History

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Construction | 1905 and 1913 Storms | Pittsburgh and Kinsman | Huron Cement and LaFarge

J.B. Ford laid up in SuperiorThe J.B. Ford awaits her fate in Superior, Wisconsin

The Great Lakes steamship J. B. Ford is undeniably one of the most historically significant vessels afloat on the Great Lakes today. In a career that spanned over a century, this grand old lady of the Lakes survived the worst storms the region has ever seen, and hauled the raw materials that helped the United States and her allies win two World Wars. From the iron ore that built the first Model T Fords to the cement that built the interstate highways, she carried the goods that fed the industrial might of our nation.

Over the years, her hull was painted black, then red, then green, and beige, while her masthead flew the house flags of some of the Lakes’ most storied fleets; Hawgood, Pittsburgh, Kinsman, and finally Huron Cement and LaFarge. A typical Great Lakes bulk carrier of her day when she first met the water in December of 1903, the J. B. Ford (then named the Edwin F. Holmes) never set any records for size, speed, or cargo haulage. However, the very traits that made her unremarkable then make her special today. The J. B. Ford is now the most complete, original example of a classic Great Lakes freighter from the early years of the 20th Century.