By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Nov 10, 2020 at 11:30 AM

Fans of Milwaukee – and Great Lakes – history who haven't signed up for the Wisconsin Marine Historical Society's mailing list are missing out. To join the list, send an email to wmhs59@gmail.com.

The group – headquartered at Milwaukee Public Library, which I featured in this story a few years back – is very active in terms of collecting and archiving documents and photos and objects and also hosts numerous events each year.

The newsletter is an easy way to find a cool old photo in your inbox every week (sometimes more). And, because these folks are history buffs like the rest of us, there's always a story behind the photo and the WMHS folks share that story, typically written and researched by John Buellesbach.

This is a story that's part of the nation's consciousness thanks in large part to a six-and-a-half-minute unlikely hit song by Canadian singer Gordon Lightfoot, "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald."

Here is today's story from the Wisconsin Marine Historical Society:

On this day, November 10, 1975, the EDMUND FITZGERALD was lost.

Probably the most famous Great Lakes wreck, the FITZGERALD, when polling audiences on known shipwrecks, is always in the top two with the TITANIC.  

The keel of hull 301 was laid on August 7, 1957 at River Rouge, Michigan, by the Great Lakes Engineering Works.  The FITZGERALD was launched June 7, 1958 with much celebration. She was delivered to the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company in September and went under charter to the Columbia Transportation.

The FITZ was named for the Chairman of the Board and former President of the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company located in Milwaukee.   Edmund Fitzgerald was also a founding member of the Wisconsin Marine Historical Society (1959) and served as the Society’s first president.

In 1960 the employees of Northwestern Mutual presented Edmund Fitzgerald a model of his namesake to celebrate his 65th birthday.   That model was later donated to the Wisconsin Marine Historical Society and is displayed in the Humanities Room of the Central Library, 814 West Wisconsin Avenue.

Milwaukee was her home port but she normally wasn’t on Lake Michigan. Her usual run was carrying taconite pellets from Silver Bay, Minnesota, on Lake Superior to ports in Lake Erie.  When lost, she was downbound in Lake Superior with a cargo of about 26,000 tons to taconite pellets from Taconites Harbor to Detroit.

The November storm sweeping Lake Superior had winds gusting 80 mph and 35 foot waves.

The FITZ disappeared shortly after 7:10 pm on November 10th taking her crew of 29.  Her wreck was discovered the next year in Canadian waters, 530 feet deep and about 17 miles from Whitefish Bay, Michigan.

PHOTO CREDIT: Great Lakes Marine Collection of the Wisconsin Marine Historical Society and Milwaukee Public Library.

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in an episode of TV's "Party of Five," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.