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Inland Steel Company Collection - GLMS 100

Introduction | Organizational History | Scope and Content | Series Description | Inventory


This 3.5 cubic foot collection was donated to the Historical Collections of the Great Lakes by Daniel J. Cornillie of the Inland Steel Company on August 1, 1991. Literary and property rights were dedicated to the public. Photocopying is permitted for the purposes of conservation and research.

Organizational History

The Inland Steel Company was founded in 1893 during the financial panic of that year. Economic depression had led to the failure of the Chicago Steel Works that had specialized in reusing old railway rails to produce farm machinery. Ross Buckingham, brother of the former president of Chicago Steel, salvaged the production machinery after the building and property were sold to pay debts.

Buckingham fortunes began to improve when the city of Chicago Heights offered them six acres on which to build a new steelworks and $20,000 for construction costs. Ross Buckingham loaded the equipment from the old plant on railroad cars for shipment out of Chicago. This equipment sat in boxcars for months while buckingham searched for new investors to buy stock in the company and to form a board of directors. Fear of continuing depression led many banks and private investors to doubt that a new steel mill would survive.

A diverse group of businessmen combined to buy the first stock in Inland Steel and incorporated the business on October 30, 1893. Initially, 1300 shares were divided among eight investors. Joseph Block and his son Philip left a Cincinnati business called Block-Pollack Iron Company to help finance and administer the new Inland Steel Company. Block had attempted to convince his Cincinnati partners to help finance the Chicago Heights venture. When they refused, Block left for Illinois to risk his own finances. The Blocks owned 500 of the original stock shares.

William M. Adams had worked for a cousin of Ross Buckingham. Adams saw Inland Steel as a prime investment and provided resources to assist the new company when Buckingham's cousin declined to join the new investors. Adams owned 150 shares of new stock.

George H. Jones from the S. D. Kimbark Hardware Company brought his father-in-law, Elias Colbert, into the company. These two investors owned 300 shares between them.

A farm implement manufacturer from Ottawa, Illinois, Joseph E. Porter, joined the Inland Steel investors and owned 200 shares of stock. Porter became a member of the board of directors.

John W. Thomas, former foreman of the Chicago Steel Works, was responsible for the transfer of machinery from the railroad cars to the factory in Chicago Heights. Thomas purchased fifty shares in the company.

Frank Wells of Chicago purchased the remaining one hundred shares and served on the first board of directors for Inland Steel.

Mechanical problems in the factory and a stagnant market for steel products for agriculture made much of the first year of operation difficult. Company officers did not draw salaries due to the precarious financial position of the steel market. George H. Jones built a growing list of potential customers in his sales capacity, but orders were delayed or canceled in efforts by other companies to remain solvent.

A combination of numerous boiler patches and great good fortune allowed the old machinery salvaged by the new steel company to survive the first year of production. Purchases increased and most employees worked on a full-time basis. Stockholders received a dividend for 1894.

Innovative research in the 1890s found new product markets for Inland Steel to enter. Sales increased seventy-five percent in one year when a light steel web for bed frames was produced to replace cast iron frames.

Expansion in the first years of the twentieth century led to the construction of a new open hearth plant on the shore of Lake Michigan at what became Indiana Harbor. By 1902, the new operation was as profitable as the Chicago Heights plant.

Inland Steel was then hit with financial distress in 1903 when prices for products plummeted in a recession. Five years passed before a stock dividend was again paid to investors. The Inland Steel managers steered the company through periodic recessions before World War I began.

In 1906 Inland Steel purchased the Laura Iron Mine near Hibbing, Minnesota and began the steps to vertical integration that made it one of the steel industry giants. By 1911 the need for its own lake fleet was seen as significant enough to form the Inland Steamship Company. The ability to ship iron ore from its own mine in its own freighters helped reduce costs for the company.

Joseph Block died in 1914 and the other early founders of the company were disappearing also. New managers led the company into the contracts for steel brought on by World War I.

