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Alexander McDougall Collection: Biographical Note

Finding Aid for the Alexander McDougall Collection at UW-Superior.

Captain Alexander McDougall

Donor Information

The materials in this collection were donated to the UW-Superior Archives by Alan Marshall between 2011 and 2015.

Biographical Note

Alexander McDougall was born in 1845 in Port Ellen on the Island of Islay, Scotland. His family immigrated to Canada in 1854. When he was sixteen years old, McDougall ran away from home to work as a deckhand on a Great Lakes ship bound for Chicago. He spent the next twenty-one years sailing the lakes. At age twenty-five he became captain of the THOMAS A. SCOTT. In 1871 he moved to Duluth, Minnesota, where he continued to live until his death. In 1878 he married Emmeline Ross, and at the time of his death in 1923 he was survived by a son and a daughter.

In 1881 McDougall patented the basic design for a type of freight ship called the whaleback, for which he is best known. In 1888 he founded the American Steel Barge Company in Duluth, and began construction of whaleback vessels. Seven whalebacks were launched from this yard. In 1889 McDougall moved his shipyard operations to Superior, Wisconsin, where construction was initiated on Christmas Day, 1891. Another forty whalebacks were launched from the Superior yard. Today, this shipyard is known as Fraser Shipyards, and is still in operation.

In 1897 McDougall sold his share in the American Steel Barge Company. He continued to work in Great Lakes shipping, managing several shipyards and patenting forty inventions, most of which related to the shipping industry. Later in life he working in the mining industry, including developing and patenting a process for cleaning sand iron ores, and inventing various types of mining machinery.

“Alexander McDougall.” Dictionary of American Biography. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1936. Biography in Context. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.

“Tradition that spans three centuries.” Fraser Shipyards, Inc. Fraser Shipyards, Inc., n.d. Web. 17 Nov. 2015.