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June 7, 1928: The Steamship America sinks at Isle Royale

On this day in Duluth in 1928, the beloved Steamship America wrecked at Isle Royale. The America left Grand Marais the previous evening for Isle Royale to drop off passengers at the Singer Hotel Dock on Washington Island before heading to Port Arthur (today’s Thunder Bay), Ontario. In the early morning hours of June 7, with the first mate at the helm, she struck a reef near Isle Royale’s Washington Harbor, skidding over the rocks four times and ripping a hole in her hull just below the engine room on the starboard side. The ship’s pumps couldn’t keep up with the water pouring in. The captain ordered the ship to steer for the north gap of Washington Harbor in an attempt to beach her, but it struck more rocks and stopped ninety feet from shore. All thirty-one passengers and crew managed to get off the America before she slid off into deep water. The America was not salvaged, perhaps because Minnesota Trunk Route 1‚ known today as Highway 61, had just been completed, dramatically reducing the cost of transporting goods up the shore. Read more about the America here.

The America docked at Washington Harbor on Isle Royale. (Image: Zenith City Press)