2022 Symposium – Great Lakes History, Promise and Peril
This year’s theme is Lake Michigan scholarship. It is an eclectic offering of subjects with outstanding speakers. This all-star line-up is as follows:
Theodore Karamanski – Sailing America’s Inland Sea: Lake Michigan in the Age of Sail
Lake Michigan is unique among the Great Lakes in that it is the only one entirely within the territory of the United States. Because of that the lake was critical to the settlement and development of the states that shared its shore. Sailing ships, mostly schooners, were the means by which portions of four states were economically and social integrated. This power point presentation by Dr. Ted Karamanski will explore the infrastructure that was necessary to make this possible as well as illustrate what life was like on the sailing ships that plied Lake Michigan waters.
Theodore J. Karamanski, PhD is Professor of History and Director of the Public History Program at Loyola University Chicago. He has served as a heritage consultant to the National Park Service on numerous occasions in Alaska and across the Midwest region as well as National Geographic, The History Channel, and the Travel Channel. His public history work has focused on Great Lakes region cultural resource management, environmental history and American Indian rights. He has written histories of Isle Royale National Park, Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, and Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. He is author of ten books including Fur Trade and Exploration (1983), Deep Woods Frontier: A History of Logging in Northern Michigan (1990), Ethics and Public History (1991), Schooner Passage: Sailing Ships and the Lake Michigan Frontier (2000), Maritime Chicago (2001), with Eileen M. McMahon, North Woods River: The St. Croix Valley in Upper Midwest History (2009), Blackbird’s Song: Andrew J. Blackbird and Odawa Survival (2012), and most recently Mastering the Inland Seas: How Lighthouses, Navigational Aids, and Harbors Transformed the Great Lakes and America (2020). He is a founder of the Chicago Maritime Museum. He is Past-President of the National Council on Public History.
Patrick Jung – Charting the Inland Seas: French Exploration and Mapping of Lake Michigan and the Great Lakes, 1534-1675.
The French were the first Europeans to explore the Great Lakes, but for more than a century, their “explorations” relied on the knowledge of Native peoples who had understood the geography and hydrography of the Great Lakes for many centuries before the French arrived. Indeed, the early French relied completely on Native guides to penetrate the Great Lakes, and they grew their expanding trade network by grafting themselves onto existing trade routes controlled by Native communities. With the destruction of the Hurons after 1648, Native communities suffered great disruption. By this time, a generation of Frenchmen born in raised in the colony of New France had come to develop as intimate knowledge of the Great Lakes as their Native counterparts. Nevertheless, even into the 1670s, French explorers and missionaries such as Louis Joliet and Fr. Jacques Marquette still relied heavily on Native persons to travel on Lake Michigan and penetrate the Mississippi Valley. This included Marquette’s 1674 journey down the western shore of Lake Michigan, which included stops at present-day Sheboygan and nearby Cedar Grove. Marquette’s explorations and maps were the principal means by which the French gained a complete understanding of the Lake Michigan basin.
Dr. Patrick J. Jung is a professor of history and anthropology at the Milwaukee School of Engineering. Dr. Jung received his doctoral degree in United States history in 1997 from Marquette University, and he has written and researched extensively on Indian-White relations in the North American Great Lakes region. He has written two books about the French explorer and diplomat Jean Nicolet, and a short book on the missionary journeys of Fr. Jacques Marquette. These works examine how the French slowly came to understand the Great Lakes over the course of their first century in North America.
Brendon Baillod – The Lady Elgin Disaster: Milwaukee’s Civil War Tragedy
The Lady Elgin is infamous as one of the worst disasters in the history of the Great Lakes. The sidewheel steamship was lost in a collision off Winnetka, Illinois, taking over 300 lives and decimating Milwaukee’s Irish community. Join maritime historian Brendon Baillod as he explores the history of the vessel and the disaster as well as the personal stories of heroism and tragedy. Brendon will also explore the role the disaster played in Wisconsin’s Civil War politics before discussing the discovery of the wrecksite in 1989 and the archeology of the remains.
Brendon Baillod is an award-winning maritime historian based in Madison, Wisconsin. He is the current president of the Wisconsin Underwater Archeology Association and the author of Fathoms Deep But Not Forgotten: Wisconsin’s Lost Ships, a compendium of over 400 Wisconsin shipwrecks. Brendon is an avid collector of antiquarian Great Lakes books, maps, ephemera and photos with one of the largest private collections in existence. He continues to look for lost ships on the Great Lakes and conducts regular fieldwork using sidescan sonar. He has appeared on the History Channel, Discovery Channel, National Geographic Channel and Travel Channel discussing Great Lakes maritime history and shipwrecks.
Todd Gordon – The Eastland Story
The SS Eastland was a passenger steamer that capsized in the Chicago River on July 24, 1915. It resulted in the largest loss of life in Great Lakes shipping history. The story of this disaster will start from the year the boat was launched in 1903 through the end of its career on the Great Lakes.
Todd will challenge us to find what the following items have in common to the history, legend and lore of the Eastland:
1. Mashed potatoes
2. The Titanic
3. George Halas – founder of the Chicago Bears and co-founder of the NFL
4. Jack Woodford – successful author of pulp fiction novels and non-fiction in the 1930s and 1940s
5. Carl Sandburg – three-time Pulitzer Prize winning poet
6. Kenesaw Mountain Landis – first Commissioner of Baseball from 1920 to 1944
7. Clarence Darrow – famous lawyer of the “Scopes Monkey Trial”
8. Denis Sullivan – namesake of Milwaukee’s three-masted schooner
9. Ernie Pyle – Pulitzer Prize winning World War II war correspondent
10. Oprah Winfrey – TV personality, actress, producer and philanthropist
Todd Gordon is a graduate of UW Milwaukee, and retired in 2018 from We Energies after 43 years of service. He and his wife, Kathie, have recently “retired” as volunteer co-managers of the Port Washington 1860 Light Station. Todd is currently the vice president of the Wisconsin Marine Historical Society’s Board of Trustees. As a lifelong history enthusiast and former SCUBA diver, Todd has been sharing his interests by giving Great Lakes history presentations to various organizations. In the past he dove on various Great Lakes shipwrecks, mostly in the waters around Door County.
Put this on your calendar. It will be a great day.
Tickets available online at schrc.org/shop.