Built in Manitowoc
Mackinaw boats. 18-25 ft. two-masted sailboats; the fishermen's workhorse, built in small yards in Manitowoc and Two Rivers. Later replaced by motorized "gill net" tugs and trawlers of a type still in use today.
Schooners. Easy on the eye, but smaller and slower than steamers and more vulnerable to bad weather; owned by individual captains who made a precarious living; the last one was built in 1889. Many were dismasted and towed as scows to haul cargo. The most famous is the Rouse Simmons, "Christmas tree ship." Built in Milwaukee, its link to Manitowoc/Two Rivers is that it sank off Two Rivers on its way from Michigan to Chicago in 1912.
Lumber "hookers". Small, rugged, steam powered cargo boats.
Steam passenger and freight haulers. Steam side-wheeled and "propellors," all wood at first, then steel. In the World War I era, Manitowoc built steel-hulled, diesel powered lake freighters, many of which left the lakes to sail the oceans.
Tugs. Small boats with big engines, used to move other boats into and out of harbors and to tow barges and scows.
Yachts. Sail, steam and diesel. Perhaps the most famous is the Coast Guard patrol boat Electra, which Franklin Roosevelt turned into the presidential yacht, Potomac. Later, the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Elvis Presley, bought it, making it the only royal yacht built in Manitowoc.
Rail car ferries. The first in use at Manitowoc were not built here, but many of the latter vessels were and just about all of them were maintained, refitted or rebuilt here.
World War II Naval Vessels. Submarines; LCT or Landing Craft Tank, used by the Navy to get tanks on the beaches in the Pacific; Search and Rescue boats to find downed aviators; Sub-Chasers to destroy submarines; Minesweepers; Seagoing rescue tugs; Shipyard maintenance boats.
Recreational fishing boats. Homebuilt in many a local backyard; also Mirro-Craft boats, first made by Mirro Aluminum in 1956. In 1982, moved to Gillett WI, but still called Mirro-Craft.
Also. Bulk carriers for grain, coal and cement; oil tankers, derrick boats, dredges, barges, scows and other types of craft for work on the water.
Shipbuilding means more than original construction. Ships were in constant need of repair and were often torn apart, redesigned, remodeled and rebuilt. Equipped with massive dry docks to lift entire ships out of the water, the Manitowoc shipyards performed maintenance work on locally made ships but also on just about any kind of ship that sailed Lake Michigan.
Although the list of shipbuilders at Manitowoc is long, the most important always seem to include the name Burger. A German immigrant raised in Milwaukee, Henry B. Burger married a Manitowoc gal and moved north in 1863. He started making Mackinaw boats, moved up to schooners and in 1870 formed a partnership with Greenleaf Rand. They built boats together until Rand died in 1885. Henry then took his nephew George into the business. They acquired a dry dock and added repairs work to their line of services. In 1902, Burger and Burger sold their yard to the newly incorporated Manitowoc Shipbuilding and Dry dock Company.
Henry B. Burger's nephew, also named Henry B. Burger, had started his own company, the Henry B. Burger Shipyard in 1892. He did well until his death in 1914. The following year his wife and four children incorporated the Burger Boat Company, which remained in the family until 1976. The company survives today with new owners who maintain its focus on luxury yachts.
The Manitowoc Shipbuilding and Dry dock Company discontinued wooden ship building in 1902 and built a six hundred foot dry dock capable of handling any ship on the lakes. After World War II the company was reorganized as the Manitowoc Company. It now is a leading manufacturer of ice making equipment and construction cranes. As lake ships grew too large for its docks, the Manitowoc Co. moved its shipbuilding and maintenance work to Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, Cleveland, Ohio, and Marinette, Michigan. It was a black day in 1968, when the cranes, arc welders and dry docks of Lueps Island went idle for the first time in a century.
Manitowoc and the surrounding area experienced a rush of settlement in the 1850s. Accordingly, a substantial number of German and Irish immigrants joined the native born white Americans who moved there. They were joined by a small number of Norwegians and a significant number of Bohemians/Czechs. The Poles made their greatest influx in the 1860s and 1870s, when they built St. Mary's church on "Polish Hill."
Manitowoc is part of the German belt of eastern Wisconsin, where to this day about fifty percent of the population has German ethnic roots. At Manitowoc in 1860, more than fifty percent of residents were foreign born. One third of them were German. Of the city's four newspapers, three were English language and one German. In that presidential election year, the Republicans pulled out the biggest German gun in their arsenal, Carl Schurz, and dispatched him to Manitowoc to rally Deutscher voters for Abraham Lincoln. The Railsplitter needed help to overcame the Irish Democrats led by local newsman Jeremiah Crowley. Lincoln carried Manitowoc County by only ninety-four of about 4,000 votes cast. In the city, the German vote helped him beat Stephen Douglas, 480-221.
