Chicago Maritime Museum

Chicago Maritime Museum Chicago’s history and development stem from its axis at the foot of the Great Lakes. Chicago has been the busiest port in the world.

It is a tall order to tell the story of Chicago’s waterways and their emotional and prosperous impact on 19th, 20th and 21st century American growth. Welcome to the Chicago Maritime Museum and our developing story of Chicago’s maritime traditions and impact.

Barry Butler Photography

Barry Butler Photography

It's MOONday! This morning's crescent moon over Chicago Harbor Lighthouse

During the 18th and 19th centuries, Chicago evolved from being merely a portage for the fur trade canoes, to the site of...

During the 18th and 19th centuries, Chicago evolved from being merely a portage for the fur trade canoes, to the site of an important trading post. Jean Baptist Pont Du Sable, a merchant of mixed African and French parentage, was the first to appreciate the business value of Chicago. By 1779, he had established a successful trading post in cooperation with the Potawatomi Indians, who lived along the North Branch of the Chicago River. Other fur traders followed, and by the 1820s Chicago was the most successful trading area on Lake Michigan.

Loving LaBagh Woods

Loving LaBagh Woods

Some considered LaBagh Woods on the Northwest Side of Chicago a "throwaway" woods. It's near the highway and there's graffiti on the old bridge over the Chic...

Historic Chicago

Historic Chicago

Bridges up, passing the Wabash Ave bridge (1949)

"Houseboat City is a chapter in the age-old struggle of nomads and urban folk — the faceoff between Romans and Vandal ma...
Flashback: Life on the Chicago River, in ‘Houseboat City’

"Houseboat City is a chapter in the age-old struggle of nomads and urban folk — the faceoff between Romans and Vandal marauders; the conflict between hunters and pioneers on the American frontier.

Periodic skirmishes marked the 20th-century history of Houseboat City, where residents of the Chicago River's North Branch sometimes displeased their neighbors along the shore.

Are we missing a piece of the puzzle? Tell us things you would like hear about Chicago's maritime history. We'd love to ...

Are we missing a piece of the puzzle? Tell us things you would like hear about Chicago's maritime history. We'd love to hear your story ideas.

Thick muskie: Real life, real fishing, real times
Thick muskie: Real life, real fishing, real times

Thick muskie: Real life, real fishing, real times

Erik Porter caught a muskie "thicker than a snicker" and deals with being a firefighter/paramedic with his known first exposure to COVID-19.

Barry Butler Photography

Barry Butler Photography

Tonight's Supermoon finally clears the marine layer clouds and appears over Chicago Harbor Lighthouse.

The ghosts of Great Lakes
The ghosts of Great Lakes

The ghosts of Great Lakes

The deaths of nearly a thousand sailors at Great Lakes Naval Training Station in 1918 hold lessons for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Friends of the Chicago River

Friends of the Chicago River

The river's edge is alive migratory birds including the ones we saw this weekend - juncos, red bellied woodpeckers, ruby crowned kinglets, and yellow rumped warblers - and this beautiful robin in our garden. Share what you've seen with us.

Barry Butler Photography

Barry Butler Photography

One of my favorite images was taken on this day last year. Morning reflection of Chicago Harbor and the skyline in the background.

U.S. Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste Marie

U.S. Coast Guard Sector Sault Ste Marie

Maritime commerce is more important now than ever. Over 90% of goods move by sea, including medical supplies and household items vital to combatting the spread of coronavirus. These buoy tenders, on a short logistics stop in St. Ignace, are invaluable to the whole of government response.

📸 Master Chief Babione

While the state's stay-at-home order is still in effect, you may not be able to come into the museum however, that does ...

While the state's stay-at-home order is still in effect, you may not be able to come into the museum however, that does not mean you and your children have to stop learning! We are providing you as a parent, teacher, or maritime enthusiast a new way to expand your knowledge about how our city was discovered via waterways.

In the following guide, you will find a short summary of information to help you guide your children or students through the lesson, followed by a lesson plan and additional sources of information you may wish to use with your children or students prior to visiting the Chicago Maritime Museum. Each lesson uses a type of inquiry-based learning which meets Illinois Learning Standards for Social Studies. The final lesson is meant to leave your children or students in suspense until their visit!

