The Chicago Shipbuilding Company, located in South Chicago, was one of the most notable builders of steel ships for the lake trade. In March of 1891 the company launched the Marina, the first steel-hulled ship built on Lake Michigan. They also built many barges and were the first to do away with sails on barges, since it was increasingly difficult to find crews who were experienced with the older technology.
As steel became the preferred building material for ships, the size of vessels quickly became larger and larger. A typical wooden freighter measured 250 feet in length. The result was a decline in the large number of small ships, as a diminished fleet of giants dominated the lakes.