GLMS 27 - Wilson Marine Transit Company
|Title||GLMS 27 - Wilson Marine Transit Company|
|Subject||Business & Commerce|
The records of the Wilson Marine Transit Company were donated to the Institute for Great Lakes Research (now the Historical Collections of the Great Lakes) on March 23, 1973.
Literary and property rights have been dedicated to the public and duplication is permitted for the purpose of preservation and scholarly research. Final processing was completed in 1991 by Mark J. Barnes, Monica Manny, and A. J. DuFresne, with the assistance of a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.
Thomas Wilson, founder of the company that became the Wilson Marine Transit Company, was born in Fifeshire, Scotland in 1839. The Wilson family arrived in the United States in 1855. Thomas Wilson's maritime career began shortly thereafter, with three years of service on ocean vessels. Wilson chose to change to lake vessels and began his lake career as a wheelsman on the MANHATTAN in order to obtain navigational experience. Wilson's first command was the METEOR in 1864.
Wilson's interests developed from commanding a single ship to managing his own company. In partnership with Alexander McDougall, Wilson accumulated the capital to form the Wilson's Transit Line in 1870. This Cleveland, Ohio company retained Wilson as President through its life until 1890. The Wilson Transit Company was formed in 1890 with Wilson serving as President until his death in 1900.
The nineteenth-century edition of Thomas Wilson's company was noted for steady growth in its fleet as it became a prime shipper of ore from the new mining districts in Michigan and Minnesota to eastern industrial centers. Expansion was so successful that it became useful to create subsidiaries, such as the Volunteer Transit Co. In 1898, to shift tax liabilities away from the parent company. At his death, Wilson left a legacy of success.
The administration of Joseph S. Wood, a nephew of Wilson, as President from 1928 to 1948 marked an era of changing fortunes for the company. Wilson Transit Company retained a considerable share of ore and grain traffic on the Great Lakes as the Great Depression Era began. However, the economic crisis resulted in a severe drop in orders for iron ore, leaving grain as the primary cargo. Only four vessels were in operation in the mid 1930s. In 1936 new stock was issued in an effort to raise money to operate more vessels. This strategy succeeded, resulting in a gradual increase in profits to former earnings.
World War II industrial demands soon had the Wilson fleet back to earlier levels. By 1947 finances were such that it was possible to buy the competing Copper Steamship Company. Upon Joseph S. Wood's death in 1948, Wilson Marine Transit was rated ahead of its four chief rivals when costs and profits were compared.
The 1950s proved to be a productive decade for the Wilson Transit Company. In 1957 the company name was changed to the Wilson Marine Transit Company. The Great Lakes Steamship Company was also purchased that year.
The decade of the 1960s was marked by a series of problems that would lead to the demise of the company. A strike in the steel industry during 1959 helped set off a prolonged decline in Wilson fortunes. Competition, the use of inefficiently designed vessels that could not enter many customer dock channels, the loss of winter revenues when grain storage at Buffalo, New York ceased to provide fees during the lay-up periods, the resignations of headquarters personnel due to morale problems, and a host of minor setbacks helped to create a company ripe for purchase by another corporation and a loss of independent action needed to solve problems.
In 1967 Litton Industries purchased the Wilson Marine Transit Company. In 1972 Litton proposed to sell Wilson to the American Ship Building Company. The initial deal was not accepted but resulted in an enormous loss of customers for Wilson when doubts as to Litton's commitment to operate a lake fleet spread. Late in the year, the sale to American Ship Building did occur. With the fleet sold, administrative operations ended in early 1973.
For 100 years the company of Thomas Wilson and his successors was a prominent feature in the economy of the Great Lakes region. Study of the shipping business, mining industry or of steel manufacturing in the United States and Canada touches on the Wilson Marine Transit Company in numerous areas. Examinations of the files preserved for research will permit the reader to follow the history of one of the principal players in the growth of the Great Lakes shipping industry.
|Scope and Content|
The Wilson Marine Transit Company files (53.5 cubic feet) most heavily document activities of the Great Lakes shipping industry in the post-World War II era to 1970. A small amount of material, beginning with 1884, reflects the original company activities under the name Wilson Transit Line (1870-1890). Files from the nineteenth century are infrequently scattered in the collection. From 1890 to 1957 the name Wilson Transit Company was used and a larger number of files record activities for the successor to Thomas Wilson's original business.
