Joseph C. Hoyt
THE TRANSITION FROM WOOD TO IRON IN GREAT LAKES BULK CARRIERS: AN HISTORICAL AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL INVESTIGATION OF THE WOODEN BULK CARRIER CONTINENTAL, AND EARLY IRON HULLED BULK CARRIERS.
(Under the direction of Professor Bradley Rodgers) Department of History, May 2008.
The intention of this thesis is to explain the transition from wood to iron in Great Lakes bulk carriers. Bulk carriers, being the most recognizable vernacular watercraft on the Great Lakes, are an important part of the maritime heritage of the region, and are valuable resources in the study of ship construction as a totally unique vessel type. This transition was one of the most rapid adoptions of a new shipbuilding material in the history of marine architecture.
To establish historical context, this study first focuses on the nature of the iron ore industry in Europe and the United States, detailing the differences in technology, adoption and available resources. Following this, a similar comparison of the iron shipbuilding tradition in England and the United States is discussed, pointing out the differences in shipbuilding traditions and the reasons the United States accepted iron later than England.
An archaeological and historical investigation of relevant Great Lakes bulk carriers both in wood and iron is provided. This establishes key differences and similarities between wooden and iron bulk carriers, as well as identifies environmental, social, and economic factors that spurred shipbuilders to adopt or reject the transition.
Finally, a detailed comparison of individual components of iron bulk carriers as compared to wood is discussed. This shows how developments during this period paved the way for increasing the efficiency and specialization of bulk carriers.