Working the Lakes

Miners, loggers, and farmers sent the riches of the Midwest to market across the Great Lakes.

In the mid-1800s, the people streaming into the Midwest—and the grain, lumber, and iron pouring out—created a maritime industry across the Great Lakes. Fleets of ships served industries around the lakes and helped create thriving port cities, such as Cleveland, Milwaukee, and Chicago. For all their value and beauty, the waters were dangerous, too. Thousands of ships lie at the bottom of the Great Lakes.