Click the link to download the full lesson plan and start learning!

What is “maritime”? Understanding the Latin root “mar -“ or a searching into any dictionary will tell you that “maritime” means “a connection to the sea”. As we know in...

Looking for something to do during the stay-at-home order? We recommend reading about Great Lakes maritime history.Red S...

Looking for something to do during the stay-at-home order? We recommend reading about Great Lakes maritime history.

Red Stacks Over the Horizon by James L. Elliott tells the story of the Goodrich Steamboat Line. For more than seventy-five years passengers were transported from Chicago to lake ports in Wisconsin and Michigan by the Goodrich fleet. Red Stacks Over the Horizon includes more than 150 photographs and illustrations.

This first edition copy was donated to the Chicago Maritime Museum by Jack Hadfield in 2005. Newspaper clippings from the Holland Evening Sentinel and the Chicago Tribune from 1960 and 1961 detailing the dismantling of the Steamer Alabama and the S.S. North American were included inside the cover.

The lakefront is closed, aldermen say
The lakefront is closed, aldermen say

The lakefront is closed, aldermen say

The trail and parks along Lake Michigan, as well as the 606 Trail and the downtown Riverwalk, are off limits to citizens now, one day after Mayor Lightfoot threatened to a shutdown because of people not obeying the governor's shelter in place order.

Voyage Through History Benefit Gala Postponed due to COVID-19The Chicago Maritime Museum has decided to postpone our gal...

Voyage Through History Benefit Gala Postponed due to COVID-19

The Chicago Maritime Museum has decided to postpone our gala benefit, "Voyage Through History," set for April 30th aboard Columbia Yacht Club's Abby, due to health concerns over COVID-19. We are following advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stating that there should be no gatherings of 50 people or more during the next eight weeks. Columbia Yacht Club is also following these guidelines.

Despite the scheduled change, our guest speaker Chicago-born Bill Pinkney, has graciously committed to our yet unknown rescheduled date. Bill is the fifth American to sail around the world passing through all five great capes, connecting to Chicago Public School children via satellite throughout his journey.

In addition to Bill’s presentation, you’ll be invited to explore the 372-foot former ice-breaking car ferry, Abby, which has been a part of Chicago’s history, lakefront and skyline since 1983. Club members will provide informative tours of this unique vessel.

Unique sponsorship opportunities for “Voyage Through History” are available online on the Gala Page at

Thank you for your understanding. We will reschedule the gala benefit once the situation has clarified and look forward to seeing you there. Until then, stay safe and healthy.

If you like fishing villages, sea shanties and mystery, check out Blow the Man Down coming to Amazon Prime on March 20.
Blow the Man Down (2020)

If you like fishing villages, sea shanties and mystery, check out Blow the Man Down coming to Amazon Prime on March 20.

Welcome to Easter Cove, a salty fishing village on the far reaches of Maine's rocky coast. Grieving the loss of their mother and facing an uncertain future, Mary Beth & Priscilla Connolly cover up a gruesome run-in with a dangerous man. To conceal their crime, the sisters must go deeper into Easter....

Kath Thomas: Prairie Conservationist, Lake Michigan Sailor, Long-time CMM Volunteer, Works Land and SeaWhen she’s not se...

Kath Thomas: Prairie Conservationist, Lake Michigan Sailor, Long-time CMM Volunteer, Works Land and Sea

When she’s not serving up heaps of gourmet home cooking for family and friends (including at Chicago Maritime Museum events), you might find Kath Thomas in her natural habitat – outside, working to restore Illinois prairie land to its original state. A life-long environmental advocate, Kath recently completed an internship at the Morton Arboretum in Lisle, where she collected biomass for 1800 plants planted in 2016 on a research acre to advance knowledge of prairie restoration.

Even at home, Kath practices what she preaches. You won’t find a lawnmower at the Thomas’ Hinsdale home. Instead of grass, hundreds of native plants grow side-by-side in both the front and back yards.

