Ohio and Western Pennsylvania Dock Company Records

Identifier: GLMS-0022

Collection Overview


The records of the Ohio and Western Pennsylvania Dock Company partially document the history of the company from 1882-1963. The collection consists of safety committee minutes (1945-1960), company improvement files (1904-1925), vessel lists (1927-1935), labor agreements and grievances (1897-1963), ore shipments (1889-1936), reprimand lists (1905-1907), and operation reports (1908-1913). The operation reports are daily logs of the dock operators and include ore unloading times, references to union activities, transcripts of local union meetings, and copies of various union charters and contracts.


  • 1882-1963


3 Cubic Feet (6 legal manuscript boxes)

1 Cubic Feet (25 volumes)


Scope and Contents

The records of the Ohio and Western Pennsylvania Dock Company document the history of this Cleveland-based company from 1882 to 1963. The records are incomplete in some cases, but they can be of some use to the labor or business historian.

The minutes of the Dock Company's Safety Committee span from the committee's first meeting in 1945 until 1960. The Safety Committee was composed of individuals from both the management and labor departments of the company; their safety recommendations were employed at both the Ohio and Western Pennsylvania Dock and the Cleveland and Pittsburgh Dock.

During the 1920s many of the Dock Company's consignees undertook capital investment projects in the form of technological improvements of existing facilities. These improvement projects are documented by the information found in the subject files. The files include correspondence, reconditioning reports, purchase orders for equipment, pamphlets, photographs, and blueprints of existing dock equipment and proposed improvements.

Reports found in this record exist in the following forms: vessel lists, reprimand lists and operation reports. The vessel lists date from 1927 and 1929 through 1935. These lists are daily work logs which identify dock ships, cargo, and their estimated time of arrival. The reprimand list dates from 1905 to 1907. This list includes the names of all individuals who were punished for inappropriate behavior at work; included is the offense and punishment. The operation reports, which date from 1908-1913, are daily logs of the docks operators. They primarily report on the unloading of iron ore and the efficiency at which this task was accomplished. Also included are many references to growing union support among the workers. Found within these reports are transcripts of local union meetings, copies of various union charters and contracts, and copies of other dock operation reports where violence had occurred. These reports, though incomplete, give a good representation of daily life on the Cleveland docks.

Legal documents in this collection reinforce the representation of dock life found in the operation reports. This series is composed of labor agreements and grievance reports which date from 1897 to 1963. The majority of the documents found in this series are of labor agreements; the early contracts focus primarily on pay rates, while later contracts change focus to working conditions. Included with these agreements are plans of organization and worker constitutions. This series also includes worker grievances filed against the company. The majority of these grievances were made from 1908 to 1915, and their general theme is complaints of preferential treatment of one worker over another.

Financial documents found in this series consist of two areas. First are the operating expenses which date from 1927 to 1936. These itemized monthly reports give an explanation of both cost increases and decreases. Also found in this series are statements of iron ore handled by each consignee of the Ohio and Western Pennsylvania Dock Company. These records were maintained in ledger form from 1889 to 1936, and are arranged alphabetically. Within the ledgers is recorded the name of each dock consignee (member) and the amount of ore handled. In 1936 the format was changed from a ledger to a monthly statement sheet which also includes a total monthly shipment amount for all consignees involved. These records document the entirety of ore haulage and iron production for Cleveland, Ohio from 1889 to 1941. Examination reveals the impact of economic factors which affected that area and industry, such as World War I, the Great Depression, and World War II, by the increase and decrease of material shipped.

Company History

The Ohio and Western Pennsylvania Dock Company of Cleveland, Ohio operated under the control of the Hanna Mining Company and the Pennsylvania Railroad. The docks were originally built a few years after the discovery of the Marquette Range, the enormous iron ore fields found on the shores of the upper Great Lakes. The Marquette Iron Company, organized in Cleveland, claimed ownership of the Marquette Range, which was later known as the Cleveland mine. The flow of ore from the Range established Cleveland's position as a prominent iron transshipping port.

