Excursion Ships and the World’s Columbian Exposition

One of the most popular passenger routes was across the lake from Chicago to the Michigan ports of South Haven and Glen Haven.  Excursion ships brought tourists for weekend visits and returned with cargoes of fresh fruit from the orchards of southwestern Michigan.

For more than 20 years, the largest and most elegant of Chicago’s excursion steamers was the Christopher Columbus.  Built in 1893 in the record time of just over three months, the steamer was 362 feet long with five thousand-horsepower engines that allowed her to cruise at a speed of 18 miles per hour.

The Christopher Columbus was brought into service in time to accommodate the crowd of Midwesterners who thronged to the World’s Columbia Exposition.  During the fair she ferried visitors from downtown Chicago to the fairgrounds in Jackson Park.  She was capable of carrying five thousand people at one time, and during the fair she carried more than two million passengers.