U.S.S. Michigan and Merchant
The first iron-hulled ship on the Great Lakes was the U.S.S Michigan, launched in 1843. She more than proved the utility of iron in marine building by remaining in active service longer than any other iron-hulled ship.
In 1861, the first commercial iron-hulled ship, the Merchant, began her career of 20 years of service on the lakes. Merchant eventually came to grief on the Racine Reef and rests today on the bottom of Lake Michigan. Although iron-hulled ships demonstrated their utility early, the abundance of forest product in the Great Lakes region ensured that wooden-hulled ships would continue to be built all through the 19th century.
Beginning in 1889, steel-hulled bulk carriers began to make their appearance. This was the future of the lake marine, and in the 20th century, steel ships as passenger carriers, package steamers, and as bulk carriers ruled the lakes.