Paul J. Ranahan Collection

Identifier: GLMS-0032

Collection Overview


This collection contains records of vessel damage surveys conducted by Paul J. Ranahan in his career as a marine consultant. Ranahan, a marine engineer, surveyed damage done to vessels involved in accidents to assess the cost of repairs. These records, along with correspondence regarding marine salvage operations, provide a view of the role surveyors like Ranahan played in identifying revenue sources for repair facilities and the expense such accidents caused for vessel owners. The collection contains approximately 730 cases spanning the years 1946-1980.


  • 1930-1980
  • Majority of material found within 1946-1980


4 Cubic Feet (4 records storage cartons)


Scope and Contents

This four cubic foot collection pertains to the vessel repair and salvage industry on the Great Lakes. Paul J. Ranahan surveyed damage to vessels involved in accidents to assess the cost of repairs. Vessel owners and salvage companies sought Ranahan's marine engineering expertise for several decades in the process of repairing and scrapping damaged vessels. This collection contains files dating from about 1930-1980.

The series of Vessel Inspection Survey Files, 1946-1980, contains 3.25 cubic feet of reports completed during Ranahan's assessments of conditions on vessels. A three-fourths cubic foot subject file for about 1930-1980 provides additional material regarding survey cases.

Salvage work has often kept shipyards in business when new orders were scarce. This collection documents the role surveyors like Paul Ranahan played in identifying potential sources of revenue for such repair and scrapping facilities. The expense to vessel owners resulting from accidents is also clearly identified. Passenger vessels, oil scows, and freighters all appear in files recording damage to 730 Great Lakes vessels over a fifty year period.

Biographical / Historical

Paul J. Ranahan was born in 1911 at Buffalo, New York and died at Lakewood, Ohio in March 1986. Ranahan's parents were Frank P. and Eugenia Ranahan. The elder Ranahan began a career in marine construction that led to his son's later interests in marine engineering. Frank Ranahan was president of the Lake Shipbuilding Company and the Buffalo Marine Construction Corporation during his career.

Paul Ranahan developed and pursued his interests in engineering as a student at Canisius College and Case Institute of Applied Science. After college, Ranahan applied his training as a fleet engineer in the Midland Steamship Line fleet for two years. From 1938 to 1945, he worked for the United States Salvage Association, the U. S. Navy and the Todd Shipbuilding Company. In 1945, Ranahan opened his own consulting firm in Cleveland, Ohio.

One estimate placed Ranahan's total number of vessel damage surveys in forty years at over 7,000. This collection contains about ten percent of his survey reports.

Paul Ranahan was a member of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, the International Ship Masters Association and the Propeller Club of the United States. As a volunteer with the Boy Scouts of America, he supervised canoe and boating trips that led to merit badges for many Cleveland area scouts.

Conditions Governing Access

There are no restrictions on access.

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

This four cubic foot collection was transferred to Bowling Green State University on June 21, 1982 by Paul J. Ranahan.



Guide to the Paul J. Ranahan Collection
Mark Sprang
September 2018
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description