The Steamship Theodore Roosevelt
By James Donahue
At 287 feet the passenger liner Theodore Roosevelt was a modest ship but from the time of its launch
at Toledo in 1906 until the day it was scrapped in 1945, the ship faithfully carried thousands of people throughout the Great
Lakes and to war in the English Channel.
For the first 12 years the Roosevelt faithfully carried passengers and freight on Southern Lake Michigan,
probably operating regularly from Benton Harbor and South Haven to Chicago, Michigan City and perhaps Milwaukee. The vessel
was designed to carry up to 2,000 passengers and her owners specialized in short-line cruises.
When America entered World War I, the Roosevelt was taken over by the U.S. Navy in April, 1918, and
converted for service as a troop transport, still operating under the name Theodore Roosevelt. The steamer was brought through
the lakes and out the St. Lawrence River, then traveled to England where it carried troops and military personnel between
England and France. There is no record of this vessel ever being damaged in the war.
After the war the Roosevelt was sent back to the states and sold by the Ninth Naval District to the
Cleveland Steamship Company in July, 1919. She operated on Lake Erie until 1926 when sold to Manitowoc, Wisconsin firm that
made some major modifications, then sold the steamer to the Chicago Roosevelt Steamship Company headquartered, believe it
or not, in Duluth. But the Roosevelt returned once again to its old haunts on Lake Michigan, and operated as far east as Detroit.
As the vessel reached its final years, and was showing its age, it went through several owners, was
laid up about 1945, and in the end was scrapped at Milwaukee in 1950. This was one fine old ship that did not end up a rusted
hulk at the bottom of one of the Great Lakes.