The Mail Tribune 100 from Nov. 29, 1918, was all about a new steamer named “The Medford.” I was just curious as to what happened to this wooden ship? Do we know?
— Ruth D., Medford
It appears the steamship Medford, among other wooden cargo ships in its fleet, lasted only about five years.
For those just tuning in, Mail Tribune reports from a century ago said the wooden ship with a cargo capacity of 3,500 tons, built in the Northwest by the Grant Smith-Porter Ship Company, was named after “the principal city of Southern Oregon.”
“And now, Medford people will always have something of a personal interest in the operations of the wooden fleet that was America’s answer to the undersea campaign of the German submarines,” according to the Mail Tribune archives.
The steamship was delivered to the United States Shipping Board in 1919, and was scrapped by 1924, according to ShipbuildingHistory.com, which keeps an archive of construction records of U.S. and Canadian shipbuilders and boat builders. Their records differ slightly from our report a century ago, stating the ship named after Medford was built at the company’s Aberdeen, Washington, shipyard rather than Portland, and that its capacity was 2,594 tons (http://shipbuildinghistory.com/shipyards/emergencylarge/grant.htm).
Shipbuilding was a boom industry for the Portland and Seattle regions during the first World War, employing more than 50,000 people during the war, according to the Oregon History Project. By 1921, only 1,000 worked in the shipbuilding industry. In the midst of the industry’s collapse, a mass of orders were canceled after the war ended.
Four Grant Smith-Porter cargo ships similar to the Medford were canceled, and three others, christened the Fort Stanvix, Abilla and Abnoba, were launched but never completed.
Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.