More About HCGL Resources

Manuscript and Archival Materials

HCGL's holdings in this area total more than 2,000 linear feet and approximately 450 collections.  In addition to materials generated by private individuals, organizations, and companies, the HCGL has an extensive microfilm collection of American and Canadian government documents relating to the enrollment and registration of Great Lakes vessels.  A few of the major collections include the Lake Carriers' Association (minutes of meetings, subject files, annual reports, 1880-present); American Ship Building Co. (minutes, property records, subject files, drawings, photographs, 1880's-1980's); Wilson Marine Transit Co. (minutes, correspondence, legal files, financial records, (1884-1970); Loudon G. Wilson Collection (especially useful for documenting the evolution of sail vessels on Great Lakes); John E. Poole (includes a 40,000 item card file on Great Lakes vessels); Upson-Walton Ship Chandler Collection (Cleveland), the Richard J. Wright Marine Collection, and the archives of the International Ship Masters' Association, and the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority.


Our databases are an attempt to take existing data sources and reformat them for online access. Most of this data came from published directories.

The Vessel Database project received funding from the National Maritime Heritage Grants Program of the National Park Service, BGSU, and the Ohio Coastal Management Program, administered by the Department of Natural Resources, Division of Real Estate and Land Management.  The Lake Erie Ports and Maritime Personnel databases received funding from BGSU and the Ohio Coastal Management Program.

Marine Architectural Drawings, Maps, and Charts

HCGL’s collection of several hundred thousand drawings from the American Ship Building Co.(Amship) and Great Lakes Engineering Works (GLEW) provides a unique source for the study of Great Lakes shipbuilding from the 1860's to the 1980's.  A large collection of navigational charts and maps provides information documenting the evolution of Great Lakes channels, harbors, and shorelines as well as information about shipping routes, shipwrecks, and the development of navigational aids such as lighthouses. Requests for drawings should be made in advance since most are stored off site.

The HCGL has recently digitized the microfilmed drawings listed in the catalog (American Ship Building Company and Predecessors: 1867-1920).  Post-1920 Amship and GLEW drawings are not cataloged; however, we do provide access to these drawings with advance notice and will make copies.

Photograph Collections

This collection of more than 130,000 images depicts the vessels, people, ports, and places of the American and Canadian Great Lakes region from the late nineteenth century to the present.  Vessel photographs are arranged according to the original name of the vessel and are one of the Institute's most frequently requested resources. Port photographs are arranges by the name of the port. (See Databases for more details on how to access these collections.)

Books, pamphlets, and periodicals

The HCGL collection contains more than 9,000 vols., 4,700 pamphlets, and 200 linear feet of periodicals (more than 250 titles) pertaining to Great Lakes topics, especially maritime history of the Great Lakes from the early nineteenth century. Most of these items are cataloged.

Reference collections

In addition to vessel histories, the HCGL maintains a reference collection that includes Merchant Vessels of the U.S., Canadian List of Shipping, Lake Underwriters, Lloyd's Register, Great Lakes Redbook, Greenwood's Guide and a 550-volume collection of news clippings from lake ports arranged chronologically from the 1830's to the 1980's. 

HCGL Videos

HCGL Video List