1903(Hugh O'Connor -- Patriot Models)
- Type: Great Lakes Excursion Steamer
- Dimensions: 275 x 38 x 19.5 ft.
- Displacement: 1,961 GRT
- Machinery: Two steam triple-expansion engines, 1750ihp each, two shafts = 16.5 knots
- Passengers: 1,950-3,300
- Designer: Sidney G. Jenks
- Built: Jenks Ship Building Co., Port Huron, Michigan, 1903
- Notes: Built for the Michigan Steamship Company's service on Lake Michigan between Chicago and South Haven, Michigan. A four-decked vessel originally rated to carry 2,800 people, but the passenger capacity fluctuated from a high of 3,300 in 1904 to a low of 1,950 in 1908. Bought in 1907 by the Lake Shore Navigation Company for service on Lake Erie between Cleveland and Sandusky. Returned to Lake Michigan in 1913 for service with the St.Joseph-Chicago Steamship Company. She suffered from being top-heavy and prone to listing while loading passengers, but operated until 1915 without incident. However, modifications that summer, including the addition of extra lifeboats and life rafts to allow an increase in passenger capacity, further decreased her stability. On the morning of 24 July 1915, while berthed in the Chicago River, she loaded 2,752 passengers for a chartered excursion of Western Electric employees and their families. As lines were being cast off, and passengers congregated on the river side, the ship listed enough for water to flood in her low gangways, and she continued over, capsizing until half-submerged. Although she was only 20 feet from shore, many people were trapped below and a total of 841 passengers and four crew died, including several whole families. The resulting lawsuits dragged on for more than twenty years.
The ship was salvaged almost immediately and the following year was acquired by the Illinois Naval Reserve for use as a training ship. She was purchased by the U.S.Navy in Nov 1917 and converted to the training gunboat USS Wilmette, commissioning on 20 Sep 1918. She served on the Great Lakes off and on until 1945. One of her most interesting duties was to sink a surrendered German U-boat, UC-97, on 7 Jun 1921. She was given the designation IX-29 on 17 Feb 1941 and during Aug 1943 she had the honor of transporting President Franklin D. Roosevelt, Adm. William D. Leahy, James F. Byrnes, and Harry Hopkins on a 10-day cruise to Whitefish Bay to plan war strategy. She was decommissioned on 28 Nov 1945, and scrapped in 1947.