Great Lakes Maritime History ProjectIn the Collection

Milwaukee Public Library

The Milwaukee Public Library houses the Great Lakes Marine Collection. This collection contains over 7,000 files on ships that sailed since 1679 and some that sail on the Great Lakes today. Vessels included are diesel-powered, sailing ships, barges, cargo vessels, passenger boats, military vessels, and pleasure craft.

The collection was built on the Herman G. Runge Collection, acquired by the library in 1959. Runge devoted almost 70 years of his life to collecting and preserving information on all aspects of marine activities on the Great Lakes. For years he journeyed to all the principal lake ports, visiting with government and shipping officials, captains and crews of lake boat photographers and fellow collectors. At the same time he kept up a heavy correspondence with other compilers, government agencies and shipping lines. When he died on March 16, 1958, he had become indisputably one of the most knowledgeable and colorful collectors on the lakes. Staff of the Humanities Room continuously updates the Great Lakes Ship Files, some of which have grown to include dozens of items.

Additional notable donors include John Nelson, John P. Kane, Harry Bethune Jr., Edwin Wilson, Christopher G. Winscher and Lewis Buttles. Rose Kramer's 20,000 bulk carrier photos arrived in 1986. Significant additions to the documentary materials have come from the Kalmbach Publishing Company, Ralph Friedmann, H.E.Stephenson, Louis Quarles, Edmund Fitzgerald, Harry Thorpe Jr., the Milwaukee Harbor Commission and Courtland Conlee. Milwaukee Public Library staff have cataloged this collection on OCLC, and each record contains detailed information on individual files.

Also visit The Wisconsin Marine Historical Society, which is affiliated with the Milwaukee Public Library.

Wisconsin Historical Society

The Wisconsin Historical Society is one of the nation's largest American history research centers, with nearly 4 million published items and more than 100,000 cubic feet of manuscripts, photos, and other unpublished records in its collections. The materials it contributed to this project are drawn largely from its Visual Materials Collections. Other marine history resources can be found as part of its Wis. Local History & Biography Articles website, which contains 50,000 pages of newspaper stories printed between 1850-1950. Descriptions of historic buildings and sites important to maritime life are also included in two other Society databases: the Wis. Architecture & History Inventory and the Wis. Register of Historic Places.

The Society's Underwater Archaeologist's Office has a collection of 700 ship files which includes federal enrollment records and other information. This office also makes available a shipwreck database which includes 700 records and condenses much of the information in the ship files, and the Door County Advocate Vessel Index, a newspaper index in database format. Underwater photographs and video footage are available; some have been scanned and made available through a website managed by the Wisconsin Sea Grant Institute Communications Office and the Underwater Archeology of the Wisconsin State Historical Society, Division of Historic Preservation.

For inquiries about material contributed by the Wisconsin Historical Society to this project, or for further information about Society programs and collections visit the Historical Society's website or the Wisconsin Historical Society's Maritime website.

University of Wisconsin - La Crosse

The Special Collections Department of Murphy Library, UW-La Crosse holds one of the nation's largest photograph collections of inland river steamboats and river life. The collection includes over 45,000 images that date from the 1850s to the present. The bulk of the collection is of individual river steamboats. A master data file complements the image collection which is arranged primarily by boat name. Special emphasis is placed on the Mississippi River and its tributary system. In addition to the steamboat photographs, the collection also includes images of life along the river: locks and dams, waterfronts, swimming, clamming, fishing, and picnics.

University of Wisconsin - Superior

The Lake Superior Maritime Collections Archives (LSMCA) at UW-Superior's Jim Dan Hill Library contains unique resources for the study of maritime history on the upper Great Lakes. The focus of the Collection is primarily on Lake Superior and its environs, especially the twin ports of Superior (WI) and Duluth MN), as well as the work of the Corps of Engineers' office in Duluth, MN. Additional emphases of the Collection also extend, because of the international nature of trade, to the lower Great Lakes and beyond. These sources are intended to support UW-Superior faculty and student research, as well as the needs of the Lake Superior Marine Visitors Center, and the broader communities of the Twin Ports and Maritime historians and hobbyists. Some of the series within the collection include 6,400 Ship files; charts & maps; "subject" files such as "lighthouses" or "Keweenaw Waterway"; vessel log books and enrollments; blueprints; and statistics.

Door County Maritime Museum, Inc.

The Door County Maritime Museum contributed many of the lighthouse images to this site. Home to shipbuilding from the beginning of the 20th century, Sturgeon Bay has had shipyards producing fishing trawlers, Navy vessels, ore carriers and some of the finest yachts in the world. Permanent exhibits and revolving exhibits are included in our galleries. The Baumgartner Gallery contains scale models of boats and ships built in Sturgeon Bay including half-hull or plating models, corporate models and folk art models. Also found in this gallery is "Sentinels of the Shore," an exhibit on the area lighthouses with a full size replica of the lantern room of Sherwood Point lighthouse. The Founders Gallery contains a chronological history of shipbuilding beginning in mid 1800 with Indian dugouts and birch bark canoes and continues to the present, including exhibits of the late 1800s Great Lakes lumber schooners; the early 1900 shipyards of Sturgeon Bay; the 1940-1970s war efforts of Sturgeon Bay shipbuilders; and present-day shipbuilding in Sturgeon Bay. Join in the interactive videos showing side launches of different vessels. The Peterson Gallery contains an extensive exhibit on the raising of the George E. Humphrey, one of the largest ships to ever have been salvaged, refitted and sailed.

Other Links

Wisconsin Collaborative Library and Museum Project

Collaborative Efforts

Technical consultation, scanning, site design and implementation:
University of Wisconsin - Madison Libraries.

Content selection:
Wisconsin Historical Society
University of Wisconsin, La Crosse - Murphy Library, Special Collections
University of Wisconsin - Superior, Jim Dan Hill Library
Milwaukee Public Library/Wisconsin Marine Historical Society
Door County Maritime Historical Society