Father Dowling Marine Historical Collection @ University of Detroit Mercy (photo by UD Mercy)

Thanks to Detroit Mercy for this:

Throughout the school year, Pat Higo fields calls for photos and other materials as an archives and special collections librarian at University of Detroit Mercy.

But there’s a specific collection Higo receives more requests for than any other and it’s been part of the University’s legacy for decades.

“At least a couple of times a month, I get calls for Father Dowling’s collection on ships of the Great Lakes,” Higo said. “More than any other collection, that’s the one that gets the most requests from the outside.

“The major requests are for the pictures. I keep his index behind my desk because I use it so often.”

Father Dowling Marine Historical Collection @ University of Detroit Mercy (photo by UD Mercy)


Fr. Edward Dowling, S.J., an Engineering professor at University of Detroit for decades, kept an expansive, in-depth and world-famous maritime collection of Great Lakes ships. It’s one of the premier collections of Great Lakes ship history in the Midwest, right on Detroit Mercy’s McNichols campus.

Dowling’s collection is well over 50,000 photographs and includes many other pieces, such as reference works, prospective drawings, postcards, ship models, books, journals, negatives and paintings, many of them by Dowling, who was an accomplished painter.

The collection currently resides in the Archives Research Center, on the second floor of the McNichols Library.

The collection is also significant due to the kind of pictures he kept, such as a World War I ship called a Laker, early steel ships called Whalebacks and many historical pictures of Great Lakes harbors.

Dowling Marine Historical Collection @ University of Detroit Mercy


Questions Pat Higo

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About the collection:

The Fr. Edward J. Dowling, S.J. Marine Historical Collection, which was donated to the University of Detroit Mercy in 1993, is considered one of the most complete private collections of information on the subject of Great Lakes marine history. The collection consists of close to 58,000 photographs, plastic and glass negatives, postcards, color plates, sketches, and paintings, as well as detailed information on nearly every commercial ship that sailed the Great Lakes since 1850.

The collection also contains 52 notebooks filled with more than 70 years worth of compiled data on virtually every steamship (about 10,000) of more than 100 tons that has navigated the Great Lakes. The data includes the years of which the ships were built, their owners, the ships’ dimensions, type of equipment used on them, final disposition and other data.  In addition, the collection has details on almost every fleet navigating the Great Lakes.

The collection contains ship models, several objects salvaged from sunken vessels, and memorabilia, such as company pennants.

Approximately 1600 books and 41 journals and newsletter titles which document Great Lakes Marine history round out the collection.

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