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[REV 25-NOV-2014]

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Tashmoo Too: 1901

Tashmoo Too: 1901

Detroit circa 1901. "Steamer Tashmoo leaving wharf." Another look at the popular excursion steamer with a capacity crowd of day trippers. 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.

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Tashmoo Park

The steamer Tashmoo's regular run was to Tashmoo Park on Harstens Island at the mouth of the St. Clair River. Some of the park structures still stand.

Stern Line

It sorta looks like a line is connected to the pier and under tension at the corner of the close pier, running back and around the corner piling. It is positioned such that if it ran to a cleat on the ship somewhere behind the piling it would act as described in assisting the ship to lever itself, with the assist of the current, or perhaps the port wheel, in getting the ship (boat) away from the dock and underway.

While in the Navy, we were instructed that the difference between a ship and a boat was that a ship could carry and launch a boat, something a boat cannot do. Don't think that included carrying a dinghy or the like. Don't think the size or type of water factors into the description.

Tashmoo Memories

As poor as our fatherless family of ten were in the early 1930s, we did get to ride both the Tashmoo and Put-In Bay boats. When I was 11 or 12, at the target range on Put-In Bay Island I actually shot the stuffed alligator that was on the floor for decor. No one got mad. They just told me to shoot at the targets.

Do wish more people knew how beautiful Detroit used to be.


I don't believe the stern line is still secure. I think the left wheel is turning slow ahead to hold against the dock. That allows the current to swing the bow out into the channel. Let the river do the work.

Tashmoo Hull

Take away some of the superstructure and you would have a most beautiful racing steam yacht. I find the design of that hull most attractive.

It is interesting that in the previous Tashmoo photo, two vessels are at the same wharf and apparently boarding their passenger near the bow in each case.

Hoist the Colors!

Note the union jack on the foremast.


Magnificent boat!

The photo demonstrates a once standard method of ship handling, the springline. A line is run from a cleat at the stern to a dock piling. The ship ("boat" on the Great Lakes) then "backs against the spring", pulling the stern toward the dock, and causing the bow to swing out into the river. The boat had been docked in the nearer curved slip, and at this point has been swung out almost enough to ring engine ahead and cast off the springline. If the line was doubled around the piling, it could be cast off from the boat's deck, without help from the dock.

The Detroit River excursion boats performed this operation many times per day, without tugboats or bow thrusters. A similar setup could be used to get the boat docked.

Due to the very fast current in the Detroit River, boats normally dock facing upstream to this day.

We rode the later BobLo steamers, Ste. Claire + Columbia, in the early 1980's, and watched this operation done to perfection. These boats were similar to Tashmoo, but had a single propeller instead of Tashmoo's sidewheels,and lacked her sharp prow, making them less elegant and efficient, but more manageable. As with most excursion steamers, the engine room was completely visible, exposed in a well. I got invited down to the engine room with my very young daughter, who still remembers it clearly.

My wife's mother spoke fondly of riding the Tashmoo, which wasn't one of the BobLo boats. It normally ran north (at very high speed) from Detroit to Port Huron, with a stop at Tashmoo Park near Algonac.

The Tashmoo's Date With Doom

Dangerous lines

Aside from numerous other concerns (by our standards) check out how close the people on the dock are standing to the straining stern line. If that piece of cordage ever snapped it would have whipped across the dock and cut off folks at their knees!

Even in 1901 you gotta wonder who was supervising the line handling.

Day Trip

The Tashmoo is leaving the Detroit River wharf & is headed for the Belle Isle Park down river from Detroit. Canada is on the other side of the Detroit River. Passengers purchase a 1-day ticket (round trip) to Belle Isle (island). This excursion has been going on at least 110 years. Lots of fun & memories for those who take the trip.

Ladies First

Chivalry seems to have been strong in Detroit. I count only two or three examples of the fairer sex awaiting the next steamer. I imagine the ratio would be far different today.

Women and Children First!

I can see only 4 lifeboats on the port side of the ship, assume there are 4 more on the starboard side for a total of 8. Looking at the number of passengers on the ship, this seems to be a possible miscalculation of "Titanic" proportions.

Something odd

Someone tried to scratch out the shadow of the flag from the negative (near bottom left).

Hold Fast

Skipper is waiting to let go the stern line I believe.

Tippy Tashmoo

OK, everybody rush over to the port side and wave to the folks ashore -- kersplash!


Passengers' only "flotation devices" appear to be their wooden deck chairs.

No fencing around the dock area. Ah, the good old days when people didn't sue like crazy.

Bicycles were apparently quite popular then.

Mostly men on the dock -- did they all send their sweeties off for the day?

SHORPY OLD PHOTO ARCHIVE | History in HD is a vintage photo archive featuring thousands of high-definition images from the 1850s to 1960s. (Available as fine-art prints from the Shorpy Archive.) The site is named after Shorpy Higginbotham, a teenage coal miner who lived 100 years ago.

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