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“This sterling anthology is a treasure trove of Chicago’s maritime history. While other aspects of the Windy City’s past have been covered completely by historians—often repeatedly—the unrecognized fact that Chicago owes its very existence, and much of its fame, to ships and sailors emerges as the clear theme of this exceptional collection. These 33 eclectic, wide-ranging, and tightly edited accounts constitute a surprising wealth of writing on an exciting topic that has been largely overlooked or forgotten. This book is a welcomed Great Lakes gem!” 

—Cris Kohl, Great Lakes historian and author

From Lumber Hookers to the Hooligan Fleet mines a rich vein of Chicago history. It’s the story of how a muddy canoe portage used by French fur traders was transformed into a bustling seaport on the prairie, and it happened a thousand miles from the nearest ocean. For Lake Michigan boaters, this treasury of Chicago’s maritime history is a poignant, personal reminder that those who sailed before us on our sweetwater ocean were not recreational boaters; they were part of a heritage that helped turn Chicago into the nation’s busiest transportation hub. And it all began on the water. For those who love maritime history, as well as Chicago history, this is a must read.” 

—Steve Sanders, WGN-TV


Welcome to the Port of Chicago


Maritime history speaks of heroes and vagabonds, romance and commerce, lighthouses and shipwrecks, industrialists and back-breaking labor, wartime vigilance and peacetime leisure, resource extraction and modern conservation. But not necessarily of the sea! Established astride a primary portage linking the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River system, Chicago has an overlooked maritime story that comprises all this and more.


In 1673, the French-Canadian voyageur Louis Jolliet was the first to notice the potential utility of the place that was to become Chicago when he paddled through the area on his way home to Montreal toward the end of his voyage of discovery with Jacques Marquette. The American Indian nations who had inhabited the area, the Illiniwek and Wea, as well as the Potawatomi, who were soon to live there, knew the place as a canoe portage between the Mississippi and St. Lawrence rivers’ watersheds, but they considered Checagou too marshy for permanent settlements. Neither group had any way of knowing that within two centuries, the sluggish Chicago River would become one of the busiest ports in the world and the city that arose on its banks would become one of the largest on the continent—the transportation center of the North American interior.


Let members of The Chicago Maritime Society take you into this lively world and guide you through the passages of Chicago’s waterway history with this collection of their best writings, photos, and artifacts.

From Lumber Hookers to the Hooligan Fleet

  • Author: Chicago Maritime Society

    Editors: Rita L. Frese and David M. Young

    Imprint: Lake Claremont Press

    ISBN: 978-1893121-30-0

    Pub Date: 2008

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