In 1852 Chisholm, Jones & Company (now American Steel and Wire) and Otis Steel Co. (now Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation) were formed on Whiskey Island at the mouth of the Cuyahoga; the following year the waterfront was used as a harbor. Coincident with the development in iron ore shipping into Cleveland, the movement of coal to the city for transport back up to lake sites began to take place. The two trades have since become inseparable.

In 1867 special unloading facilities were installed on Whiskey Island, on what was then the east side of the Cuyahoga's mouth. To replace the slow method of the hand shovel and the wheelbarrow, iron tubs made specially for the purpose were lowered into the holds of the ships by means of ropes passed through the ship's rigging. After being filled by shovelers, the ore was then dumped into wheelbarrows and pushed along platforms above the railroad cars and then spilled into the cars.

The Pennsylvania Railroad leased the Cleveland and Pittsburgh (Ohio Western and Pennsylvania) lines and docks in 1871. Few basic changes were made in handling equipment until 1889 when Pennsylvania inaugurated its first program for applying new standards of efficiency for transferring ore from ships to railroad cars. The first step was the erection of four cantilever type mechanical unloaders on Dock 1 in the old riverbed. While one handling was being mechanized, new equipment was also being devised to speed the transfer of coal from railroad cars to vessels. The first effective car dumper was built in 1895. The dumper elevated a railroad car, turned it sideways, and spilled the coal onto a funnel-shaped apron, from where it flowed through a mechanically-controlled chute into the ship. The basic principle has remained the same ever since.

By 1908 the ore docks at Whiskey Island ranked as the fastest unloading plant anywhere. The Pennsylvania Railroad, looking even further ahead, made its decision to scrap its Whiskey Island operations in favor of a larger, and entirely new dock, to be built not in the river but on the lake front, thus eliminating the trips of the bulk freighters around the hairpin curves of the Cuyahoga.

Making of land in the West Breakwater basin of Cleveland Harbor was begun in 1910, and a year later newly designed unloading machines with unprecedented efficiency were installed. Four Hulett unloaders, each with a bucket of 17 tons rated capacity, were erected on new docks of reinforced concrete. The Hulett unloaders are the solid arm type, each being electrically controlled by an operator riding in a cab directly above the bucket, able to see what he is doing far more clearly than any previous type of machine. Ore from vessels is picked up in gigantic bites and discharged first into a receiving hopper, then into a weighing hopper, and finally into railroad cars on the four tracks below, one track for each machine.

The conception and design of the big Huletts are the ultimate contribution made by Cleveland engineering and construction companies to the success of the docks. Virtually all of the unloading devices, beginning with the original ore unloaders of 1889, were designed and built by Cleveland companies. No record such as this would be complete without an acknowledgment of the skill and ingenuity of these organizations. In turn, the millions of dollars spent in Cleveland for the enormous machines which they devised undoubtedly played an effective part in enlarging the city's economic structure.

From hand shovels to Huletts from 100 tons a day to 4,000 tons an hour, that was the progress in performance reflected by the technological innovations made by the companies associated with the Cleveland dock.

Through the years, Pennsylvania Railroad's Cleveland and Pittsburgh (Ohio and Western Pennsylvania) Division has operated other docks to handle lake shipments of merchandise freight. Although this traffic is important, the Hulett unloader is the chief contribution of the docks to the industrial strength of Cleveland. Upon the bankruptcy of the Pennsylvania Railroad, the ownership and operation of the docks was transferred to ConRail, under which the Hanna Mining Company and the Ohio and Western Pennsylvania Dock Company operate today.

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

The records of the Ohio and Western Pennsylvania Dock Company were donated to the Center for Archival Collections in July 1981 by John W. Manning of the Hanna Mining Company, with the cooperation of Dr. Richard Wright, then Director of the Center for Archival Collections.

Guide to the Ohio & Western Pennsylvania Dock Company Records
Constance Schumacher, Mark Sprang
May 1983, July 2018
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