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Water Transportation: William A. Irvin (freighter)

Location: Minnesota Slip, Duluth Harbor, Duluth, St. Louis County
Built: 1938
Architect: American Ship Building Company
Builder: American Ship Building Company, Loraine, Ohio, for the Pittsburgh Steamship Company/U.S. Steel
Listed on NRHP: July 13, 1989

The bulk freighter William A. Irvin played a significant role in transporting both iron ore and coal between Minnesota ports on Lake Superior and ports along the southern shores of lakes Michigan, Huron and Erie. Named for a president of U.S. Steel, the freighter was known as the “Pride of the Silver Stackers” – a reference to the trademark black-banded smokestacks of U.S. Steel's Great Lakes fleet.

The Irvin was the first major bulk freighter built on the Great Lakes after the Depression. At a time when freighter design had become highly standardized, the Irvin incorporated many new technologies, including a cross-compound turbine engine, steel hatch covers operated by a special deck crane and steel joints that were electronically welded rather than riveted. Alone among the fleet, the Irvin also had staterooms, a dining room and an observation deck. These amenities allowed U.S. Steel to thank wealthy customers and attract new investors during excursions that featured shuffleboard, kite flying and a driving range for golfers.

The William A. Irvin retired from active service in 1978. It was renovated and opened as a floating museum in Duluth in 1986.

 Minnesota Historical Society· 345 W. Kellogg Blvd.,
 St. Paul, MN 55102-1906·651-259-3000  Copyright ©  2007. Send questions/comments to

Click to go to larger photo of freighter William A. Irvin.
Click to go to larger photo of freighter William A. Irvin interior.
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