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“Isle Royale’s physical isolation and primitive wilderness challenged human use for centuries; ironically today it has become the Island’s main attraction. Accessible only by boat or seaplane, visitors come to experience this island park through hiking its trails, paddling its inland waterways, exploring its rugged coast, or venturing into the depth of its shipwrecks.” (Quote from the National Park Service Web site)
Did the Detroit Chamber of Commerce go hiking on Isle Royale in June of 1937? A series of photographs from the Edwin T. Brown Collection appear to document such a trip. These photos capture the passage of the City of Detroit III through the Poe Lock on June 11, 1937. The captions indicate that the ship was bound for Isle Royale. Extant newspaper accounts confirm only a stop in Marquette.
The City of Detroit III (D-III), commissioned by the Detroit and Cleveland Navigation Company, was a steel-hulled passenger side-wheeler designed by Frank E. Kirby. Built by the Detroit Ship Building Company of Wyandotte, this vessel began service in 1912 and operated until 1950. It measured 455.66 feet (length), 55.42 feet (width) and 22.42 feet (depth). The interior, designed by Louis O. Keil, was elaborate: 477 staterooms and twenty-one parlors. The parlors included the “Gothic Room,” an opulent gentlemen’s lounge that is now part of the Dossin Great Lakes Museum on Belle Isle.
“The Marine Review of 1912 lauded the D-III, describing her eight thousand-horsepower engines in detail, the complete fire alarm system that guarded her passengers, her speed of twenty-two miles per hour and, above all, the stunning beauty that made her a floating palace.” (Quote from buildingsofdetroit.com)
Tourist advertisements verify the routes of the D & C Lake Lines: Daily trips between Detroit and Cleveland; Detroit and Buffalo; Express service from Detroit to Chicago via Mackinac Island. On a regular basis, the City of Detroit III offered luxurious travel on all Great Lakes surrounding Michigan except Lake Superior.
The Annual Cruise
Newspapers document that D&C chartered the City of Detroit III to the Detroit Board of Commerce for its annual cruise. The Detroit Free Press verifies that, “equipped with yachting caps,” about 350 members of the [Detroit] Board of Commerce embarked on the cruise Thursday afternoon (June 10th). Destination: Marquette. This round-trip cruise would bring the members back to Detroit by Monday morning (June 14).
“Detroit’s Cruisers Invade Marquette Today,” was the headline of the Daily Mining Journal for Saturday, June 12, 1937. Joining the Detroiters were businessmen from Sault Sainte Marie. They boarded the ship when it stopped at the Soo on Friday, June 11th. The Saturday itinerary: golf and a softball tourney at the Marquette Golf and Country Club. The day offered plenty of fun and refreshment, particularly the promise of beer at the sixth hole of the golf course. The Detroit Chamber of Commerce also arranged receptions with band music on the City of Detroit III and at the Hotel Netherland in Marquette. The Daily Mining Journal quotes “Chappie Chapman,” one of the cruise executives, “Business men [sic] and industrialists of Marquette are invited to visit the steamer at any time during its stay here, but no women will be allowed on board. On the boat it’s strictly a stag party.”
A Relaxing Game of Golf?
Favored by good sailing weather, the cruisers appeared in Marquette on schedule ready to golf and leave politics behind. The latter claim that may be a tad disingenuous, since golf allows for discussion and there was plenty to discuss: labor strikes and future local elections. Now if the Chamber members had been scaling the rocks at Isle Royale, I would believe the “no politics” claim.
Among the Cruisers:
Detroit City Treasurer Albert E. Cobo
Detroit Police Commissioner Heinrich A. Pickert
Detroit City Clerk Richard Reading
William T. Barbour, president of the Detroit Stove Company and cruise “admiral”
Charles E. Boyd, Detroit Retail Merchants Association
Harvey J. Campbell, Detroit Board of Commerce
Tom Collins of Chevrolet, who had “perfect cruise attendance”
Edward T. Fitzgerald, vice president of the Detroit-Cleveland Corporation
Leo Fitzpatrick of WJR
Grinnell Brothers (Lloyd and Hank), who brought a Hammond Organ aboard the ship.
Mike Kent of WJBK
Edwin T. Brown Collection, MS 77-27 (Archives of Michigan)
Detroit Free Press, June 11, 1937
Marquette Daily Mining Journal, June 12, 1937
Sault Sainte Marie Evening News, June 11, 1937 and June 14, 1937