SS Oregon (1878)

SS Oregon (18781906) was a coastal passenger/cargo ship constructed in Chester, Pennsylvania by the Delaware River Iron Ship Building and Engine Works in February 1878.[2][3] Originally delivered to the Oregon Steamship Company,[4] she was used on the Portland, Oregon-to-San Francisco, California route for many years.[1] In 1879, the Oregon Railroad and Navigation Company became the Oregon′s new owners after purchasing the Oregon Steamship Company. Also included in this purchase were the steamships George W. Elder and City of Chester.[4] While in O.R. & N service, Oregon served alongside SS Columbia, which made the first commercial use of Thomas Edison's incandescent light bulb.[5] Like Oregon, Columbia was also built by John Roach & Sons in Chester, Pennsylvania.[6] Over time, Oregon's hull became breached after a number of incidents. Furthermore, the hull had been weighted with concrete to the point where she was considered unsuitable for service as a passenger liner.[1] After operating as a cargo ship, she was laid up in 1894 at Portland.[3] In 1899, the Oregon was re-qualified to carry passengers once more. She was sold by O.R. & N the same year.[7] Despite this, she was viewed as a cursed ship by her crew.[1] The Oregon was owned by the White Star Steamship Company (not to be confused with the White Star Line) from around 1902 to 1905 .[8] Around this time, Oregon was operating between Alaska and Puget Sound.[3]

SS Oregon in 1900.
Name: Oregon
Builder: Delaware River Iron Ship Building and Engine Works (Chester, PA)
Launched: February 1878
In service:
  • 1878-1894
  • ?-1906
Fate: Wrecked 13 September 1906
Notes: Declared a total loss
General characteristics
Type: Coastal passenger/cargo ship
Tonnage: 2,335 tons[1]
Length: 283 ft (86 m)[1]
Beam: 37 ft (11 m)[1]

On September 13, 1906, Oregon ran aground on the rocky shoreline of Cape Hinchinbrook, Alaska. At the time, there was no active lighthouse at Cape Hinchinbrook, although one was under construction. It is unknown whether poor navigation or reduced visibility caused the wreck. Shortly after the collision, the bottom of the vessel tore open and water began flooding the ship. Oregon became stuck on the rocks without any barrier from the open sea. After crew members began boarding the lifeboats without orders, Captain Horace E. Soule threatened to shoot any man attempting to steal one. This led to the crew obeying all further orders and a small party was sent off in a lifeboat to report the disaster in Valdez, Alaska. When the report of Oregon′s wreck reached Valdez, many ships set out to rescue the passengers and crew. Remarkably, all 110 remaining people on board the Oregon were rescued by the revenue cutter USRC Columbine. Oregon however, was reported as a total loss.[1]


  1. Pocock, Michael W. (2010). "Daily Event for September 13, 2010". MaritimeQuest. Retrieved 17 August 2013.
  2. Colton, Tim (4 August 2010). "The Delaware River Iron Shipbuilding & Engine Works, Chester PA". Shipbuilding History: Construction records of U.S. and Canadian shipbuilders and boatbuilders. Archived from the original on 10 May 2012. Retrieved 8 September 2013.
  3. Unknown (2001) [11 June 1904]. "Steamship OREGON in the ice at Nome, June 11, 1904". University of Washington Libraries. Retrieved 17 August 2013.
  4. "The Railway World, Volume 5". Reprinted. United States Railroad and Mining Register Company. 1879. p. 734. Retrieved 13 September 2013.
  5. Jehl, Francis Menlo Park reminiscences : written in Edison's restored Menlo Park laboratory, Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village, Whitefish, Mass, Kessinger Publishing, 1 July 2002, page 564
  6. Belyk, Robert C. Great Shipwrecks of the Pacific Coast. New York: Wiley, 2001. Print.ISBN 0-471-38420-8
  7. "May run to Cape Nome - San Francisco Call, Volume 86, Number 161". Archive. California Digital Newspaper Collection. 8 November 1899. p. 9. Retrieved 22 August 2013.
  8. Unknown (2001). "S.S. OREGON, with logo of White Star Steamship Co. on funnel, n.d." University of Washington Libraries. Retrieved 17 August 2013.
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