In the 1920s Inland Steel developed a reputation for innovative cost cutting techniques. Electrification of its plants was expensive, but, by 1926, better steel came from the mills and they were safer places for the employees. Ingot production was soon above war related levels. As the Inland Steel empire grew, whole mining towns in Kentucky were electrified when Inland bought local coal mines. Improved living conditions for the miners were perceived as necessary to increasing productivity.

Inland Steel kept expanding operations through the 1930s depression years. New mill structures worth $15,000,000 were added om 1932. Subsidiary companies were purchased to help market Inland Steel products. Everything from roofing material to buckets was manufactured to be sold through the subsidiary businesses. Inland Steel weathered the Great Depression in sound financial condition.

Military contracts in World War II kept the mills operating and the Inland Steel fleet sailing on the Great Lakes. Armaments replaced agricultural implements, but profits remained high.

In the years after World War II sales continued to grow for Inland Steel. A giant corporation had risen from the 1894 company where officers could not draw their salaries without endangering the company. In 1962 working capital of $225,000,000 was listed in the annual report. In 1995 Inland Steel operated a fleet of four bulk freighters for ore transport. This collection describes daily operations on vessels in the fleet.

Scope and Content

This 3.5 cubic foot collection contains log books, articles of agreement and crew lists from vessels in the Great Lakes fleet of the Inland Steel Company for the years 1978-1981. The material does not cover a lengthy time span, but does provide detailed daily information on vessel operations to researchers interested in a time capsule view of what activities were logged in official form on a Great Lakes freighter.

The log books (32 volumes) record technical data on vessel performance in a daily format. Logs from 1978-1981 appear for the E. J. BLOCK, JOSEPH L. BLOCK, L. E. BLOCK, PHILIP D. BLOCK, EDWARD L. RYERSON, and WILFRED SYKES. Efficient engine operations are sought in the sailing of commercial vessels. The engineer's log books reflect the chief engineer's concerns with fuel consumption and general speed in completing each vessel trip for the Inland Steel fleet.

Official logs were maintained to monitor loading and unloading activities at the lakeside docks. Vessel masters recorded the cargo handling process to locate any defects in procedure that were either unsafe or inefficient. Type and tonnage data brings the researcher in contact with the purpose of the fleet, commercial transport of industrial raw materials.

Rough deck logs were prepared by deck watch crew to document activities occurring on the vessel decks during their watch. Telephone calls, drills, and work assignments were noted.

Articles of Agreement (six file folders) for officers and crew note the terms of employment each member of the crew agreed to honor before being allowed to sail on Inland Steel vessels. These items can have value to genealogists in that crew names and job titles are included.

Genealogical information also appears in the Crew Lists (five file folders) series. These lists were recorded before each trip, to have an accurate accounting of who was on board each vessel when a trip began.

Series Description


Volumes 1-32
Series contains Engineer's, Official, and Rough Deck Logs for six vessels in the Inland Steel Company Great Lakes fleet. These vessels are the E. J. BLOCK (US 205250), JOSEPH L. BLOCK (US 574870), L. E. BLOCK (US 226374), PHILIP D. BLOCK (US 224508), EDWARD L. RYERSON (US 282106), and the WILFRED SYKES (US 259193).

Engineer's Logs record maintenance details for each trip the fleet vessels made during the shipping season. Vessel speed is monitored to show the time taken to reach each port on the trip and the number of miles traveled. Fuel consumption was also noted. Remarks on weather delays are included.

Official Logs record navigational information in the form of course bearings and weather data. Daily entries note the location of the vessel near a port or other geographical feature at various times of the day. Loading and unloading information describes cargo handling at the ports. Type of cargo, tonnage, and the time to load or unload are entered in this log.

The Rough Deck Logs record entries for vessel location several times each day. An activity record for deck watch members notes telephone calls made and work assignments. Signatures for crew appear for each watch. Series is arranged alphabetically by type of log. Each individual log is chronologically arranged.


Box 1, Folders 1-6
Series contains Articles of Agreement signed by licensed officers and unlicensed crew before trips began on the Inland Steel Company fleet vessels. Articles are present for the vessels noted in the series above. These documents serve as agreements between fleet owners and employees regarding work rules on the vessels. Working conditions are printed on each form. Signatures of the officers and crew appear in areas designated for employees for each rating such as Master or Fireman. Arrangement is chronological.