Although in its various forms the Wilson Marine Transit Company was in existence for a century, only a small portion of the principal decision-making records are available in the collection. Only a fragment (.5 cubic feet) of the company's administrative proceedings appear in the form of annual meeting records for fleet officers (1948-1970) and stockholders (1946-1949, 1956). Scattered personnel-related files complete the proceedings files.
An area where the collection is extensive is in the subject file of the primary administrative office (6.5 cubic feet) which extends from 1939 to 1970. A small file on company founder Thomas Wilson appears here and is dated 1890-1893. Significant files on such customers as Republic Steel Corporation, the Valley Camp Coal Company, and the Pittsburgh Coke and Chemical Company are present.
Some insights into company policies can be gleaned from circulars distributed to employees and from files kept by Alexander T. Wood, President of Wilson Transit Company from 1948-1957 and Wilson Marine Transit Company from 1957-1960. Added to the subject files, this correspondence brings together 9.5 cubic feet for researchers.
Interests of the company in its various forms can be documented through 14 cubic feet of reports ranging from scattered annual reports (ca. 1927-1964) to extensive numbers of traffic and trip reports for vessels (ca. 1925-1970).
Financial records also exist in large quantities. Present are 11.5 cubic feet of boxed materials and numerous oversize ledgers scheduled for microfilming in the future. While the decision-making records are sparse, the financial condition of the Wilson Company is well documented. The accounts from 1890 into the 1960s can be examined. Regrettably, only one trial balance ledger from 1884-1888 records activities of the original Wilson's Transit Company.
Legal files (3 cubic feet) appear in small amounts but do cover a large time span, 1893-1967. Contracts reflect relationships of the Wilson Company with customers and labor organizations.
A large number of records (15 cubic feet) regarding subsidiary companies documents activities involving the interrelated types of businesses included in the Great Lakes commercial network. Copper Steamship Company, Republic Steel Company, Cleveland Conveyor Lines, Inc., and Westriver Ore Transports appear along with others to allow observations of the distribution system for raw materials to commercial processors in which the Wilson companies participated for 100 years.
Small quantities of publications, blueprints, and maps have been separated from the collection for cataloging in the general collections for such materials. Also, 82 photographs may be accessed through the photographic materials index at the Historical Collections of the Great Lakes.
Annual Meetings of Fleet Officers
Annaul Meetings of Stockholders
Weekly Staff Meetings
Circulars to Employees
Westriver Ore Transports, Ltd.
Alexander T. Wood General File
Alexander T. Wood Subject Files
Carl D. Bradley
Arrivals and Clearances at Chicago and South Chicago
Daily Vessel Reports
Layup and Fitout
Winter Repair and Maintenance
Logs--Westriver Abstract Engineers
Trial Balance Book
Certificate of Insurance
ICC Applications for Permits
Paul, Charles A., Estate
Cleveland Conveyor Lines, Inc./Hewitt-Robins
Copper Steamship Company
Falcon Carriers, Inc.
Great Lakes Steamship Company
Republic Steel Corporation
Riverlake Belt Conveyor Lines/Hewitt-Robins, Inc.
Volunteer Transit Company
Westriver Ore Transports, Ltd.
Wilson-Destiny Carriers, Inc.
