Ship Owners' Dry Dock Company Records

Identifier: GLMS-0008

Collection Overview


The brief corporate history (1901-1912) of the Ship Owners' Dry Dock Co. is documented in this collection. The company purchased the assets of the Miller Brothers Dry Dock Co. which had started a shipbuilding and ship repair business in 1855. The business of both companies centered on work from local repairs and building tugboats. The collection includes financial records, minutes, and stock certificates.


  • 1901-1912


1 Cubic Feet (4 volumes)


Scope and Contents

This collection records the meeting minutes and financial transactions of the Ship Owners' Dry Dock of Chicago, IL from 1901 into 1912. The volume of minutes from 1901-1912 covers board of directors meetings and special business transactions of the company. Costs for individual vessel construction projects are included for 1901-1908.

Company History

The business that became known as the Ship Owners' Dry Dock Company in 1901 began operations in 1855 as a partnership between E. M. Doolittle and Andrew Miller in Chicago, Illinois. Miller, born in Londonderry County, Ireland in 1820, was an experienced shipbuilder by the time he joined with Doolittle to purchase land on Goose Island in the north branch of the Chicago River for constructing a shipyard. Miller had built boats in St. John, New Brunswick and in Cleveland, Ohio before arriving in Chicago in 1848. Miller remained in Chicago until his death in September of 1881.

In 1860 the company was named the Miller Brothers Dry Dock Company and retained this name until 1901. The Miller Brothers Company developed a large clientele for repair work and tug construction, but seemed to be in chronic financial difficulty because of Andrew Miller's unaggressive bill collection methods. Miller was known as the vessel owners' friend and often left debts owed him to accumulate for lengthy periods. Business was good enough to allow expansion to three dry docks during the life of the company.

After Andrew Miller's death in 1881, Thomas E. Miller and Bryce L. Miller ran the family business until 1900 when the decision was made to sell the company to the newly incorporated Ship Owners' Dry Dock Company. Investors from Chicago, Cleveland and New York pooled resources to start the new shipyard. C.A. MacDonald and J.J. Rardon of Chicago ran the local affairs of the company. William W. Watterson was hired from Lorain, OH as the Bradley and James Corrigan of Cleveland were joined New Yorkers August Belmont and G.L. Boissevain as significant stockholders.

Financial and labor trouble hindered growth for several years. Robert J. Dunham was hired as president in 1903 in order to seek new construction contracts and labor agreements through his contacts. A new contract with the Ship Carpenters Labor Union was negotiated. Profits, however, remained lower than expected.

In 1907 the owners decided to sell the Ship Owners' Dry Dock Company to the Chicago Ship Building Company. Over the next five years portions of the company were sold to the American Ship Building Company's Chicago subsidiary. The Goose Island facility served as a repair yard until 1916 when the yard was closed. The dry docks were filled in when the Ogden Ave. Viaduct was built in about 1928.

Conditions Governing Access

No known access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Researchers using this collection assume full responsibility for conforming to the laws of libel, privacy, and copyright, and are responsible for securing permissions necessary for publication or reproduction.

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

These items were part of the Wright Marine Collection. No accession paperwork exists for the collection.



Guide to the Ship Owners' Dry Dock Company Records
Mark Sprang
May 2018
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