May 8, 1943: The “Dionne Quints” launch five ships

On this day across the bay in 1943, Superiorites and Duluthians came together to watch Canada’s famed “Dione Quints” ceremoniously launch five ships in the Hughitt slip of the Butler Shipyards as part of the allied war effort. The launch made history, as no other shipyard had never before launched five vessels on the same day. The most famous children in the world at the time. the Dionne quints—Annette, Cecile, Emilie, Marie, and Yvonne—were born in 1934 in Callinder, Ontario. It was Mother’s Day when the ships were launched, so the girls treated their mother—and 15,000 onlookers—to a song  in their native Quebecois. Mother Olivia Dionne wiped away tears when they finished. They also sang “America,” much to the crowd’s delight. The ships themselves were symbolic of the allied war effort: built by Americans, launched by Canadians, and manned by British sailors, as the vessels became part of the British navy as part of the lend-lease act. Read more about ship building in the Twin Ports here.

A photo collage celebrating the launching of the Quint Fleet at the Butler Shipyards in 1943. (Image: Lake Superior Maritime Collection)