmen. An added note stated, "Of the watchmen specified, 2 are main or deck watchmen included in the deck department and 2 are cabin watchmen or deck patrol and included in the stewards department" (Ibid : 1 0- 1 1). In all, the number of officers and crew allowed was 30 and the total number of passengers allowed was 94. Thus, the total number of persons allowed to be carried under Class (A) rules equalled 124. An additional handwritten note referring to Class (A) stated, "When running more than 3 miles off shore during the interval between May 15 and Sept. 15, both dates inclusive, 277 passengers are allowed making a total of 307 persons including crew" (1928 BIR:13). One additional note was pencilled adjacent to the latter saying simply "14 less than last year", but without further explanation.

AMERICA carried cork life preservers: 307 for adults, 39 for children, and 12 for lifeboats. Sixteen were condemned during inspection in April 1928, perhaps explaining why the number of passengers allowed was reduced by 14 as noted above. The ship also carried 2 ordinary ring life buoys and 2 "luminous ring life buoys" (1928 HIR:40-41).

Operational History

SS America, Isle Royale: Wolbrink Collection, ISRO Archives.

Little historical documentation has been located for the first two seasons of America's operation, other than the ship was periodically chartered for special cruises and to augment the vessels of other lines. One of the early charters was to the International Navigation Co. of New York to run between Buffalo and Niagara Falls (Benton Harbor Daily Palladium March 12, 1901; Holland City News March 15, 1901).

AMERICA'S involvement with Isle Royale began in March 1902 when the Booth Steamship Line purchased the new ship. Booth put AMERICA on "the Duluth Port Arthur, and Isle Royale route" (Canadian Railway and Marine World March 1902:109). Before heading up the Lakes, the ship was altered at Grand Haven where the cabin capacity was "materially increased" (Duluth News Tribune March 18, 1902). The new Booth Line steamer, due to arrive in Duluth April 15, was rated "one of the finest and fastest freight and passenger boats available" (Ibid. April 5, 1902).

At the end of the 1903 season, the Isle Royale lightkeepers were returned to the mainland aboard AMERICA, as they frequently were in the years that followed (Ibid. Nov. 26, 1903). AMERICA often had the distinction of being the first passenger out and the last to end the navigation season (e.g. Duluth Evening Herald April 20, 1914; Duluth News Tribune April 24, 1918).

For most of AMERICA'S career it served as a prime communication and transportation link between the Lake Superior north shore settlements and between the mainland and Isle Royale. Passengers and freight were connected to the main economic outlet of the port of Duluth, and this trade was the commercial mainstay of AMERICA'S operation. In the early period of AMERICA'S operation the north shore roads were poor (e.g. Duluth Evening Herald April 22, 1907). AMERICA was also a principal summer mail carrier alternating with a stage line that carried during the winter (Duluth Evening Herald April 30, 1913). Over the course of the last two decades of AMERICA'S operation, land transportation along the north shore improved markedly, cutting sharply into the steamer's prime role in communications and transportation. A road was completed around Lake Superior in 1921 (Duluth News Tribune May 1, 1921). During the later years AMERICA expanded operations in the excursion trade, although it never left the north shore-Isle Royale run.

Crew of the SS America, Washington Harbor: R.E. Johns Collection, ISRO Archives.

In 1909 the old company was dissolved and a new enterprise named Booth Fisheries Company of Delaware was formed, that took over the operations (Duluth Evening Herald June 3, 1909). AMERICA had not been affected and was continuing on schedule. A month later Fourth of July celebrations were celebrated at Isle Royale (Ibid. July 10, 1908). The managing agent of AMERICA was changed in 1914 to the United States 8t Dominion Transportation Co., a company formed by the Booth Fisheries Co. (Duluth Evening Herald April 22, 1914). Ownership of the vessel was unchanged.

The start of AMERICA'S 1911 season was delayed while the hull lengthening was completed (Duluth News Tribune May 9, 1911). Eighteen feet of length and 12 cabins had been added. The steamer could carry 100 tons more freight as a result of the new alterations. It was announced that the steamer would make three trips a week between Duluth and Port Arthur, and Isle Royale. One of the popular Isle Royale resorts that AMERICA frequented was Schofield's Lodge on Belle Isle. It was a popular excursion, and the resort catered to vacation clientele (Duluth Evening Herald June 17, 1912).

