Saturday, May 11, 2019

the Ford Motor Company had a fleet of ships, for moving iron ore down the great lakes to Detroit

Built in 1924 for use by the Ford Motor Company, the Benson Ford was original utilized to transport iron ore and related materials across the Great Lakes by the growing auto company.

A sister ship, the Henry Ford II, was commissioned to the American Ship Building Company, Lorain, Ohio, and scheduled for completion several weeks prior to the Benson Ford; however, a tornado struck Lorain prior to completion and delayed construction of the Henry Ford II. Consequently, the Benson Ford sailed first.

Above the Henry Ford II in L'Anse

Both ships were named after Henry Ford’s grandsons and the Henry Ford II was officially launched by the youngsters through electrical remote control in Detroit. Clearly the most modern ships on the Great Lakes, the twin ships were the cornerstone of the Ford Motor Company’s lake transport system.

After more than 50 years of tireless service, the Benson Ford was decommissioned in December of 1981 and stripped of the engine and other salvageable parts, sold to Sullivan Marine, for intended use as a barge; however, it never sailed again.

After much consideration, Sullivan decided it would not be cost effective to utilize the ship on the Great Lakes and opted for a less conventional use, so, the entire forward superstructure was removed and transported by the barge to South Bass Island, also called Put-in-Bay.

The 62’ X 59’ foot section was then used as a 7,000 square foot, four story, summer home, which included the walnut paneled state rooms, dining room, galley, and passenger lounge designed by Henry Ford for his own pleasure while traversing the Great Lakes on business.

Company burgee from the Ford Motor Company steamship fleet. The flag is blue and yellow and is made of heavy cotton in a swallowtail shape. It has a blue border (5 inches wide) along all of the edges except for the hoist. The center area is yellow and contains a blue silhouette image of a bluebird in flight.

the pilot house of the William Clay Ford was cut off and mounted as an observation room on Belle Island


  1. That's cool!..You find the neatest stuff!
    David Evans

  2. thanks! It makes me really happy to find such crazy interesting stuff

  3. Another story from my area! The current owners of the Benson Ford own a few car dealerships in the area. The wood paneling and built-in details are very nice. I'm sure this was much more luxurious than a typical ore freighter of that time.

    1. I expect they were, as Henry had them built for his personal rooms while riding the boats to and from the Ford company towns (Iron mountain, Alberta, Pequaming,L'Anss, all in the upper peninsula, and Camp One, and Camp 3 (I know about those) and his resort cabin at the Huron Mountain Club, etc. He travelled up there a bit, with his buddies, the Vagabonds, and his wife for vacations as well as business. That ship was probably the fastest, and no doubt, the most comfortable way for him to travel, as I heard he wasn't fond of flying.. even though Charles Lindbergh was his friend and test pilot