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Lake Michigan Passenger Steamers Hardcover – August 22, 2002

5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Presenting a wealth of new material that is the result of monumental research, this book deals with a significant part of American social and economic history not previously available. An encyclopedic archive for future researchers, it will be an essential source for maritime historians and for local historians of the towns in Michigan and Wisconsin served by the vessels."—Edwin F. Dunbaugh, Hofstra University

"This book is nicely produced by Stanford University Press, with good paper, sturdy binding and clear, easy to read type. . . . This is a scholarly book, reflecting countless hours of research, careful compilation and writing. The text, in tone and content, is thoughtful and serious, reflecting the author's career in economics as well as his lifetime fascination with these steamships. It is an insightful book that goes far beyond simple description and presernts an understanding of the rise and fall of the passenger steamers. For anyone with an interest in passenger steamers in general or in transportation around the Great Lakes and the major cities including Chicago and Milwaukee, this book is essential reading. This is an excellent book and an outstanding reference."—Railroad Model Craftsmen

"...the author has achieved his intention "to provide antiquarian scholarship on the ships." He is to be congratulated on producing one of the most scholarly and useful books published on this aspect of Great Lakes shipping history."—Steamboat Bill

From the Inside Flap

This is the richly illustrated, definitive account of the rise, fall, and extinction of steam passenger transportation on Lake Michigan. Originating in the 1840s with the ships that brought fruit from the Michigan fruit belt to the produce markets of Chicago and Milwaukee, the industry soon expanded in response to the demands of the public for excursions from the two cities.
The steamers provided a wide variety of passenger services, ranging from 38-mile excursions between Chicago and Michigan City to cruise operations the length of the lake. The most heavily utilized service was the Goodrich Line’s daily excursion from Chicago to Milwaukee, usually operated with the huge Christopher Columbus, the only passenger ship of the whaleback configuration ever built. The principal cross-lake operator was the Graham & Morton Line, which developed St. Joseph, Michigan, into what was called “Chicago’s Coney Island.” In general, the longer the trip, the higher the income level of the passengers. This accorded with the social stratification of Chicago: the Michigan City service of the Indiana Transportation Company largely served the poor, and the Mackinac line of the Northern Michigan Transportation Company was a facility designed for the wealthy and socially elite.
The industry peaked in the early years of the twentieth century, but began to decline as early as 1911. After World War I, the rise of motor transport forced a rapid decline in the industry, a decline accelerated by the Depression, and the industry essentially expired in 1932. The cross-lake line between Milwaukee, Grand Haven, and Muskegon was an exception, always standing apart from the rest of the industry, first as a railroad connection, then as an auto ferry. It survived to 1970.
The first part of the book treats the industry as a whole in five discursive chapters, accompanied by maps of the lake and major harbors. The second part consists of detailed corporate histories of the ten major operators.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 364 pages
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press; 1 edition (August 22, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804742405
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804742405
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 1.1 x 11 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,761,016 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By M. V. Ralph on June 21, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I was a bit aprehensive avout ordering this book even at a discounted price... I needent have worried. It proved to be a masterful work of pure nostalgia and maritime history on Lake Michigan. The history of the many steamship lines that serviced the area is done in depth. Many interesting photos of these old classic vessels throughout. A must for any one interesated in the maritime history of these inland seas.
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Format: Hardcover
George Hilton has written another classic transportation book. In his usual fashion he has taken a subject, divided into logical sections and done scholarly research. While he gets deep into the subject, he keeps his eye on "the big picture". In addition it has good pictures, great maps, and a sense of humor. Also it would be wise to have a dictionary at hand because of some of the obscure words he uses. I think this was a work of love as he rode some these boats when he was a child. Great job, George!
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