Jack - U.S.A.


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The 1917-built package and bulk carrier Jack is seen while she was underway sometime during the 1930s. It is likely that the picture was taken while she was sailing eastbound from Duluth harbour past Park Point. Thanks Dwight Fry for identifying the photograph location.

Welland Canal and Great Lakes Classics - Jack
By contributing Editor George Wharton


This small steel hulled vessel was one of many constructed in the United States for emergency salt water service in World War I following the United States entry into the war in 1917. The U.S. Shipping Board awarded contracts for 346 of these vessels to be built by Great Lakes ship builders of which eventually 331 were built. These vessels were classified as the "Lakers" as they originated on the Great Lakes and most were given names using the first word "Lake". This naming pattern was supposedly started by Mrs. Woodrow Wilson.

Given the name Lake Fresco, this freighter was built in 1919 as hull #755 by American Ship Building Co., Lorain, Ohio for the above mentioned U.S. Shipping Board, Washington, District of Columbia (DC). The Lake Fresco was a vessel of 2,622 gross tons (1,617 net tons) and had the overall dimensions of 261 feet long (79.55m), 43.5 feet wide (13.26m), and 26.16 feet in depth (7.97m). Power came from a yard built triple expansion steam engine.

The U.S. Shipping Board used the Lake Fresco as a package freighter until 1924 when the vessel was sold to Jack Steamship Co. (Minnesota-Atlantic Transit Co.), Duluth, Minnesota. The small freighter was renamed Jack in 1924. The Minnesota-Atlantic Transit Company fleet was known affectionately as "The Poker Fleet"; with their vessels being named after the highest counting cards in the deck. Ironically, the principals of the company decided on naming their vessels as such during a poker game in Minnesota. Four other "laker" vessels were acquired for the fleet: Lake Frohna becoming Ace, Lake Faristell becoming King, Lake Flovilla becoming Queen, and Lake Giltedge becoming Ten (2).

The Jack was rebuilt as a package freighter by Staten Island Shipbuilding Co., Staten Island, New York in 1925. After arriving back on the Great Lakes, the Jack was kept busy running freight between Port Huron, Michigan and Duluth, Minnesota; and later from Buffalo, New York to Duluth as well. In 1936, ownership of the vessel was passed to Terminals & Transportation Co., Duluth, Minnesota. The Jack returned to salt water trades in 1940.

Dwight Fry - "My grandfather was a wheelsman on the Jack through the 1930's until the time the government took her for the war. As for the location of the picture, the low lying strip of land behind the ship may be called Park Point - a part of Duluth, Minnesota. That would have the Jack heading east away from the pier, the aerial bridge and the harbor. When she came in, the Jack always went slightly into the harbor, took a sharp right and docked at one of two wharves. I lived on Park Point during these years and eagerly watched with a pair of binoculars when Grandpa was due back from Buffalo or some place near Detroit where they picked up cars."

The U.S. War Shipping Administration, Washington, DC took over the operation of the vessel for the World War II effort in 1941. The Jack saw only limited service though since, on May 28, 1942 the vessel was torpedoed and sunk by German submarine U-155 in the Caribbean Ocean about 100 miles south west of Port Salut, Haiti (position 17.36 north / 74.42 west). At the time of her loss, the Jack was laden with a cargo of sugar from Ponce, Puerto Rico bound for New Orleans, Louisiana. The vessel sank in 4 minutes with a loss of 37 lives. Several survivors were picked up after enduring 32 days in a life raft.


Information and story courtesy George Wharton
If you know more about this ship please feel free to contact Myself or George Wharton
Trade routes, cargoes, accidents, layups, drydockings, conversions etc.etc..


Posted: November 25, 2002       Last Revised: October 27, 2003
Photographer unknown - ( Jeff Cameron's collection ) - Copyright © - 1930s, 2002

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