The J. B. Ford as viewed from Garfield Avenue in Duluth, MN. The ship has been docked there awaiting to be broken up for scrap for roughly three years and six months. It has been rumored that as early as June the vessel would begun to be broken up. When scrapping of this vessel has started, it is estimated that the entire process should be complete in four to six months. Time has proven 2019 will not likely be the final year of this historic vessel. The ship has remained past October, and given market conditions it is speculated the Ford will still be around in 2020. To date the ship has continued to float on the lakes for 115 years 8 months. The past 18 years the J. B. Ford has been at the Twin Ports.
While viewing old images of the J. B. Ford when she was named the Edwin F. Holmes, and that of her fleet mate Henry B. Smith, it was noted how ships in that era would fly huge name pennants. These were usually given to the ship by the shipyard when they were launched. Many of the Hawgood ships were photographed with these huge name pennants flying from either their forward mast like the Henry B. Smith, or the aft mast such as the Edwin F. Holmes. The original pennants are now unaccounted for, most likely destroyed years prior. While viewing the name pennant flying from the aft mast of the Edwin F. Holmes, I tried to estimate what the exact dimensions of such a flag would be. Surviving drawings of the Edwin F. Holmes do not show this detail. However drawings from the Institute for Great Lakes Research listed the height of the aft house cabin. This height was approximately 8 feet.
Using the eight foot height of the aft cabin and measuring the same point on the photograph, I slowly came up with a sketch of a huge flag. The flag measured 10 feet height by about 27 feet in length. Each letter measured roughly 2 feet.
Once the sketch was complete the sketch was brought to a tailor whom quoted a price and the work was soon completed. I was very impressed with the first flag, so a second was commissioned to depict the one used by the Henry B. Smith.
The vision or dream of this replica was to have it flown off the aft mast as the ship would be towed to the scrap yard. It would be a symbolic honor to such a long working veteran of Great Lakes Heritage. The completed flag when new was sent off to Lafarge with the hope, the humble request could be made. After awhile the flag was sent back. By this time Great Lakes Steamship Society Inc. was formed an again the flag was sent to the lead founder of this non-profit in hopes that opportunity would arise where the pennant could fly as the vessel was towed from Superior, WI over to Duluth, MN. The day the ship was moved the flag was not present for the event.
The flag was returned and one last request was logged for a photo of the flag on the vessel. After some time the request was withdrawn given considerations for safety.
The replica flag was unfolded near the stern of the vessel on flat ground for the photo as shown above. The colors of blue and white were chosen based on vintage period correct paintings of other steamships.
The replica flag of the Henry B. Smith was donated to the Lake Superior Maritime Museum Association at a Gales of November Event several years ago. The association retained the replica for use at the Canal Park Marine Museum in Duluth, MN.