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MARKER DATABASE
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
“Bite-Size Bits of Local, National, and Global History”
Buffalo in Erie County, New York — The American Northeast (Mid-Atlantic)
 

Improvements in Ship Design

The Industrial Heritage Trail

 
 
Improvements in Ship Design Marker image. Click for full size.
By Anton Schwarzmueller, June 3, 2015
1. Improvements in Ship Design Marker
Inscription. The maritime industry of the Great Lakes expanded greatly after completion of the Erie Canal in 1825. The canal allowed a growing U.S. population into the Midwest, which turned the Great Lakes into busy nautical highways for moving wheat, corn, lumber, coal, and iron ore. This expansion of commerce required constant improvements in ship design to keep up with demand.

All the earliest Great Lakes boats were wooden sailing vessels of traditional European design. Steamboats became more cost-effective as commerce grew and technology improved. Steamboats offered faster and more predictable delivery of passengers and freight than sailing vessels, but were not very efficient bulk cargo carriers.

Early Great Lakes Steamboat Thomas Jefferson, 1834.

Side-wheel steamboats were soon replaced by the development of propeller steamboats. Propeller ships were cheaper to build and easier to operate than side-wheelers, and their machinery was more compact, leaving more space for cargo.

The introduction of iron and steel into shipbuilding began with the Merchant, the first large commercial vessel built of iron on the Great Lakes. Its success led to the construction of several more iron-hulled ships during the 1870s. Metal ships offered many advantages to wooden ships. They were lighter, stronger, safer, and
Northwest View image. Click for full size.
By Anton Schwarzmueller, June 3, 2015
2. Northwest View
Marker is on the second skeletal steel tower from the right in this view. The Union Ship Canal is at left. The canal segments Fuhrmann Boulevard.
easier to maintain. Metal ships also allowed for the development of bulk freighters: larger specialized ships designed to carry large quantities of cargo. The bulk freighers were especially valuable for shipping grain, coal, and iron ore, all of which were instrumental to the development of Buffalo.

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For all their value and beauty, the lakes were also very dangerous to early mariners. Powerful gales churn the waters, especially in late autumn. Lake Erie, being the shallowest of the Great Lakes, becomes especially violent during such storms. It is estimated that thousands of ships lie at the bottom of the Great Lakes, most of them undocumented.

Merchant, the first commercial iron-hulled vessel on the Great Lakes. This 200-foot propeller ship was built in Buffalo in 1862. Image Source: Samuel Ward, American Steam Vessels, 1895.
 
Erected by The Industrial Heritage Committee, Inc.
 
Marker series. This marker is included in the Erie Canal marker series.
 
Location. 42° 50.046′ N, 78° 51.288′ W. Marker is in Buffalo, New York, in Erie County. Marker is on Fuhrmann Boulevard mile south of Ohio Street, on the left when traveling north. Click for map. Marker is in this post office area: Buffalo NY 14203, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Early Lake Erie Water Craft (here, next to this marker); The Great Lakes (here, next to this marker); Lake Erie (here, next to this marker); The Union Ship Canal (here, next to this marker); The Lehigh Portland Cement Company (here, next to this marker); Bethlehem Steel in Lackawanna (here, next to this marker); a different marker also named Bethlehem Steel in Lackawanna (a few steps from this marker); a different marker also named Bethlehem Steel in Lackawanna (a few steps from this marker). Click for a list of all markers in Buffalo.
 
Categories. Waterways & Vessels
 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on , by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York. This page has been viewed 142 times since then and 13 times this year. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on , by Anton Schwarzmueller of Wilson, New York. This page was last revised on June 16, 2016.
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