“Why plant grass seed when you can grow beautiful, bio-diverse plants that attract and support multiple species in our local ecosystem,” says Kath, who shows remarkable fluency in Latin plant names. Words like Silphium integrifolium (compass plant) and Carex annectens (yellow fox sedge) roll confidently off her tongue.

Kath has supported the Chicago Maritime Society and now the Chicago Maritime Museum since the organization’s early days in the mid-1980s in a variety of roles, including board member, newsletter editor and events coordinator including the CMM's multi-faceted exhibit at the 2010 Tall Ships Chicago on Navy Pier. She recalls introducing her husband, Dr. Gerald Thomas, to the museum, where he would become the organization’s president (president emeritus and active board member now.)

A long-time active member of the Columbia Yacht Club, Kath has sailed has 18 Mackinac Races, mostly Chicago Macs but also a Bayview and a Super Mac (Chicago to Port Huron), primarily on a Tartan Ten.

“It was a six-person crew and I was always responsible for the chow,” recalls Kath. “The real marathon was getting ready for the race, scheduling, cooking and pre-packing all the meals. But I loved the challenge of the prep work as much as I love sailing.”

In addition to CMM, Kath serves on boards and volunteers with numerous Chicago boating organizations including Columbia Yacht Club, Judd Goldman Adaptive Sailing and the Chicago Yachting Association. She was instrumental in the delivery and restoration of the 372-foot Q.S.M.V Abegweit, a former Canadian ice-breaker/car ferry that is now home to Columbia Yacht Club (and the locale for CMM’s first benefit gala on April 30).

Having borne witness and supported the CMM’s many evolutionary phases over the years, Kath is optimistic about the museum’s future.

“It took some time, but I’m confident CMM is now positioned to the enter the museum big leagues,” she says. “With our Bridgeport facility, we’ve presented a clear message about the importance of Chicago’s maritime history in fueling the growth of our city. I’m pumped about the museum’s future, as we look down the road toward outreach and expansion."

If you love Chicago’s maritime history, please help us tell our story. We need docents, data experts, event hosts and so much more. Please call us at 773-376-1982 if you would like to volunteer.

Yachtapalooza Postponed
Yachtapalooza Postponed

Yachtapalooza Postponed

Due to concern for the health of our customers and staff we have decided to postpone Yachtapalooza. Announcing Notapalooza - a storerwide sale.

BD Outdoors

BD Outdoors

Brad Rich out fishing with his buddies in Alaska caught this amazing sight on video. We love his reaction...Check it out at 50 seconds.

Will Michigan City become the next New Buffalo?
Will Michigan City become the next New Buffalo?

Will Michigan City become the next New Buffalo?

The Indiana town will regain a mile of shoreline once a power plant goes offline. It's also getting improved train service. Real estate investors see a prime opportunity.

Participants in the Lake Michigan Fisheries Workshop last night at the Chicago Maritime Museum. Attendees learned about ...

Participants in the Lake Michigan Fisheries Workshop last night at the Chicago Maritime Museum. Attendees learned about Lake Michigan's story map, yellow perch and sucker populations, and trophy salmon and trout in Illinois.

Looking for a cool space for your next workshop? Call us at (773) 376-1982.


