As maritime commerce grew in the early 19th century, loss of vessels and crews to shipwreck increased, prompting federal investment in lifesaving across the country.
French cartography and navigation equipment paved the way for a new era of colonial expansion via the Great Lakes, transforming the cultural and political landscapes of the Upper Midwest.
Awarded to six Milwaukee rescue boat volunteers in 1875, this medal is a reminder of the history of risk and heroism along Wisconsin’s shores.
In 1874, the United States Congress authorized medals to be bestowed upon those who endangered their own lives by rescuing people from the perils of the sea.
On September 10, 1875, six rescue boat volunteers were dispatched to aid the crew of the Tanner, a cargo ship foundering in Milwaukee Harbor after being struck by a powerful storm.
These funny looking “whaleback” ships built in Superior, WI were specially designed for shipping on the Great Lakes. It’s a whale of a tale!
Bound for Buffalo with a full cargo of wheat, the Tanner left Chicago on the afternoon of September 9, 1875. Off of Milwaukee, she was struck by a powerful squall.