New to the Detroit Historical Society’s collection are three keys and three ticket booklets. The keys are from the SS Hamonic which was a passenger steamship of the Northern Navigation Division of Canada Steamship Lines, Ltd. They are fairly ordinary skeleton keys, made of brass, with tags reminding to passengers to drop them in the mail “if carried away.” The accompanying ticket booklets matched the cabin numbers and were for a roundtrip excursion on the steamship from Detroit to Duluth, MN with a sailing date of July 16, 1945. Everything appears to be in order except that some of the tickets in the booklets are unused and the keys were apparently never returned.
The SS Hamonic was built in 1909, measured 350 ft. long, and served passengers on the Great Lakes. It was noted for its quality furnishings and passenger amenities. Its long career was unexceptional, except for its demise – it burned at the dock in Point Edward, Ontario, on July 17, 1945. This happened to be the day after the scheduled sailing date on these tickets. News accounts indicated that the ship had left Detroit in the late evening of the 16th and docked the next morning at Point Edward on the St. Clair River. The ship had stopped to pick up passengers from Toronto before continuing on to Duluth, but fate had other plans. A brief account of the blaze is given in John Henry’s new book, Great White Fleet: Celebrating Canada Steamship Lines Passenger Ships [link]. He noted that “a malfunctioning forklift truck in an adjacent warehouse caught fire. It quickly spread to a nearby shed filled with flour dust and then to the ship.” Many of the 247 passengers escaped over the side on ropes or ladders. Some jumped into the water and swam to shore or were picked up by rescue boats. Others were lifted off the deck in a coal bucket by a crane operator on shore. The ship was totally destroyed in about 20 minutes, but all of the passengers and crew made it safely to shore.