The “Philadelphia Wheel”
The Indiana’s propeller was manufactured by Spang & Co. of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, but its design is more of a mystery. A propeller designed by Richard Loper of Philadelphia is a close match. Widely used, it was sometimes advertised as the “Philadelphia Wheel.”
One of the intact blades is chipped and dented, suggesting a collision. Another blade is missing outside the yellow line, which marks where a piece broke loose, probably from hitting an object in the water. This piece struck the Indiana’s sternpost, literally “shivered her timbers,” and started the leak that sank the ship. The blade broke off completely when the ship struck the lakebed and was found at the wreck site. It is reproduced here in fiberglass.
Was the Indiana overloaded? The Indiana’s cargo—iron ore—was found on deck. While the ore probably did not sink the Indiana, it may have made the vessel top-heavy and unstable. The pieces of iron ore pictured here were among several recovered from the wreck.
Coal (above, left) was also found around the boiler in the hold, and historical sources show that it was also a common fuel on Great Lakes steamships.