HUTCHINSON AND CO. represented family Great Lakes shipping interests that dated back to ca. 1861, when John T. Hutchinson became part-owner of a scow (schooner) as payment of a butcher bill. As he acquired income and secured loans, he purchased more vessels. His son, Charles L., began his career on a Hutchinson sailing vessel as a cabin boy at the age of 16 and rose rapidly through the ranks, becoming its captain at 20. After sailing several more years, Capt. Hutchinson came ashore to manage the scows, and in partnership with Walton McGean, organized Hutchinson & Co. in 1901 to operate the "Pioneer" and other Great Lakes fleets. During the early 1900s, Pioneer Steamship, under Capt. Hutchinson, was a large and active business, carrying cargos of iron ore, coal, stone, and grain. Beginning with 3 wooden steamships and 2 wooden scows, the company grew to 38 ships and became the largest independent fleet on the Great Lakes by the 1920s. Hutchinson & Co. also operated vessels for Inland Steel Co. and International Harvester.
In 1923 Capt. Charles Hutchinson's son, John T., organized the Buckeye Steamship Co. With its smaller vessels, he was able to accept cargos and enter ports the Pioneer boats were unable to service, carrying the usual cargos of iron ore, coal, and stone along with pulpwood, salt, sulfur, and an occasional deckload of autos. The firm's wide variety of vessels and John T.'s aggressive business methods enabled it to grow steadily during the Depression. Following the death in 1944 of Capt. Charles L. Hutchinson, John T. became the senior partner of Hutchinson & Co., and his younger brother, Gene C., and Dale L. Coy advanced to partnership. Following the death of John T., Gene C. became president of both Hutchinson and Pioneer. With the exhaustion of high-grade iron ore in the Mesabi range, the opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway to ocean-going traffic, and the increased cost of operation (mainly labor), both Hutchinson & Co. and Pioneer Steamship ceased operation in late 1962.