In 1925, the steamer BRUCE took over AMERICA'S operation on the south shore. AMERICA would make three trips weekly to Isle Royale and Port Arthur (Duluth News Tribune April 25, 1925). Later that year, AMERICA ran aground at Scott's Point, near Grand Marais and damaged the rudder shoe and stern bearing (Duluth News Tribune May 30, 31, 1925).

During the last winter of its operation, AMERICA steamed to Port Arthur during a severe December storm: The steamer AMERICA arrived in port this afternoon from Duluth. She was completely ice-coated. Aboard was a cargo of salt for the Booth Fisheries Canadian company. The vessel is taking back salted herring" (Port Arthur News Chronicle Dec. 3, 1927). This would have put AMERICA on its return voyage to Duluth in the same storm that halted KAMLOOPS, QUEDOC, WINNIPEG, and other vessels on their upbound journeys from the Sault toward the Canadian Lakehead.


Duluth News Tribune

May 5, 1902

AMERICA was not in service long before being seriously damaged in a collision with the south pier at the Duluth Ship Canal. "Her bow is bent double and stove in from about 3 feet below the water line to the main deck" and the plates were torn allowing the forward compartment to flood. The accident was attributed to "a good rate of speed" and a crew unacquainted with the current in the canal. The ship was drydocked for repairs (Duluth News Tribune May 5, 1902).

Duluth News Tribune

July 1904

In July 1904, the steamer HOLMES' anchor destroyed 5 staterooms along the boat deck of AMERICA (Duluth News Tribune July 19, 1904). HOLMES was not equipped with anchor pockets. The cabin repair was done by carpenters who worked while AMERICA proceeded on its regular trips (Ibid. July 22, 1904).

Duluth News Tribune

July 1909

"The steamer AMERICA ran aground at Burlington Point on the north shore about 6 o'clock this morning. She released herself after about an hour, arriving in port about 11 o'clock. Her forefoot was slightly damaged" (Duluth Evening Herald July 9, 1909). "... her bow post and several plates are badly broken and twisted. She will be in dry dock several days" (Duluth News Tribune July 19, 1909). "It was found necessary to put in a new stem and replace about 40 feet of her keel. Twelve new plates are being put in which were bent or broken in the accident and seven frames (Ibid. July 14, 1909).

Duluth News Tribune

May 1914

AMERICA was severely damaged when it ran aground a mile northeast of Two Harbors, Minnesota in early May 1914. It was positioned about 100 feet from GENERAL O.M. POE. Five years earlier the two ships had been aground together in virtually the same spot (Duluth News Tribune May 6, 1914). AMERICA was positioned broadside to the waves and was punctured below the boilers (Ibid. May 7, 1914). The stranded vessel was lightered and freed on the night of May 7. Necessary repairs were described as "nine plates will be removed and straightened ... and about five feet of her keel will be relaid. The hull was quite badly damaged beneath her engines" (Ibid. May 12, 1914).

Port Arthur News Chronicle

September 1926

A collision between AMERICA and HURONIC occurred in 1926. The vessels were maneuvering in dense fog near the entrance to the Kaministiquia River. Captain Smith was at the wheel of AMERICA when he saw HURONIC loom up out of the fog. He quickly turned the wheel and his ship received a glancing blow and slight damage rather than the full brunt of the impact of the other larger steamer (Port Arthur News Chronicle Sept. 13, 1926; Duluth News Tribune Sept. 14, 1926).

Detroit Free Press

July 1927

In mid-summer of 1927 AMERICA was involved in a bizarre series of events at Thunder Bay Harbor. On Thursday, July 21,1927, AMERICA was headed toward the Booth dock in Port Arthur when a mix-up in the engine room caused it to ram the tug VIOLET G berthed at the Booth dock, shearing off 15 feet of the tug's stern and tearing away some 20 feet of the dock. There were three crewmen aboard the VIOLET G at the time; they escaped uninjured. Moments later, AMERICA was aground on the rocks at the head of the dock, requiring assistance to be released. Then it collided with, and nearly capsized, the tug CON LYNCH that had just freed it. During all this, a lighthouse keeper's gas launch was also slightly damaged. AMERICA was reported to be carrying "passengers and a cargo of fruit and package freight" at the time (Detroit Free Press July 23, 1927).

