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Lake Superior Shipwrecks
Thomas Wilson


Photo of the Wilson

Historic Name: Thomas Wilson (U.S. Registry 145616)

Vessel Type: Whaleback freighter

Architect/Builder: Alexander McDougall, American Steel Barge Company, West Superior, Wisconsin


Thomas Wilson and two consort barges in Weitzol Locks, Sault Ste. Marie, ca. 1901; Institute for Great Lakes Research, Bowling Green State University

(Essex) (space)
The Thomas Wilson was a riveted-steel, single propeller freight-carrying steamship. The Wilson was built during the winter of 1891-1892 at West Superior, Wisc., and was launched April 30, 1892. The wreck of the Wilson is historically significant as the best known surviving example of the earliest whaleback steamships. Whalebacks were a distinctive type of Great Lakes bulk freighter designed by Captain Alexander McDougall for the transportation of grain, iron ore and lumber in the late 19th century. The Wilson was the last whaleback constructed without hatch coamings. The Wilson's importance is enhanced by its role in the establishment of safe operating procedures at Duluth-West Superior Harbor as a result of its loss. The remains of the Thomas Wilson were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1994.


Underwater image of the Wilson

orange dotHistoric Description
orange dotConstruction and Career
orange dotWhaleback Freighters
orange dotDescription of the Loss-Wreck Event
orange dotPost-Depositional Impacts
orange dotPresent Description
orange dotStatement of Significance Summary
orange dotHistoric and Underwater Photographs


Adapted from the National Register of Historic Places nomination written by: Brina J. Agranat and Kevin J. Foster, Panamerican Consultants, Inc.


|--Hesper-- |--Onoko-- |--Madeira-- |--Thomas Wilson-- |--U.S.S. Essex--|
|--Amboy-- |--George Spencer-- |--Niagara-- |--Samuel P. Ely--|
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