By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Feb 17, 2021 at 12:01 PM

Fans of Milwaukee – and Great Lakes – history who haven't signed up for the Wisconsin Marine Historical Society's mailing list are missing out.

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.

Here is today's story – written by Suzette Lopez – from the Wisconsin Marine Historical Society:


On this day Feb. 17, 1906, a familiar sight to Milwaukee was launched.  Launched as the WILLIAM P. SNYDER by the Great Lakes Engineering Works in Ecorse, Michigan, she has been a frequent visitor to Milwaukee under all six of her names.

Most of you have seen her if you cross over the Kinnickinnic bridge at East Becher Street or I should say you couldn’t have missed her – she was right there.


It is here, near the Kinnickinnic Bridge, while docking under the name ST. MARYS CHALLENGER in June of 2008 that she collided with the boat of Milwaukee Brewers broadcaster Bob Uecker. 

While Uecker was not on the boat which was docked at Skipper Buds at the time, he was to use it at the 13th annual Bob Uecker Great Lakes Invitational fishing tournament, a charitable event to benefit the Make-A-Wish Foundation of Wisconsin, in Racine.   Fortunately, someone stepped up and volunteered their boat to Bob for the event.

The SNYDER has had a long working career, now going on 115 years.  Her names might ring a bell with many of you – WILLIAM P. SNYDER, renamed ELTON HOYT II in 1939, ALEX D. CHISHOLM in 1952, MEDUSA CHALLENGER in 1966, SOUTHDOWN CHALLENGER in 1999 and ST. MARYS CHALLENGER in 2005.

Launched as a bulk carrier of 530 feet in length and 32 feet in beam for the Shenango Furnace Company, she was designed to haul primarily iron ore.


Converted in 1966-67 to a self-unloading cement carrier for Medusa Cement (Cement Transit) as the MEDUSA CHALLENGER, she was greatly publicized in newspapers and technical journals.

Her revolutionary cargo-handling system could unload cement at a rate of 8,000 barrels per hour and load 67,000 barrels in about three hours, almost three times as fast as previous equipment.  She also looked great in the colors of Medusa, light blue hull and white cabins with a dark blue stack sporting the head of Medusa on a white band.


During the winter of 2013-14 as the ST. MARYS CHALLENGER, she was cut down to a barge and sailed as part of an articulated tug/barge for St. Marys Cement.  As a steamer, she needed 25 people to operate her.  As a tug/barge unit, only 11 are required.  Her pilot house was donated to the National Museum of the Great Lakes in Toledo and was proudly carried by the PAUL R. TREGURTHA.

She still can been seen in Milwaukee usually with tugs PRENTISS BROWN and BRADSHAW McKEE.


  • WILLIAM P. SNYDER, date unknown.
  • ST. MARYS CHALLENGER in Milwaukee, 2008, Chuck Sterba.
  • MEDUSA CHALLENGER publicity booklet.
  • ST. MARYS CHALLENGER, bow, NS lift bridge, South Chicago, June 2014, Chuck Sterba.
  • ST. MARYS CHALLENGER, stern with BRADSHAW McKEE, NS lift bridge, South Chicago, June 2014, Chuck Sterba.

Courtesy of 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 episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," 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 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 has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He has be heard on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories, in that station's most popular podcast.