Wilson-Pioneer Steamship Company
Wilson Shipping Corporation
Folders 1-3: Annual Meetings, Fleet Officers, Proceedings, 1948-1970
Box 3: Subject Correspondence, Ce-Continental, 1957-1969
Box 4: Subject Correspondence, Contracts-Ed, 1950-1969
Box 5: Subject Correspondence, El-Great Lakes Ship, 1954-1969
Box 6: Subject Correspondence, Great Lakes Towing-Interoffice Memos (General-A), 1955-1969
Box 7: Subject Correspondence, Interoffice Memos (D)-Lake Carriers Association (Annual Dinner Meetings, 1967), 1955-1969
Box 8: Subject Correspondence, Lake Carriers Association, Annual Dinner Meeting, 1968)-L, 1950-1969
Box 9: Subject Correspondence, M-O, 1956-1969
Box 10: Subject Correspondence, P-Pittsburgh Coke, 1957-1969
Box 11: Subject Correspondence, Pittsburgh Pacific-Requests, 1956-1969
Box 12: Subject Correspondence, Reserve-S, 1941-1970
Box 13: Subject Correspondence, T-United States Navy, 1939-1969
Box 14: Subject Correspondence, United States Salvage-Y, 1890-1893, 1951-1969
Box 15: Correspondence: Circulars, 1932-1967 (scattered)
Box 16: Subject Correspondence, Westriver Ore Transports, Ltd., C-J; 1956-1962
Box 17: Subject Correspondence, Westriver Ore Transports, Ltd., 1956-1959
Correspondence, Certificates and Admeasurements, 1958-1961
Box 18: Correspondence
Folders 1-12: General Correspondence: A. T. Wood, 1956-1963
Box 19: Subject Files--A.T. Wood, A-L, 1958-
Box 20: Correspondence
Folders 1-8 Subject Files: A. T. Wood, M-U, -1963
Folders 1-5: Correspondence and Financial Files: Carl D. Bradley (Bradley Shipping Ltd.), 1910-1912, 1963-1964
Box 22: Daily vessel reports, 1959-1962
Box 23: Daily vessel reports, 1964-October 18, 1966
Folders 1-5 Daily vessel reports, 1966-October 19, 1968
Box 25: Dock line-ups, 1962-1966
Box 26: Dock line-ups, 1966-1968
Folders 1-9: Dock line-ups, 1969, n.d.
Box 28: Fuel Reports
Folders 1-18: A-W, 1961
Folders 1-4 Layup and Fitout Reports, 1910-1929, 1954, 1968 (scattered)
Box 30: Master's Log by vessel, H-R, 1961
Folders 1-5 Master's Logs by vessel, S-W, 1961
Box 32: Miscellaneous vessel reports--operations. 1884-1889, 1947-1968 (scattered)
Folder 1: Report to the President, 1967
Box 34: Traffic Reports, 1961-1969
Box 35: Traffic Reports, 1963, 1965
Box 36: Traffic Reports, 1958-1969
Box 37: Traffic Reports, 1926-1969
Box 38: Traffic Reports, 1926-1969
Box 39: Trip Log Ledgers, 1903-1914
Box 40: Trip Log Ledgers, 1900-1919
Box 41: Trip Records, 1939-1958
Box 42: Trip Records, 1953-1957
Box 43: Trip Records, 1957-1959
Box 44: Trip Records, 1959-1964
Box 45: Unpublished studies, 1945-1959
Box 46: Unpublished studies, 1960-1966
Box 47: Unpublished studies, 1966
Folders 1-5: Unpublished studies, 1967-1972
Box 50: Account Books, 1907-1922
Folders 1-11: Insurance claims, [1932-1969]
Box 52: Ledger Sheets, 1957, 1959-1960
Box 53: Ledger Sheets, 1961-1962
Folder 1 Westriver Abstract Engineers Logs/Performance Summary, 1958-1962
Box 55: Payroll Records by Vessel, 1956, 1962-1963
Folders 1-32 Payroll Records, C.L. AUSTIN, 1956, 1962-1963
Box 56: Payroll Records By Vessel, 1962-1963
Folders 1-19 Payroll Records, FRANK R. DENTON, 1962-1963
Box 57: Payroll Records by Vessel, 1955-1956, 1962-1963
Folders 1 Payroll Records, MCALLISTER, 1963
Box 58: Payroll Records by Vessel, 1955-1956, 1962; Payroll Records, Wilson Marine Transit Co., 1962
Folders 1-13 Payroll Records, SILVER BAY, 1956
Box 59: Payroll Records by Vessel, 1962-63; Payroll Records, Wilson Marine Transit Co., 1963; Personal Injury Reports, Wilson Marine Transit Co., 1962
Folders 1-10 Payroll Records, THOMAS WILSON, 1963
Box 60: Folders 1-30 Stock Certificates, 1890-1936
Folders 1-11 Stock Lists, 1933-1949 (Scattered)
Box 62: Financial Documents
Folders 1-17: Tax Statements, 1909-1929
Box 63: Financial Documents
Folders 1-23 Tax Statements, 1926-1941
Box 64: Financial Documents
Folders 1-27 Tax Statements, 1921-1935-1946
Box 65: Financial Documents
Folders 1-28 Tax Statements, 1937-1968
Folders 1-60 Contracts, 1892-1903
Box 67: Legal Documents
Folders 1-53 Contracts - Agreements, 1893-1967 (Scattered)
Box 68: Legal Documents
Folders 1-3 Certificates of Insurance, 1953-1963
Box 69: Legal Documents
Folders 1-17 Paul, Charles A. Estate, J - W, 1935-1953, 1963, n.d.
