Historical Collections of the Great Lakes

HCGL Manuscripts | HCGL Databases | Reference Services | CAC Homepage

U. S. Steamboat Inspection Service (Toledo, Ohio) - GLMS 35

Introduction | Agency Sketch | Scope and Content | Series Description | Inventory

Introduction

This collection was acquired by the Bowling Green State University Center for Archival Collections from the Commanding Officer of the U.S. Coast Guard Station in Toledo, Ohio on July 23, 1975. In 1983 the collection was transferred to the Historical Collections of the Great Lakes.

Literary and property rights have been dedicated to the public. Duplication for purposes of preservation or scholarly research is permitted. Final processing of this one (1.0) cubic foot collection was completed in January 1992 by Mark J. Barnes.

Agency Sketch

The history of the Steamboat Inspection Service was a lengthy one marked by the increased interest on the part of the U.S. government in regulating maritime commerce. Before there were steamboats for such a service to inspect, the first Congress passed navigation laws in 1789 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 one thousand lives were lost. A preliminary form of inspection service began in 1838 when hulls and boilers received increasingly intense scrutiny. Safety equipment became standardized and was mandatory. By 1852 legislation to create the Steamboat Inspection Service was ready for enactment. Inspection duties were assigned in geographical districts and the Service was under way.

By 1884 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 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.

Scope and Content

This one cubic foot collection contains records of the Toledo, Ohio office of the Steamboat Inspection Service for the years 1870-1931. Included are tensile strength test reports for boiler plate samples (1900-1931), lists of licensed assistant engineers (1890-1907), and lists of licensed pilots (1870-1908).

The lists of licensees provide researchers with genealogical information on persons employed in the Great Lakes shipping industry. The reports on boilerplate strength reflect the safety concerns of the Steamboat Inspection Service as it monitored construction and maintenance of steam vessels. The test reports from 1915 to 1931 also record part of the lengthy transition into having such functions performed by the Coast Guard after its founding.

Series Description

REPORTS

RECORD OF TENSILE TESTS OF SAMPLES OF BOILER PLATES
(Box 1)
Arranged chronologically, alphabetical index.
Series contains two volumes of report forms used for recording tensile strength tests for boiler plate samples. Information on the reports generally includes date of tests, vessel names, city where vessel was built, name of boiler manufacturer, process by which plates were made (Basic O.H. Process, etc.), general remarks and numerical test results on the samples. The volumes cover the period from March 20, 1900 to December 30, 1931. An alphabetical index refers readers to specific vessels.

LISTS

ASSISTANT ENGINEERS
(Box 1)
Arranged alphabetically, then chronologically
Series contains a bound list of assistant engineers licensed through the Toledo, Ohio office of the Steamboat Inspection Service to work on Great Lakes vessels. Information includes dates of issue for licenses, name of licensee, number of licenses, grade (second assistant, etc.), number of renewals, name of boat on which licensee was employed on date of last license, and the route for which the license was issued. Entries cover the years 1890-1907. Arrangement is alphabetical by letter group for last names of licensees. Names beginning with A, for example, are grouped together, but do not fall in exact alphabetical order. Under each letter grouping entries are listed chronologically.

PILOTS
(Box 1)
Arranged alphabetically, then chronologically
Series contains two bound volumes listing first and second class pilots licensed through the Toledo, Ohio office of the Steamboat Inspection Service to work on Great Lakes vessels. Information includes dates of issue for licenses, names of licensee, number of renewals, name of boat on which licensee was employed when last license was issued and route for which the license was issued. Entries cover the years 1870-1888 for the first class pilots and 1889-1908 for second class pilots. Arrangement is alphabetical by letter group for last names of licensee. Names beginning with A, for example, are grouped together, but do not fall in exact alphabetical order within that letter group. Under each letter grouping entries are listed chronologically.

Inventory

Box 1

Folders

  1. Record of Tensile Tests of Samples of Boiler Plates, March 20, 1900-April 9, 1919.
  2. Record of Tensile Tests of Samples of Boiler Plates, April 25, 1919-December 30, 1931
  3. List of Assistant Engineers, 1890-1907
  4. List of First Class Pilots, 1870-1888
  5. List of Second Class Pilots, 1889-1908

HCGL Manuscript Checklist | Safety on the Waterways