History’s Gem of the Month: Souvenir View Book of Sault Ste. Marie

April 2014

Thanks to my friend, Jill Phillips, I was able to borrow a souvenir book published during the 1930s by Photogeletins Engraving Co., Toronto, Canada. It is one of the Dominion Series books that this company published.

The Soo Locks (pronounced “soo”) are a set of shipping locks arranged parallel to each other. These locks enable ships, sailboats, and other vessels to travel through the St. Marys River between Lake Superior and Lake Huron, traversing between the United States and Canada. The locks allow boats and ships to bypass the rapids of the river, where the water falls 21 feet (7 m).

According to the web page http://www.guideoftravels.com “Sault Ste. Marie’s … the oldest city in Michigan. It’s where Ojibwa settled to fish the productive rapids, and where the French established a busy fur-trading post, and it’s also why the Soo Locks were built—the first one completed in 1855—to finally tame those rapids and open Lake Superior’s vast mineral riches to shipping.”

The locks pass an average of 10,000 ships per year, despite being closed during the winter from January through March, when ice shuts down shipping on the Great Lakes. The winter closure period is used to inspect and maintain the locks. According to the Army Corps of Engineers, the freight transported through the Soo Locks exceeds that of the Panama and Suez canals put together, making it the busiest waterway in the world.

A couple of the photos of the locks from the souvenir booklet are below.

The locks share a name with the two cities named Sault Ste. Marie, situated in Ontario and in Michigan, located on either side of the St. Marys River. The Sault Ste. Marie International Bridge permits vehicular traffic to pass over the locks.

The U.S. locks form part of a 1.6-mile (2.6-km) canal, which is owned and maintained by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. Although these locks are not inexpensive to operate, the locks, provides free passage.

The current configuration consists of four parallel lock chambers, each running east to west; starting at the Michigan shoreline and moving north toward Ontario, these are:

  • The MacArthur Lock, built in 1943. It is 800 feet (244 m) long, 80 feet (24 m) wide, and 29.5 feet (9 m) deep.
  • The Poe Lock, originally completed on August 3, 1895. The first ship to pass through was the passenger ship Majestic in September 1895. It was re-built in 1968, after the Saint Lawrence Seaway opened. It is 1,200 feet (366 m) long, 110 feet (34 m) wide, and 32 feet (10 m) deep.
  • The Davis Lock, built in 1914. It is 1,350 feet (411 m) long, 80 feet (24 m) wide, and 23.1 feet (7 m) deep.
  • The Sabin Lock, built in 1919. It is 1,350 feet (411 m) long, 80 feet (24 m) wide, and 23.1 feet (7 m) deep.

The Davis and Sabin locks have been slated for replacement since 1986 with a new ‘Super-Lock’, which would provide a second lock capable of accommodating the “lakers”. Groundbreaking for the new lock project was held on June 30, 2009, but no work has continued since funding has not been appropriated.

A single small lock is currently operated on the Canadian side of the Soo. Opened in 1998, it was built within a damaged older lock, and is 77 meters (253 ft) long, 15.4 meters (51 ft) wide and 13.5 meters (44 ft) deep. The Canadian lock is used for recreational and tour boats;


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