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Foreign Trade

Excerpted from Martin, Jay C. 1996. Preliminary Comparative and Theme Study of National Historic Landmark Potential for Thunder Bay, Michigan. Great Lakes Visual/Research, Inc. Lansing, MI.

The Great Lakes have been accessible to direct trade from saltwater since 1826, when the first lakes vessel inaugurated direct trade. This trade did not develop a foreign component for some years, but was well-established by the 1850s. Intercontinental foreign trade was particularly important during the Civil War when saltwater shipping was hard-pressed to meet American needs. Two Great Lakes schooners that were engaged in this trade were lost at Thunder Bay: the KYLE SPANGLER (1860) and the JOHN F. WARNER (1890).

Foreign trade took on a permanent presence around World War I. Foreign vessels were able to visit the Great Lakes with ease after the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway in 1959 and today represent a substantial part of the shipping traffic on the lakes. Several propellers of foreign origin ended their careers in or near Thunder Bay; all were carrying break bulk cargo (the descendent of package freight). The Norwegian VIATOR (a pre-Seaway visitor) was lost in a collision south of Thunder Bay Island in 1935. The propeller MONROVIA sank in a collision fifteen miles off Thunder Bay Island in 1959, and the NORDMEER grounded because of human error north of Thunder Bay Island in November 1966 and became a total loss.

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