Top 10 Longest Wooden Ships of the United States

The American wooden ships have a lot to offer, but few are as impressive as the Wyoming, Solano, Pretoria, Great Republic, and Wyoming. Here are some facts about each of these vessels. Unless you have lived in an alternate universe, these names might sound familiar. After all, they all have a story to tell, so let’s dig a little deeper. This article takes a look at some of the largest wooden ships in the United States.

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8. Frank O’Connor

  • Length (m): 91.7
  • Beam (m): 13.0
  • Service: 1892–1919
  • Fate: Burned

There are several candidates for the title of the world’s longest wooden ship and one of them is Frank O’Connor. Frank O’Connor is one of the Longest known wooden ships in the United States. It was built in the year 1892. During its career, the ship carried coal. Sadly, it sank off Cana Island during construction. After a tragic end, the vessel was preserved and added to the National Register of Historic Places.

7. Appomattox

  • Length (m): 97.2
  • Beam (m): 12.8
  • Service: 1896–1905
  • Fate: run aground and sunk

The Appomattox was a steamship that operated primarily on the Great Lakes and was the largest wooden ship ever to ply the waters. Its operation period coincided with the profound changes in the Great Lakes region and the ship successfully competed with larger, modern steel ships. The Appomattox was built by Captain James Davidson of Bay City, Michigan, and was his largest steam bulk freighter.

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6. Roanoke

  • Length (m): 97.84
  • Beam (m): 15
  • Service: 1892–1905
  • Fate: Burned then sunk

The Roanoke was one of the largest wooden square riggers ever constructed. Her wooden hull was used to transport cargoes around Cape Horn and beyond. Despite Roanoke’s size and strength, it was not the most impressive vessel. Its hull is made from wood, which made it incredibly strong. She was eventually lost in a fire in New Caledonia.

5. Santiago

  • Length (m): 98.8
  • Beam (m): 14
  • Service: 1899–1918
  • Fate: Sunk

The Santiago is one of the longest-known wooden ships in the United States. The ship was built in 1899. It is one of the longest known wooden ships in the United States, measuring 98.8 meters long. Like most tall ships, Santiago hasn’t survived the test of time and was sunk in 1918.

4. Great Republic

  • Length (m): 102.1
  • Beam (m): 16.2
  • Service: 1853–1872
  • Fate: Sunk

The Great Republic of Wooden Ships is one of the largest ships in history. When launched in 1853, it was the largest wooden clipper ship. The ship’s sails covered 15,683 running yards, or about one and a half acres if spread flat. The ship had a length of 335 feet, a beam of 53 feet, and a depth of 38. Its tonnage was 6600 tons, making it the largest ship ever built.

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The Great Republic was named after a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. It sailed ballast from Boston to New York. Her first load of iron ore was carried in December 1853. When the Great Republic launched, she was the largest full-rigged ship ever built. The ship was designed by Donald McKay and was the largest wooden merchant sailing vessel in the U.S. at the time. McKay envisioned the ship as a luxury vessel, but the era of the clipper ship was short-lived.

3. Pretoria

  • Length (m): 103
  • Beam (m): 13.4
  • Service: 1900–1905
  • Fate: Sunk

The Pretoria was the largest known wooden boat ever built. Launched at Davidson’s shipyard in West Bay City, Michigan, the 103-meter (328-foot) vessel was designed to carry 5,000 tons of iron ore, 175,000 bushels of wheat, and 300,000 bushels of oats. However, it sank in 1905 in rough weather on Lake Michigan due to a lack of water and a failed Pony Engine.

In the following days, the crew tried to create a makeshift rudder from ship parts and textiles, but it did not fit the measurements. The crew had to abandon the Pretoria to the sea and a small boat was sent ahead to scout a location where they could lay an anchor. The plan was to tie a line from the ship to land to transport the passengers and cargo to the port of call.

2. Solano

  • Length (m): 130
  • Beam (m): 35
  • Service: 1878–1931
  • Fate: Scuttled

The Solano was one of the largest railroad ferries in the United States. It was built in 1912 and designed by Arthur Brown, a Central Pacific Railroad superintendent. Brown reinforced the ship with wooden Pratt trusses and rigged it with independently powered side wheels. He made this ship so long and mighty that it held the record for being the longest ferry boat for 35 years. During its 51-year lifetime, Solano carried entire trains daily.

Some of the world’s longest wooden ships are replicas of these vessels, some of which are still in use. The Solano is one of the longest known wooden ships in the United States, and is 425 feet long, making it one of the largest wooden ships in the world.

1. Wyoming

  • Length (m): 140
  • Beam (m): 15.3
  • Service: 1909-1924
  • Fate: Sunk

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Wyoming was the longest known wooden ship. Its history makes it one of the most iconic wooden ships in the world. She had a total length of 140 meters (450 feet) when measured from the tip of its jib boom to the rear spanker boom. The ship was fitted with iron bracing, and steam pumps kept it airborne. Despite its enormous length, Wyoming was eventually foundered.

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