Box 70: Legal Documents
Folders 1-25 Wills, 1903-1955 (scattered)
Folders 1-2 Cleveland Conveyer Lines, Inc./Hewitt-Robins, Correspondance, 1959-1962
Box 72: Subsidiaries
Folders 1-12 Copper Steamship Co., Financial Records, 1941-1958
Box 73: Subsidiaries
Folders 1-22 Copper Steamship Co., Financial Records, 1959-1966
Box 74: Subsidiaries
Folders 1-29 Copper Steamship Co., Financial Records, 1946-1953, 1959-61
Box 75: Subsidiaries
Folders 1-43 Copper Steamship Co., Financial Records, 1961-1963
Box 76: Subsidiaries
Folders 1-7 Copper Steamship Co., Financial Records, 1933-1948
Box 77: Subsidiaries
Folders 1-5 Copper Steamship Co., Financial Records, 1931-1946
Box 78: Subsidiaries
Folders 1-5 Copper Steamship Co., Financial Records, 1946-1955
Box 79: Subsidiaries
Folders 1 Falcon Carriers, Inc., Correspondence, 1966-1967
Box 80: Subsidiaries
Folders 1-9 Great Lakes Steamship Co., Financial Records, 1945-1950
Box 81: Subsidiaries
Folders 1-8 Great Lakes Steamship Co., Financial Records, 1950-1953
Box 82: Subsidiaries
Folders 1-9 Great Lakes Steamship Co., Financial Records, 1948, 1951-1956, n.d.
Box 83: Subsidiaries
Folders 1-3 Great Lakes Steamship Co., Financial Records, 1948-1956 (scattered)
Box 84: Subsidiaries
Folders 1-36 Litton Industries, Correspondence, Subject Files, A - Ch, 1965-1967
Box 85: Subsidiaries
Folders 1-3 Litton Industries, Correspondence, Chronological Files, 1966-1967
Box 86: Subsidiaries
Folders 1-35 Litton Industries, Correspondence, Subject Files, Continental - He, 1965-1968
Box 87: Subsidiaries
Folders 1-36 Litton Industries, Correspondence, Subject Files, He - Lorain, 1959-1968
Box 88: Subsidiaries
Folders Litton Industries, Correspondence, Subject Files, Louis - So, 1963, 1965-1967
Box 89: Subsidiaries
Folders 1-19 Litton Industries, Correspondence, Subject Files, St - W, 1964-1967
Box 90: Subsidiaries
Folders 1-2 Republic Steel Corporation, Personnel, 1958-1965
Box 91: Subsidiaries
Folders Folders 1-6 Republic Steel Corporation, Reports, 1957-1961, n.d.
Box 92: Subsidiaries
Folders 1-29 Republic Steel Corporation, Financial Records, 1953-1962, 1965-1966
Box 93: Subsidiaries
Folders 1-8 Riverlake Belt Conveyor Lines/Hewitt-Robins, Correspondence, 1949-1957
Box 94: Subsidiaries
Folders 1-2 Riverlake Belt Conveyor Lines/Hewitt Robins, Correspondence, 1958-1959
Box 95: Subsidiaries
Folders 1-19 Westriver Ore Transports, Ltd., Correspondence, Subject Files, A - C, 1953-1959
Box 96: Subsidiaries
Folders 1-30 Westriver Ore Transports, Ltd., Correspondence, Subject Files, D - P, 1955-1959
Box 97: Subsidiaries
Folders 1-22 Westriver Ore Transports, Ltd., Correspondence, Subject Files, R - Y, 1955-1959
Box 98: Subsidiaries
Folders 1 Wilson - Destiny Carriers, Inc., Financial Records, 1961-1962
Box 99: Subsidiaries
Folders 1-2 Wilson Shipping Corp., Correspondence, Subject Files, W, 1956
Box 100: Subsidiaries
Folders 1-4 Wilson Shipping Corp., Legal Files, 1955