The bulk freighter William A. Irvin played a significant role in transporting both iron ore and coal between Minnesota ports on Lake Superior and ports along the southern shores of lakes Michigan, Huron and Erie. Named for a president of U.S. Steel, the freighter was known as the “Pride of the Silver Stackers” – a reference to the trademark black-banded smokestacks of U.S. Steel’s Great Lakes fleet.
The Irvin was the first major bulk freighter built on the Great Lakes after the Depression. At a time when freighter design had become highly standardized, the Irvin incorporated many new technologies, including a cross-compound turbine engine, steel hatch covers operated by a special deck crane and steel joints that were electronically welded rather than riveted. Alone among the fleet, the Irvin also had staterooms, a dining room and an observation deck. These amenities allowed U.S. Steel to thank wealthy customers and attract new investors during excursions that featured shuffleboard, kite flying and a driving range for golfers.
The William A. Irvin retired from active service in 1978. It was renovated and opened as a floating museum in Duluth in 1986.