U.S. Steamboat Inspection Service (Cleveland, OH) Records

 Collection
Identifier: GLMS-0031

Collection Overview

Abstract

Present are 23 volumes containing copies of inspection certificates retained at the Cleveland, OH office of the U.S. Steamboat Inspection Service following examination of steam vessels. These annual inspections permitted vessels to operate on the Great Lakes. The certificates date from 1876-1910. The compiled information focuses on hull materials, boiler tests, recommended crew sizes, and maximum passenger limits for freight vessels, passenger vessels, and yachts.

Dates

  • 1876-1910

Extent

5 Cubic Feet (23 volumes)

Creator

Scope and Contents

This collection contains copies of certificates of inspection retained by the Cleveland, Ohio office of the U. S. Steamboat Inspection Service after examining steam vessels for recertification purposes. These annual inspections permitted vessels to operate on the Great Lakes. The certificates span the years 1876-1910.

These documents are bound in 23 volumes. Points of emphasis vary slightly between inspections for freight vessels, passenger vessels, and pleasure yachts. Generally the information compiled focused on hull materials, boiler tests, recommended crew sizes, and numbers of passengers for each vessel.

The largest concentration of inspections pertain to freight vessels (volumes 1-16, 1876-1910). Inspections for passenger vessels form the second largest segment of the collection (volumes 17-22, 1883-1910). Pleasure yacht certificates appear in volume 23, 1894-1899.

Agency History

The life cycle of the Steamboat Inspection Service was a lengthy one marked by the increased interest on the part of the government of the United States in regulating maritime commerce. Before there were steamboats for such a service to inspect, the First Congress passed navigation laws in 1789 that were enforced by customs officers from the Treasury Department. The development of steam vessels by the 1830s necessitated a change in the system for enforcing navigation and commerce regulations.

In 1832, 14% of all steamboats in the U. S. exploded due to faulty construction. More than 1,000 lives were lost. A preliminary form of inspection service began in 1838 when hulls and boilers received increasingly intensive scrutiny. Safety equipment became standardized and mandatory. By 1852 legislation to create the Steamboat Inspection Service was enacted. Inspection duties were assigned in geographical districts and the Service was underway.

In 1884, it was recognized that navigation issues and regulation enforcement had become increasingly complex. A Bureau of Navigation was added to the Treasury Department for administering navigation laws. In 1903 both the Bureau of Navigation and the Steamboat Inspection Service were transferred to the Department of Commerce and Labor.

Noncommercial regulatory activities began to accompany inspections of commercial vessels. An annual increase of 45% in motorboat accidents from 1904 to 1910 resulted in the inspection of small pleasure craft as well as steamboats.

The Bureau of Navigation and the Steamboat Inspection Service were merged in 1932 to form the Bureau of Navigation and Steamboat Inspection. In 1936 the name was changed to the Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation.

During World War II administrative streamlining placed the inspection duties once performed by the Steamboat Inspection Service under the Coast Guard. This occurred on what was then viewed as a temporary basis in 1942, but was made permanent in 1946. The work begun in 1852 by the Steamboat Inspection Service continues today through the efforts of the Coast Guard.

Conditions Governing Access

No known access restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

The collection is in the public domain.

Language of Materials

Materials in English.

Related Materials

For Master Carpenter's Certificates for Cuyahoga District (Cleveland) from 1874-1907, see MMS 1126.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was acquired by Bowling Green State University's Center for Archival Collections from the National Archives and Records Service (now the National Archives and Records Administration) on January 9, 1975. In 1983 these volumes were transferred to the Historical Collections of the Great Lakes.

Title
Guide to the U. S. Steamboat Inspection Service (Cleveland, OH) Records
Author
Mark Sprang
Date
July 2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
English
Script of description
Latin
Language of description note
English