Brief Information on the Steamship William G. Mather

The Steamship William G. Mather was built in 1925 during the golden years of American Lakes steamships by the Great Lakes Engineering Works in Ecorse, MI. As the flagship for the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company (now Cleveland-Cliffs Inc.), she was state-of-the-art with respect to capacity, power and accommodations, and was noted for her elegant passenger quarters.

The Mather is a straight deck bulk carrier with a 14,000 ton capacity. She is 618 feet long, 62 feet wide and 32 feet (molded depth).

The steamer William G. Mather was named in honor of the then-president of the Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company, William Gwinn Mather. William Mather was the son of Samuel L. Mather, descended from the famous Mathers of New England, and second wife, Elizabeth Lucy Gwinn. William Mather was a leader in the mining and shipping circles for over six decades and was known in Cleveland for his philanthropic work. "Gwinn," his lakefront home in Bratenahl, Ohio, has been preserved as a meeting place for nonprofit groups.

To supply the Allied need for steel, the Mather led a convoy of 13 freighters in early 1941 through the ice-choked Upper Great Lakes to Duluth, MN, setting a record for the first arrival in a northern port. This heroic effort was featured in the April 28, 1941 issue of Life Magazine.

The Mather has a distinguished 55 years (1925 - 1980) career as an Great Lakes freighter. She was one of the first commercial Great Lakes vessels to be equipped with radar in 1946. In 1964, she became the very first American vessel to have an automated boiler system, manufactured by Bailey Controls of Cleveland. In 1980, she was laid up in Toledo, Ohio and was the last ship owned by Cleveland-Cliffs, Inc. as it divested itself of its Great Lakes shipping interests.

On December 10, 1987, Cleveland-Cliffs, Inc. donated the steamer William G. Mather to the Great Lakes Historical Society to be restored and preserved as a museum ship and floating maritime museum.

Over $1,200,000 and fifty thousand volunteer hours later, the Steamship William G. Mather Museum opened to the public as northeast Ohio's only floating maritime museum on May 23, 1991. For this achievement, the Steamship William G. Mather received Northern Ohio Live's community event award in 1991.

To date, over $2,700,000 and more than 250,000 volunteer hours have been invested in the project. Almost all on-going restoration, 80% of the Mather's maintenance, and 40% of the Museum's educational programs are performed by volunteers.

The Mather is listed in the International Register of Historic Ships. It is also referenced in Delegato and Clifford's Great American Ships, published by the National Trust for Historic Preservation (1991).

On July 30, 1995 the Steamship William G Mather was dedicated as an American Society of Mechanical Engineers National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark for her 1954 installation of a single marine boiler and steam turbine engine, and her 1964 installation of the Bailey 760 Boiler Control System and dual propeller bow thruster - both firsts for U.S.-Flag Great Lakes vessels.

As of June 2000, over 300,000 visitors, 60,000 of which are school children, have toured the Steamship William G. Mather Museum during its nine-plus seasons (April - October) as northeast Ohio's only floating maritime museum.

The Steamship William G Mather Museum is owned and operated by the Great Lakes Science Center.

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This page maintained by

Robert M. Martel,
(bob at wgmather dot nhlink dot net)
Last updated: 31 May 2007