Lady Elgin (steamship)

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Coordinates: 42°11′00″N 87°39′00″W / 42.1833333°N 87.65°W / 42.1833333; -87.65

The PS Lady Elgin was a wooden-hulled sidewheel steamship that sank in Lake Michigan off Chicago, Illinois after she was rammed by the unlit schooner Augusta in the early hours of September 8, 1860. The passenger manifest was lost with the collision, but the sinking of the Lady Elgin resulted in the loss of about 300 lives[2] in what was called "one of the greatest marine horrors on record." Four years after the disaster, a new rule required sailing vessels to carry running lights. The Lady Elgin disaster remains the greatest loss of life on open water in the history of the Great Lakes.[3] Her shipwreck was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999. However, after ownership of the shipwreck was determined by the Supreme Court of Illinois, the new owner of the shipwreck asked that the listing be retracted, yet this has never been updated on the National Register web site.[4]



The Lady Elgin was built in 1851 in Buffalo, New York at a cost of $95,000. She was named after the wife of Lord Elgin, Canada's Governor General from 1847 to 1854.[5] During her time, the wooden-hulled sidewheeler was one of the most elegantly appointed passenger ships plying the Great Lakes. Rated a first-class steamer, she was a favorite with the traveling public. Early in her career she ran between Buffalo and Chicago, then later between Chicago and Collingwood, Ontario. For many of her last seasons, she was the line between Chicago and other Lake Michigan ports and Lake Superior.[6]

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