GLMS 95 - Craig Shipbuilding Company Collection
|GLMS 95 - Craig Shipbuilding Company Collection
|Business & Commerce
This collection was donated to the Historical Collections of the Great Lakes on May 20, 1991 by Marjorie Baratlett. An instrument of gift was signed on July 18, 1991.
Literary and property rights were dedicated to the public. Photocopying is permitted for the purposes of conservation and research.
Great Lakes shipbuilding entrepreneur John Craig was born on December 24, 1838 at New York, New York of Scots immigrant parents. George and Catherine Campbell Craig were from Coldingham and Grampian Hills, Scotland. The Craigs met in New York and raised John with his sisters Catherine, Jeanette, and Jean.
The marine interests of John Craig developed through the father of a school friend who sailed a New York schooner. Craig's persistent requests to be allowed to sail led his father to arrange an apprenticeship as a ship's carpenter. Life on the schooner was more arduous than Craig realized and he let one voyage satisfy is curiosity about sailing.
Craig pursued carpentry on shore and studied drafting in order to learn vessel design techniques. In his early twenties the AMELIA G. IRELAND became Craig's first vessel of his own design. Further requests for his services led to profits and the need to expand his business.
On November 4, 1861 John Craig married his fiance Annie Eliza Losee. Business success permitted the start of a family. The resulting seventy-one year marriage was as successful as the business career.
Craig's first business partner in 1861 was a man named Simonson. The pooling of resources for these two opened the door to numerous naval contracts during the Civil War. The boom phase into 1865 was, unfortunately, followed by a post-war depression in orders for vessels. Harsh economic times were accompanied by the death of the Craig's infant son Peter.
In 1866 good fortune came in the form of news from Craig's brother-in-law Alex Linn that ship design work was underway in Gibraltar, Michigan under the direction of Linn's uncle Robert Linn. Craig's work was acceptable to Robert Linn and the Craig family began a new life on the Great Lakes. Family fortunes were still in a volatile state in a feast or famine market. During the Panic of 1873, the sale of one schooner staved off complete ruin.
While Craig's career as part of Linn & Craig progressed in the 1870s John Craig began to see the advantages of producing steel hulled vessels. Eventually Craig left his partnership and started his own yard at Gibraltar. In 1882 the company moved to a yard in Trenton, Michigan. By 1887 a larger facility was needed. A new yard was purchased in Toledo, Ohio and production began there in 1888. John, Annie, and the children, John F., Kate, and Mame began a new and prosperous life marked by a mansion for a home and extensive world travel.
Contracts came in by the dozens to the Toledo yard and Craig became a leader in vessel design. By 1907 John Craig was ready to retire and leave the business to John F. Craig. The Toledo yard was now too small to be competitive with other companies. Craig looked for an oceanfront city for expansion purposes. Long Beach, California proved the most suitable and operations under John F. Craig were transferred out west.
The value of the new shipyard was an immense asset to Long Beach. The first work crews to arrive were treated by the chamber of commerce as visiting dignitaries.
In January 1908, John F. Craig and his family reached California to help the Craig business interests grow in the new century. The elder John Craig retired at age 79 in Toledo.
John Craig maintained an active retirement with banking interests and marine promotion plans to keep him occupied. He reflected fondly on the 107 vessels built during his presidency of the Craig Ship Building Company from 1889 to 1907.
Annie Craig died on November 20, 1932. Two weeks earlier the Craigs had celebrated their seventy-first wedding anniversary. John Craig lived to be 95 and died in Toledo on January 15, 1934.
|Scope and Content
This collection documents business and personal elements in the life of Great Lakes shipbuilder John Craig. The primary series in the collection is a set of ninety-three black and white photographs made from the enclosed glass negatives. This series (3.5 cubic feet) dates from about 1898-1918 and records shipyard views for the Craig vessel construction operations in Toledo, Ohio, and Long Beach, California. Most views are of Toledo.
A second photographic series appears in the form of an album regarding the Craig family genealogy. Black and white photographs in this album (1 file folder) present individual portraits and group views dating from 1853 to 1965. These photographs show fine examples of nineteenth and early twentieth century clothing and architectural styles.
Biographical material on John Craig appears in his autobiography based on incidents he related to his granddaughter for publication in 1928. This volume (1 file folder) discussed Craig's business interests and factors motivating him to succeed in the vessel building industry.
A memoir from a relative of Craig's, James Lough, offers another view of working conditions in shipyards in the late nineteenth century. Lough's recollections (2 file folders) offer humorous insights into why the hiding of money outside of banks favored by people like John Craig was so common.
Two printed items complete the collection (1 file folder). An obituary for John Craig and an article in an historical journal on the Craig enterprises further elaborate on the Craig marine empire.
GENEALOGICAL PHOTOGRAPH ALBUM
JOHN CRAIG AUTOBIOGRAPHY
JAMES LOUGH MEMOIR
Box 1: Photographs
1-20. Glass negatives 1-20*
Box 2: Photographs
1-20. Glass negatives 21-40*
Box 3: Photographs
1-20. Glass negatives 41-60*
Box 4: Photographs
1-20. Glass negatives 61-80*
Box 5: Photographs
1-13. Glass negatives 81-93*
*Access to these negatives is restricted because of their fragile nature.
Box 6: Photographs--Prints from negatives 1-49
Box 7: Photographs--Prints from negatives 50-93