Wreck Event

SS America, Washington Harbor, 1928: Wolbrink Collection, ISRO Archives.

Oral History 61: Stanley Sivertson 3 & 4, March 03, 1987, Dave Snyder: ISRO Archives.

AMERICA'S 1928 season began as many before it. There were no signs at all that this would be AMERICA'S final season. AMERICA last steamed out of the Duluth Ship Canal on Wednesday, June 6, 1928, headed up the north shore and expected to touch at all the usual ports of call. From Grand Marais it headed toward Isle Royale to drop off a number of passengers in the darkness of early morning so they would not have to wait out the trip to Port Arthur and around the northeast tip of the island, before landing at their Washington Harbor destinations the following day (Duluth News Tribune June 7, 1928; Superior Evening Telegram June 7, 1928; Holden interview with Capt. Stanley Sivertson, Duluth, Minn, in 1973 and with James R. Marshall, Pike Lake, Minn, in Oct. 1974, 1986).

Soon after clearing the dock in Washington Harbor, Capt. Smith turned command of AMERICA over to First Mate John Wick, with Fred Nelson at the wheel, and retired to his cabin behind the bridge. Five minutes later AMERICA thudded over a reef, bumping four times and tearing a small hole through its single bottom below the engine room on the starboard side. Mate John Wick was a new mate on AMERICA, having served previously as mate under Capt. Gus Ege on JACK of the Minnesota Atlantic Transit Co., popularly known as the "Poker Fleet." Wick quit MATCo because Capt. Ege would not recommend him for his own ship in the fleet (Ken Hafner interview with Capt. Duncan Schubert at Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. ca. 1977, copy in Holden Collection).

SS America, Washington Harbor, 1928: Patrie Collection, ISRO Archives.

At first it seemed as though AMERICA'S pumps could handle the inrushing water, but Chief Engineer Frank McMillan quickly reassessed the situation - AMERICA was going to sink. Meanwhile Capt. Smith returned to the bridge where he found Mate Wick ringing the ship's bell to alert all aboard of the disaster. Moments later Capt. Smith yelled, "Beach her! Beach her!" (Holden interviews with Marshall 1974, 1986).

Capt. Smith remembered a small gravel beach nearby in the North Gap of Washington Harbor. It would be a good place to try to nose AMERICA ashore before she foundered in deep water. He ordered Fred Nelson to swing the wheel to point AMERICA directly toward the beach. Then another thud and AMERICA ground to a halt about 30 yards short of the beach that probably would have assured its imminent salvage, subsequent repair, and return to service.

Below deck in the engine room, Engineer McMillan ordered his crew to relieve boiler pressure and grease down everything in sight so AMERICA'S power plant could be made readily functional when salvage work was completed. Water already had snuffed fireman Hans Fjorne's boiler fires (Holden interviews with Marshall 1974, 1986).

SS America, Washington Harbor, 1928: Thro and Patrie Collections, ISRO Archives.

AMERICA was carrying 31 crew and 16 passengers at the time of the accident (Duluth News Tribune June 9, 1928): In all 10 passengers and at least 30 officers and crewmen were aboard when AMERICA slipped away from the Singer Hotel dock at Washington Island. Captain Smith officially reported 31 crewmen aboard at the time of the accident. It is possible Louis P. Hogstad, Manager of United States & Dominion Transportation Company, was aboard at the time of the accident and considered by Capt. Smith as a member of the crew (Record of Casualties to Vessels, U.S. Treasury Department, p. 17, bound journal, copy in Canal Park Marine Museum collection).

The estimated value of the vessel was $100,000; the 55-ton cargo of miscellaneous merchandise was valued at $10,000. The amount of insurance on the hull was $60,000; disbursements was $40,000. The cargo was uninsured (Record of Casualties to Vessels, U.S. Treasury Department, 17, bound journal, copy in Holden Collection).

Media Coverage / Survivor Accounts

The loss of the steamer AMERICA was covered in newspapers and journals ranging from the American and Canadian Lakehead port cities to Chicago and New York (Lake Carriers' Association, 1928 Annual Report : 51-52; Canadian Railway and Marine World, ca. July 1928). First news of the wreck was carried over the wireless station affiliated with Singer's resort on Washington Island and sent to Duluth (Port Arthur News Chronicle June 7,8, 1928).

