J. B. Ford 2018-2021

The J. B. Ford is still floating at Azcon Scrap dock as of October 25, 2018.  Please enjoy these updated photos of the vessel.  Note on the stern view of the ship the crane is now swung out over the water.  Some of the cabin doors are open to the elements.  On the life boat photo pictured are radial type davits.  These type were around prior the Titanic which was equipped with quadrant type davits.  The boat pictured is of the C. M. Lane design built in New York.  This vessel was working the Great Lakes eight years prior the Titanic sinking.

The J. B. Ford is still intact as of 24-25 October 2018.  The latest rumor is that it is very possible that scrapping of this  114 year old vessel may begin before the end of this year.

24 Oct 2018 A view of the forward end from the road.

Note the open cabin doors and deck crane swung out forward of the aft cabin.  Those missing portholes were 19″ diameter glass, painted brass.

The J. B. Ford docked next to scrap yard as rows of newly made wind turbine blades wait to be installed in the country side. Interestingly the J. B. Ford when new in 1904 was just as cutting edge in her day as the wind mill technology is now.  Crew of that era were working on wooden freighters the Ford was steel a relatively new idea in practice.

 Replica Name Pennant Edwin F. Holmes 2019

The J. B. Ford as viewed from Garfield Avenue in Duluth, MN.  The ship has been docked there awaiting to be broken up for scrap for roughly three years and six months.  It has been rumored that as early as June the vessel would begun to be broken up.  When scrapping of this vessel has started, it is estimated that the entire process should be complete in four to six months.  Time has proven 2019 will not likely be the final year of this historic vessel.  The ship has remained past October, and given market conditions it is speculated the Ford will still be around in 2020. 

The J. B. Ford as viewed from Garfield Avenue Duluth, MN April 24, 2019

While viewing old images of the J. B. Ford when she was named the Edwin F. Holmes, and that of her fleet mate Henry B. Smith, it was noted how ships in that era would fly huge name pennants.  These were usually given to the ship by the shipyard when they were launched.  Many of the Hawgood ships were photographed with these huge name pennants flying from either their forward mast like the Henry B. Smith, or the aft mast such as the Edwin F. Holmes.  The original pennants are now unaccounted for, most likely destroyed years prior.  While viewing the name pennant flying from the aft mast of the Edwin F. Holmes, I tried to estimate what the exact dimensions of such a flag would be.  Surviving drawings of the Edwin F. Holmes do not show this detail.  However drawings from the Institute for Great Lakes Research listed the height of the aft house cabin.  This height was approximately 8 feet.

The aft mast of the J. B. Ford where back in 1904 a huge name pennant of Edwin F. Holmes once flew. Note the 70’s era television antenna mounted on top of it April 24, 2019

Using the eight foot height of the aft cabin and measuring the same point on the photograph, I slowly came up with a sketch of a huge flag.  The flag measured 10 feet height by about 27 feet in length.  Each letter measured roughly 2 feet.

Once the sketch was complete the sketch was brought to a tailor whom quoted a price and the work was soon completed.  I was very impressed with the first flag, so a second was commissioned to depict the one used by the Henry B. Smith.

The vision or dream of this replica was to have it flown off the aft mast as the ship would be towed to the scrap yard.  It would be a symbolic honor to such a long working veteran of Great Lakes Heritage.  The completed flag when new was sent off to Lafarge with the hope, the humble request could be made.  After awhile the flag was sent back.  By this time Great Lakes Steamship Society Inc. was formed an again the flag was sent to the lead founder of this non-profit in hopes that opportunity would arise where the pennant could fly as the vessel was towed from Superior, WI over to Duluth, MN.  The day the ship was moved the flag was not present for the event.
The flag was returned and one last request was logged for a photo of the flag on the vessel.  After some time the request was withdrawn given considerations for safety.

Replica Name pennant placed near stern of J B Ford. The flag measures 10 feet wide by 27 feet long.

