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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

GREAT LAKES TOWING CO.

GREAT LAKES TOWING CO.

GREAT LAKES TOWING CO., whose services have included vessel towing as well as marine salvage and ice breaking, is the last remaining company operating tugboats at the Port of Cleveland and on the Cuyahoga River. The firm once had a near-monopoly on such services on the Great Lakes and tributary waters.

The company was founded in 1899 in Cleveland and began full operation on the Great Lakes (except Lake Ontario and the St. Lawrence River) the following year. T. F. Newman was the first president. The company grew rapidly, so much so that in 1913 it was charged with operating a monopoly. Frequent labor unrest during World War II resulted in the government assuming control of the company in 1945-46. During the 1950s and 1960s the company installed innovative communication equipment. In 1972 the company was purchased by the American Shipbuilding Co., which sold the firm to Trans Commercial Industries, Inc., in 1973. Business began to decline in the 1960s due to the decline of the steel industry, and to the new types of ships, both of which led to a reduction in the number of tugs needed. By 1983 the company had branches in Tampa, FL, and an Alaska-to-Seattle route.

The company's headquarters have remained in Cleveland since its founding, though the location of its docks and offices have changed several times over the years. In 1994 the company maintained docks at Division Ave. (since 1952) and offices in the Terminal Tower building. Ronald Rasmus served as president of the company, a position he assumed 1983.


Meakin, Alexander C. The Story of the Great Lakes Towing Co. (1984).