Propeller Indiana’s Cargo of Iron Ore

On 6 June 1858, the propeller Indiana sank in Lake Superior transporting its owner, three passengers and 280 tons of iron ore from Marquette, MI to Sault Ste. Marie, MI. The ship was insured for $9,000; the ore was insured separately for an undisclosed amount. One contemporary newspaper stated that it was the “first cargo of Lake Superior iron ore ever lost on the lakes.”
The ship landed upright and slightly bow down on the lakebed in 120 feet of water; the bow split open and ore spilled out onto the sandy bottom. The deck of the shipwreck remains covered with iron ore today, and the cargo hold is filled about three feet deep with ore as well.
Samples of the ore were recovered in 1979; upon analysis, they revealed that a high percentage of pure iron.
Object Name
iron ore samples
date propeller Indiana sank
samples of the ore were collected
Physical Description
iron ore (overall material)
container: 11 ft x 1 ft x 3 ft; 3.3528 m x .3048 m x .9144 m
Associated Place
Superior, Lake
left port
United States: Michigan, Marquette
ship en route to before it sank
United States: Michigan, Sault Sainte Marie
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Cultures & Communities
Energy & Power
Industry & Manufacturing
On the Water exhibit
Expansion and Reform
See more items in
Work and Industry: Maritime
On the Water exhibit
On the Water
Data Source
National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center
Credit Line
Gift of Michigan Department of State, Michigan History Division (through Bruce J. Andrews)
Publication title
On the Water online exhibition
Publication URL

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