The replica flag was unfolded near the stern of the vessel on flat ground for the photo as shown above.  The colors of blue and white were chosen based  on vintage period correct paintings of other steamships.

The replica flag of the Henry B. Smith was donated to the Lake Superior Maritime Museum Association at a Gales of November Event several years ago.  The association retained the replica for use at the Canal Park Marine Museum in Duluth, MN.

 On May 31st 2019 I was able to interview Joseph Lombardi of Ocean Technical Services www.oceantechserv.com .  I wanted to learn and share first hand an account of the 2013 J. B. Ford survey.  He explained more about his view of the Ford in 2013 and reasons why the survey report was never finalized.  A parting thought was that she is a special boat, with a rich history, and her hull was in great shape for her age.

On June 29, 2019 the whistle from the J. B. Ford was dedicated in ceremony at the Harsens Island Historical Society.  Two years prior John Cameron Jr. offered the whistle to the society.  He owned it for many years at his home on a lake near Grand Rapids, Michigan.  John Cameron Jr. was gifted the whistle from Inland Lakes Management.  Chuck Miller and Bobby Bryson retrieved the whistle and compressor from the donors home to bring over to Harsens Island.  Plans were made by the society and money raised to build an addition to the museum to house a larger compressor and receiver tank.  John Cameron Jr. and his brother Kenny were first to blow the whistle at the ceremony.  To view the whistle and hear a voice from the past visit Harsens Island Historical Society https://harsensislandhistory.org


In June the J. B. Ford moved along the pier then returned back to  place.  It has been five years since the J. B. Ford was moved from Superior, Wisconsin. 


  If the J. B. Ford remains at the scrap dock up through October 2021, the vessel would have spend 6 years at the Duluth, MN scrap dock,  20 years in the Twin Ports since being towed up from Chicago, and if the vessel remains afloat up to December 12, 2021 then 118 years floating on the Great Lakes minus dry dock periods.  Once the vessel is broken up one would have to scuba dive similar ships such as the Superior City or Eureka to see one like this up close.  

February 27, 2021 Aerial view from a drone. The dismantling process appears to have begun starting on the Port Side boiler room area of the vessel. The vertical cylinder inside the open area is one of three bunker C fuel cells installed on this ship over the winter of 1975-1976 in Buffalo, New York.                  Photo Courtesy David Schauer     Duluth, Minnesota

1 March 2021 Smoke, fire.

  Per news outlets and the harbor cam smoke could be seen coming for the aft section of the vessel.  It appears the vessel is beginning to be broken up for 2021.  In the past other vessels were also broken up in this slip.  The Irvin Clymer, and Joshua Hattfield to name a couple.

02 June 2021 Pilothouse in the Hold.

  Below a photo of the removed pilothouse of the J. B. Ford.  The searchlights were removed prior to the structure falling to the cargo hold below.  Some may ponder why would this pilot house not be saved like the Irvin L. Clymer, which is a few slips over, newly re-painted white?  All around the Great Lakes region various pilothouses are preserved for cabins, gift shops, or storage sheds.  It should be noted that there may have been interest to save the wheel house and or the forward cabins, but things did not go as planned.  It should also be noted that when the Clymer’s forward house was removed a crane barge was floated next to the vessel to safely removed the structure.  This logistic solution did not come to be in the case of the J. B. Ford.  Photo Courtesy David & Gus Schauer

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A seagull rest on part of the original 1904 chart table once housed in the Captain’s quarters. 15 June 2021

13 March 2021 Link below to a publication highlighting photos from the 2013 Steamship J. B. Ford Survey.



Museum Ship J. B. Ford The Chicago Maritime Society Tour March 1991, a book printed on 16 May 2021 highlighting the J. B. Ford when a live aboard crew maintained the vessel, and all nautical artifacts were intact onboard.
By December 2021 the anchor windlass is exposed and most of the cargo hold is cut down to the tank top.

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