Port Arthur News Chronicle

June 07, 1928

First reports at the Canadian Lakehead said AMERICA sank at 4:30 a.m., local time, on June 7th after striking a "reef that split the hull." Word was first received in Port Arthur from Booth Fisheries by S. H. Knauss of the Fitzsimmons Fruit Co. that had a consignment of fruit was lost in the wreck. In describing the vessel's normal occupation the newspaper stated that AMERICA engaged in: ... carrying fresh fruit and vegetables from produce housed in Duluth to the Head of the Lakes, and on the East-bound trips called at various fishing stations around Isle Royale. A large number of wealthy Americans, with Summer homes at Isle Royale, used the steamer at Week-ends (Port Arthur News Chronicle June 7, 1928).

Chicago Herald and Examiner

June 08, 1928

Duluth, Minn., June 7 - An old well-known passenger steamer, The AMERICA, was lying on the bottom of Lake Superior tonight under seventeen fathoms of water .... Reports of the sinking and rescue were still vague here early this evening. The only report so far came from the ship's purser, who said that the vessel struck a reef near Washington Harbor on Isle Royale at 3 a.m. and that the ship sank an hour and a half later.

The steamer WINYAH was sent to take the rescued persons off the island. When the AMERICA left here yesterday morning she carried twenty passengers in addition to her crew of thirty (Chicago Herald and Examiner June 8, 1928).

Duluth News Tribune / Superior Evening Telegraph

June 08, 1928

WINYAH was enroute from Duluth up the north shore and off Schroeder when its crew was notified to proceed to Washington Island to pick up AMERICA'S survivors (Duluth News Tribune June 8, 1928). WINYAH was in the fish and freight trade on the north shore and owned by H. Christiansen and Sons of Duluth (Superior Evening Telegraph June 8, 1928).

Fort William Daily Times Journal

June 08, 11, 1928

Sinking of the steamer AMERICA off Isle Royale created a shortage of strawberries and fresh vegetables in Fort William and Port Arthur today. The Fitzsimmons Fruit company had ten tons of vegetables and fresh fruit on the boat.

These products would have been here for distribution today had the boat not gone down. However, it is reported that two trucks left Duluth at 5 o'clock this morning with a fresh supply. (Fort William Daily Times Journal June 8, 11, 1928).

Duluth News Tribune

June 08, 1928

In the most orderly manner, without any confusion whatsoever, 15 passengers and 30 members of the crew of the steamer AMERICA launched five boats and made for shore early Thursday morning according to the account of a member of the crew, Fred Nelson, wheelsman, who arrived here last night (Duluth News Tribune June 8, 1928).

Wheelsman Fred Nelson gave a detailed report of the events:

We were out in Washington Harbor about a half mile from the dock when the ship struck the reef .... This caused a loud noise which awakened most of the crew and passengers. Those who were not up when the crash occurred came on deck when the ships bells started ringing. Members of the crew went to cabin doors telling passengers and crew of the danger. The boat started sinking slowly. All five of the ship's life boats were launched. Members of the crew were assigned to take charge of these boats and everyone was taken off. Captain Edward C. Smith left on the last boat just before the entire ship was practically under water. There was no confusion while the life boats were being lowered. Everyone behaved wonderfully and the six women aboard, mostly members of the crew, were not a bit excited over the crash as all saw there was no danger. All of the five life boats reached Washington Harbor, a half mile from where the AMERICA hit the reef, without any trouble" (Duluth News Tribune June 8, 1928). Booth officials reported that John Wick, the first mate, was in charge of AMERICA at the time of the disaster, having relieved Capt. Smith just five minutes before the crash. These same officials were cautious about providing other particulars of the incident, pending their discussion with Capt. Smith in Grand Marais the night of June 8th (Duluth News Tribune June 8, 1928).

Fort William Daily Times Journal

June 08, 1928

Passenger H. S. Cottier said after arriving in Port Arthur:

There is nothing to be seen of the old AMERICA now except the top of the mainmast and part of the pilot house sticking up out of the water ....

I left Duluth along with fourteen or fifteen other passengers for Port Arthur on Wednesday night .... We had an uneventful trip, and put in to Washington Harbor to let off two passengers for Isle Royale.