Box 1, Folders 7-11
Series contains lists of crew and officers on Inland Steel fleet vessels. Names, ratings, addresses and citizenship are recorded. These lists were recorded before each trip to document personnel serving at the time. No lists are present for the EDWARD L. RYERSON but are present for the other vessels in series 1 and 2. Series is arranged alphabetically by vessel and then chronologically under each vessel.




  1. E. J. BLOCK, Engineer's Log, 3-30 to 11-21-1979
  2. E. J. BLOCK, Official Log, 3-30 to 11-21-1979
  3. E. J. BLOCK, Official Log, 3-30 to 11-21-1979
  4. E. J. BLOCK, Official Log, 4-17 to 12-31-1980
  5. E. J. BLOCK, Rough Deck Log, 3-28 to 11-30-1979
  6. JOSEPH L. BLOCK, Engineer's Log, 12-31-1978 to 12-19-1979
  7. JOSEPH L. BLOCK, Official Log, 12-31-1978 to 12-19-1979
  8. JOSEPH L. BLOCK, Official Log, 4-15 to 12-19-1979
  9. JOSEPH L. BLOCK, Official Log, 4-5-1980 to 1-21-1981
  10. JOSEPH L. BLOCK, Rough Deck Log, 4-6 to 12-19-1979
  11. L. E. BLOCK, Engineer's Log, 4-6 to 11-24-1979
  12. L. E. BLOCK, Official Log, 4-6 to 11-24-1979
  13. L. E. BLOCK, Official Log, 4-7 to 12-13-1978
  14. L. E. BLOCK, Official Log, 4-6 to 11-24-1979
  15. L. E. BLOCK, Official Log, 4-8 to 7-25-1980
  16. L. E. BLOCK, Rough Deck Log, 4-12 to 11-24-1979
  17. PHILIP D. BLOCK, Engineer's Log, 4-14 to 11-27-1979
  18. PHILIP D. BLOCK, Official Log, 4-12 to 11-27-1979
  19. PHILIP D. BLOCK, Official Log, 4-12 to 11-27-1979
  20. PHILIP D. BLOCK, Official Log, 4-11 to 7-18-1980
  21. PHILIP D. BLOCK, Rough Deck Log, 4-14 to 11-27-1979
  22. EDWARD L. RYERSON, Engineer's Log, 1-2 to 12-30-1979
  23. EDWARD L. RYERSON, Official Log, 1-2 to 12-30-1979
  24. EDWARD L. RYERSON, Official Log, 1-30-1979 to 1-6-1980
  25. EDWARD L. RYERSON, Official Log, 1-8-1980 to 1-12-1981
  26. EDWARD L. RYERSON, Rough Deck Log, 4-3-1979 to 1-16-1980
  27. WILFRED SYKES, Engineer's Log, 12-30-1978 to 12-10-1979
  28. WILFRED SYKES, Official Log, 12-30-1978 to 12-10-1979
  29. WILFRED SYKES, Official Log, 10-13-1978 to 9-13-1979
  30. WILFRED SYKES, Official Log, 9-13-1979 to 10-6-1980
  31. WILFRED SYKES, Official Log, 10-4-1980 to 1-21-1981
  32. WILFRED SYKES, Rough Deck Log, 4-7 to 12-10-1979

Box 1


  1. E. J. BLOCK, Articles of Agreement, 1979
  2. JOSEPH L. BLOCK, Articles of Agreement, 1979
  3. L. E. BLOCK, Articles of Agreement, December 1978-1979
  4. PHILIP D. BLOCK, Articles of Agreement, 1979
  5. EDWARD L. RYERSON, Articles of Agreement, 1979
  6. WILFRED SYKES, Articles of Agreement, 1979
  7. E. J. BLOCK, Crew Lists, 1978
  8. JOSEPH L. BLOCK, Crew Lists, 1979
  9. L. E. BLOCK, Crew Lists, November 1978-November 1979
  10. PHILIP D. BLOCK, Crew Lists, 1979
  11. WILFRED SYKES, Crew Lists, 1979

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