Sheboygan County, Wisconsin Genealogy & History

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Floating Palaces*

During the mid to late 1800s and early 1900s, an era when shipping was a primary mode of transportation in this region, the Goodrich Transportation Company was perhaps the premier shipping company on the Great Lakes. The company had offices and shipping agents in all major ports including Sheboygan.

Founded by Captain A. E. Goodrich in Chicago, IL, the company began operation 10 Aug 1856. During its 77-year history, the Goodrich Line had 61 freight and passenger ships. Its Sheboygan offices were located on the river bank just to the west of the current Coast Guard Station. From these docks, thousands of passengers and many tons of freight of all kinds travelled over the Great Lakes.

The company named its ships after towns and states, and Sheboygan had two ships named after her. The first Sheboygan was a handsome wooden sidewheeler with a capacity of 623 tons. Built in Manitowoc, WI, in 1868, at a cost of $93,300, she remained in service until 1914. She was towed four miles north of Manitowoc, beached, and burned to recover the scrap metal in her.

The second Sheboygan, with a capacity of 763 tons, was a propeller-driven wooden package freighter. She was built by the Sturgeon Bay Dry Dock Company and acquired by Goodrich in 1930.

In the early days of the company, most of the Goodrich ships were wooden sidewheel steamers. During the mid-1800s, propeller-driven ships of steel construction were introduced.

The distinctive Goodrich ships had sparkling white top sides, gleaming black hulls, and deep red smokestacks. The largest ships in the line were the elegant Alabama and Nevada, built in the early part of the 20th century at a cost of over $400 thousand each. Constructed of the finest materials, they were considered floating palaces. Their huge dining room tables were set with the finest crystal, silver, and china. The company employed the best chefs money could hire, and the staterooms rivaled the best hotels of the day. Many Wisconsin and Illinois couples fondly remember honeymoon cruises taken on these popular and well-run ships.

By the late 1920s, the company's revenues were declining due to better highways, trucks, railroads, and the Great Depression. In 1933, the Goodrich Company ceased operations.

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