About the Ship
The S.S. Edmund Fitzgerald was conceived as a business enterprise of the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Northwestern Mutual contracted with Great Lakes Engineering Works of Ecorse, Michigan to construct a “maximum sized” Great Lakes bulk carrier. Her keel was laid on August 7, 1957 as Hull No. 301.
Named after the President and Chairman of the Board of Northwestern Mutual, Fitzgerald was launched June 8, 1958 at River Rouge, Michigan. Northwestern Mutual placed her under permanent charter to the Columbia Transportation Division of Oglebay Norton Company, Cleveland, Ohio. At 729 feet and 13,632 gross tons she was the largest ship on the Great Lakes, for thirteen years, until 1971.
The Fitzgerald’s normal course during her productive life took her between Silver Bay, Minnesota, where she loaded taconite, to steel mills on the lower lakes in the Detroit and Toledo area. She was usually empty on her return trip to Silver Bay. On November 9, 1975 Fitzgerald was to transport a load of taconite from Superior, Wisconsin, to Zug Island, Detroit, Michigan.