Still pursuing the German vote, the Republicans nominated Edward Salomon to run for Lieutenant Governor in the fall of 1861. Born in Germany in 1828, he migrated to Manitowoc, taught school, and was elected surveyor and clerk of courts. He moved to Milwaukee to study law, connected with Schurz and worked for Lincoln in 1860. Salomon was elected Lieutenant Governor with Lewis Harvey as Governor late in 1861.
Harvey drowned while visiting Wisconsin troops serving in the Union Army in Tennessee in April 1862 and Salomon became Governor. Thirty four-years-old, he was the youngest Wisconsin Governor and the first who was not born in the United States. The war was the great issue of the day. When the draft was instituted in the summer of 1862, a group of immigrants in Ozaukee County, mainly Germans, resisted the call and rioted. The "German" Governor found himself forced to send troops to Port Washington to suppress "German" opponents of the draft. At the same time, three of Edward Salomon's brothers were in the Union Army and Frederick was in command of a "German Regiment" fighting in Missouri. Their service is commemorated with a tablet set in a stone on the court house lawn in Manitowoc.
Although Salomon's record as Governor was creditable, the Republicans did not nominate him for office again. He left Wisconsin in 1869, practiced law and tried to start a political career in New York, and returned to Germany in 1892, where he lived until his death in 1909.
John Schuette was the man of all business in Manitowoc. Arriving with his parents and a houseful of brothers and sisters from Germany in 1849, Schuette went to work. His father opened the general store that developed into the landmark Schuette's Department Store. It was known as the last locally-owned traditional department store in Wisconsin when it closed a few years ago. John and his brother Henry took over the store when their Dad died in 1870. Henry stayed in the store and it passed down through his family.
John entered politics, served in the legislature and as mayor for several terms and worked for economic development. He headed up local efforts to improve the harbor, build the first dry dock and grain elevator, bring railroads to the city, and establish furniture and farm implement manufacturers.
In addition, John opened the Oriental Mills to grind flour from grain that could not be shipped out via the elevator, and also founded the Manitowoc Savings Bank. In 1889, he started the city's first electric utility, using coal fired steam engines to drive Edison DC generators. He stayed in the electric business until the city purchased the plant in 1914.
Manitowoc was too far off the direct rail routes to become a shipper of grain, so Schuette sold the elevator to brewer William Rahr, who used it to store grain for his malting operation. Rahr closed his brewery when Prohibition was enacted, but the malting operation, now part of Anheuser-Busch, along with grain elevators larger than anything John Schuette imagined, remain in Manitowoc today. It is part of the legacy John Schuette left to the city.
Near the end of his years in 1906, Schuette—the Ur-capitalist—addressed the Manitowoc Historical Society and said, "Manitowoc is a most beautiful spot, and ideal socialistic city in the sense that we have no millionaires nor a poor class, that wealth is more uniformly distributed than in others, and if all were equally divided, it would not greatly change conditions."
Schuette was not the only 19th century capitalist to believe, or at least say, that he—with the biggest house in town, a bank account to match, and tended by a flock of servants—wasn't very different than the immigrant Polish dockworker loading coal on a boat with a wheelbarrow twelve hours a day. But Schuette's perspective is off only by degree. He was a penniless immigrant when he landed at Manitowoc. The place provided opportunity and he worked hard to make the most of it. For most of its history, Manitowoc offered the same opportunity to others. It was a place that worked.
Charles Viebahn - Emily Richter
The first kindergarten in the United States was established by Margarethe Meyer Schurz (Carl's wife) in Watertown, Wisconsin in 1856. It was a private school based on the early childhood educational philosophy of Frederick Froebel and survived for about one year.
In 1872, the Manitowoc city council hired a German-educated teacher, Charles Frederic Viebahn, to be principal of the First Ward School, on the "German" south side. At the time, public schools in Wisconsin were obligated to admit any willing student between the ages of four and twenty. The youngest children were lumped together into the multi-grade "primary" department.
Viebahn was a Froebelian and committed to the kindergarten concept. Shortly after taking over at the First Ward school, Viebahn placed a young graduate of Milwaukee's German-English Academy, Emily Richter, in charge of the primary department and directed her to establish a kindergarten. Richter opened her first kindergarten at the First Ward (Roosevelt) School on South 8th Street in 1873. It was the first public school kindergarten in Wisconsin (one source says the United States), and unlike the Schurz effort at Watertown, it lasted for more than one year. In a few years, every public school in the city had a kindergarten program for its youngest students and Manitowoc was known in educational circles for the success of its endeavors.
In time, the kindergarten was divided into the four-year-old "Juniors" and the five-year-old "Seniors." The Junior program survived until 1958, when the baby boon increased enrollments and the legislature chose to discontinue state funding for four-year-old kindergarten. The Senior program survived. In the 1990s, as the number of parents entering the work force increased, educators rediscovered the value of "pre-school" education and four year old kindergartens returned to the public schools.
Charles Viebahn moved up to become superintendent of schools for all of Manitowoc county and, in the 1880s he joined the faculty of the State Normal School at Whitewater. Emily Richter spent the rest of her working life teaching in Manitowoc schools. She died at age 91 in 1941.