U.S. Coast Guard, 9th District (Cleveland, Ohio) Records

Identifier: GLMS-0042

Collection Overview

Scope and Contents

The record series in this collection document activities of the United States Coast Guard, 9th District office in Cleveland, Ohio for the years 1911-1971. These files concentrate on the period 1935-1965. Within the four cubic feet of this collection researchers may examine the commercial aspects of the Coast Guard's duties through files on vessel inspections. These three cubic feet of records (Box 2-4) reflect whether a vessel was enrolled as one licensed to operate on the Great Lakes. Inspection files for 109 vessels are present.

The role of the Coast Guard as a life-saving service for persons in distress can be studied through correspondence on incidents where assistance was rendered in 1969-1970. In files regarding the May 1965 collision of the CEDARVILLE and the TOPDALSFJORD the rescue mission of the Coast Guard is also emphasized.

The investigative nature of some Coast Guard assignments is reflected in the transcript of the hearing conducted to determine the cause of the CEDARVILLE/TOPDALSFJORD collision. This hearing analyzed the circumstances that led to the loss of several lives during an accident in the Straits of Mackinac under foggy conditions.


  • 1911-1971
  • Majority of material found within 1936-1961


4 Cubic Feet (4 records storage cartons)


Agency History

Captain Ralph N. Dempwolf became the first Commander of the United States Coast Guard's 9th District in 1942. This organizational restructuring ws not the first activity for the Coast Guard or its predecessor agencies centered in Cleveland, Ohio. Founded in 1915, the Coast Guard assumed the responsibilities of such programs as the Steamboat Inspection Service, the Life Saving Service, and the Lighthouse Board. Cleveland's first lighthouse dated from 1829. Throughout the second half of the nineteenth century the surfmen based in Cleveland were frequently noted in the local newspapers for rescuing passengers and crews from wrecked vessels.

Cleveland's role as an administration center grew with the demands of the job of providing navigational assistance to the Great Lakes. From one lighthouse in 1829, operations in Cleveland came to supervise the 9th District of the Coast Guard that extends from Massena, New York to Duluth, Minnesota. This district encompasses 5,480 miles of shoreline and thousands of vessels to monitor annually.

Investigative responsibilities were added prior to World War II to duties of Captains of Ports. Federal police powers to enforce anchorage regulations, handle hazardous cargo transfers, and to monitor movements of foreign vessels were added in 1940. Within two years such matters became part of Captain Dempwolf's duties in a revised Coast Guard that had new military assignments added to those of navigational assistance.

Duties today for the staff of the Coast Guard, 9th District office range from enforcing Department of Commerce revenue regulations to coordinating search and rescue operations on the Great Lakes. This set of multiple and complex responsibilities can be examined through the records in this collection.

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 additional vessel casualty information, see MMS 1095, Reports of Vessel Casualty or Accident, 1971-1977.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

This collection was transferred from the United States Coast Guard, 9th District headquarters in Cleveland, Ohio to the Bowling Green State University Center for Archival Collections in December 1975

Processing Information

Final processing of this four cubic foot collection was completed in January 1992 by Mark J. Barnes.

Guide to the US Coast Guard, 9th District (Cleveland, Ohio) Records
Mark Sprang
August 2018
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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