I understand that Captain Smith does not care to put in to Washington Harbor on the trip out of Duluth, but prefers to do so only on the return trip from Port Arthur. However, this time, in the middle of the night, he put in to Washington Harbor, and put his passengers off all right. Then we started out for open water again. It had not yet broken day, and we struck a reef just outside the harbor.

I was in bed and we got a fearful jar, and it woke me and everybody else up. I don't think anyone was hurt. We all dressed, and there were lots of boats to take us ashore. The ship began to settle and all we had to do was to get into the boats .... There was no panic whatever, and it was not until an hour later, when it was just breaking day, that the good ship sank almost out of sight in the waters of Lake Superior. It must have been shortly before four o'clock this morning, I should judge ....

Captain Smith stayed on his ship until to do so any longer was at the risk of his life. He saw everybody else ashore, sent all his crew away, and stayed on board himself, and alone until the ship was ready to sink. Then he, too, with evident reluctance, for he loved his ship, was put ashore himself.

Captain Smith sent the purser ashore with the first news of the disaster, and through the private telephone wire he got the news into Duluth. The purser was taken to the mainland, and proceeded back to Duluth, as did the captain later ....

We are all thankful ... to be alive and well today. I have lost some clothes and a few personal belongings. There were two men aboard who were going to Nipigon to fish the Nipigon river. They were on their way up from Detroit and they had a truck in the hold of the boat in which were their fishing tackle, rods, lines, and flies, and $500 in cash. They lost it all and did not continue on, but have returned to Duluth, and are now on their way to Detroit.

... The discipline was perfect .... There was complete order; there was no need for the cry "women and children first" because we had plenty of time. There was no real danger, and the passengers were given the first and every possible consideration" (Fort William Daily Times Journal June 8, 1928).

Port Arthur News Chronicle

June 08, 1928

In a second account by Mr. Cottier, he said:

"The first we realized that there was anything amiss was when the AMERICA struck and was shaken from stern to stem. Hurried examinations were made by Mate Wick, and just a minute or so later we were aroused and told to make ready to get into life boats. We were told the boat was sinking. The boats were lowered and, without confusion, we got into them. We were taken to Washington Harbor, where Mr. Singer, proprietor of the resort there, made us comfortable. Captain Smith sent one of the crew to the wireless station and a message was sent to Duluth" (Port Arthur News Chronicle June 8, 1928).

Fort William Daily Times Journal

June 09, 1928

The unfortunate loss of the steamer AMERICA has, for a time at least, removed from the run between Fort William and Duluth, a boat that has served the public at the head of the Lakes in good stead for over a quarter of a century.

While connection with Duluth has been maintained by the passenger boats of the Canada Steamship Line, originally of the Northern Navigation Company, it was the AMERICA which did the local, routine work along the north shore, poking her nose into every little harbor on the coast line and keeping communication between the mainland and Isle Royale uninterrupted. While the HAMONIC was sailing majestically from point to point, the AMERICA was serving all the places enroute. She was like the local train which unloads its 140 freight at every unimportant siding, past which the stately express train glides as if it never existed ....

So accustomed had she become to the run that it seems almost strange that she could not find her way alone through any passage along the north shore or Isle Royale .... The work done by the AMERICA will have to be continued by some other boat, but it will be hoped by all who have made use of the AMERICA and enjoyed her picturesque trips, that she will be raised and sail the same route again (Fort William Daily Times Journal June 9, 1928).

Shipwreck Illustration and Site Map

The forward part of the superstructure has been removed by ice, wave action, and a past salvage operation. The midship and stern are intact, including engine room, galley, and numerous cabins. Watch out for silt entanglement, and visibility problems inside the America. Two point mooring with a buoy on a sinker in 20 feet and a marker buoy on the bow in 2 feet.

SS America Side View


SS America Side View by H. Thom McGrath: Submerged Cultural Resource Unit, ISRO Archives.

SS America Site Map


SS America Site Map, J.L. Livingston, November 1986: Submerged Cultural Resource Unit, ISRO Archives.


  1. Isle Royale Shipwrecks. December 15, 1965. Isle Royale National Park Archives, Resource Management Records: Branch Chief Era, CRM History (ACC#ISRO-00614, Box 117), Houghton, MI.

  2. Lenihan, Daniel. Submerged Cultural Resources Study. Santa Fe, N.M: Submerged Cultural Resources Unit, National Park Service, 1987. Print.