1200 West 35th Street, Suite 0E-5010
Chicago, IL


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A message from CROWLEY'S on COVID 19 measures We are monitoring developments and pivoting as necessary to react to this unprecedented development, because the health and safety of our customers and staff are paramount. At this point the yard and store are still open for business. We welcome you down to the yard to work on your boat. We recognize that working on your boat is an activity you can participate in safely while maintaining appropriate social distancing practices. Here are some steps we have taken and guidelines we are asking our customers to follow to help us limit any potential exposure to Covid-19: Please schedule all service and your spring launch work via PHONE or EMAIL. Our Customer Service staff will be on hand and can meet you at your boat to discuss service work if necessary. Please do not visit the office unless absolutely necessary. YACHTAPALOOZA has been postponed to a later date to be determined. We are also postponing the Nautical Donations Flea Market. Notapaloooza – our alternative spring sale- will still run from March 21st through March 29th. Look for an e-mail tomorrow with details on the specials. Our Ship’s Store will be providing a CURBSIDE SERVICE for supplies. Simply call the store and our staff will pick the items, charge your account or credit card, and deliver them to your car. Please utilize this service if possible. Alternatively you can call the store and place an order that we will hold for you on our pick up shelves. We have expanded our flex time options for our dedicated staff so they can care for children who are home from school and adjust their schedules to limit exposure to other employees. Several of our employees may be working from home. This may result in some employees not being available at normal times. Please understand if response times to inquiries and requests are slightly delayed. We ask that you do not come to the yard if you are sick or are experiencing any of the symptoms of the virus – headache, fever or sore throat. Please maintain appropriate social distancing practices while at the yard. We have developed a cleaning regimen that includes disinfecting all high touch surfaces frequently. Know that our thoughts and prayers are with the many people affected by this virus. We are confident that we will emerge with grace from this crisis a stronger community. We will adjust our practices as necessary and communicate any changes to you via e-mail. Stay safe. Sincerely, The Crew at Crowley’s
I did a patent application on "Earth Traveller" a device to travel to the Earth's center today imitating the work of Jules Verne in his 1864 Journey to the Center of the Earth. The spelling error in Traveller is part of the application. I will do another utility application on the invention of Bicentenium Chemical Element 200 later today. One could argue that rats eating wires, open portholes, the boiler room separately exploded, someone taking explosives on the ship in New York or from the Caronia, Eastland also 1915 like problems with the lifeboats, not trying the life boats on before, not trying the life preservers on, inexperienced crew due to war shortages, British admiralty wanting to draw the US into war in letters from Winston Churchill, Clementine Churchill involved in discussing Winston Churchill interacting with a hooker in Paris, Woodrow Wilson romancing Edith Bolling Galt at the same time, and VaterLand stowaways were the cause of the sinking of Lusitania not the actions of the U-20 torpedo alone. Coherent argument could be made that the other factors above were just as important as U-20's torpedo. James T. STruck BA, BS,AA, MLIS PO BOX 61 Evanston IL 60204
Via Crowley's...
**Help Support the Sailors' Snug Harbor Cemetery Memorial Campaign** @SSHMarinersGenealogy The Descendants of Sailors’ Snug Harbor Mariners have been reaching out to Historical and Genealogical Societies, Museums, Military Veterans Groups, and Concerned Citizens, to invite them to join a Letters of Support Campaign to support their efforts to gain access to the old Sailors’ Snug Harbor Cemetery on Staten Island, in New York City, to honor their Ancestors and all of the 6,500 Forgotten Merchant, Coast Guard, and Naval Mariners interred there (1834-1976), by installing a Memorial Monument (Obelisk) and holding an annual Memorial Service. Some of the Mariners were famous Sea Captains and some sailed on famous Merchant and Naval ships dating back to the American Revolution. Many were just average seamen whom sailed and endured for many years on the sea under arduous conditions. The Mariners were from various areas of the United States, Canada, and many other countries. Sadly, the Sailors' Snug Harbor Cemetery is devoid of gravestones or markers, except for 15 remaining gravestones. The Cemetery is closed and not open to the public. The Board of Trustees of Sailors' Snug Harbor have rejected the Descendants' requests to access the SSH Cemetery to honor their Ancestors. The Descendants are collecting Letters of Support to persuade the Trustees of Sailors’ Snug Harbor to change their decision. You can help support the Descendants by writing a Letter of Support using the Support Letter Writing Instructions at the following link: Sailors’ Snug Harbor has a very interesting history. It was one of the first large scale retirement facilities in the United States and the first established for Merchant Mariners. It was founded by the Randall family whom were New York City Merchant Sea Captains and Privateers during the French Indian War and Patriots during the Revolutionary War. Alexander Hamilton was a friend of the Randall family and their Attorney. He helped draft the Robert Richard Randall Will in 1801 to create the SSH Trust which funded the SSH Retirement Home. During its 140+ years of operation (1833-1976) approximately 16,000 Mariners resided there.
On this day, three years ago, June 2016, the CMM officially opened to the public. Happy Birthday, CMM 🥳
“Queen Of The Lakes “ Paul R Tregurtha departing Duluth MN and heading out into Lake Superior last Monday May 13 2019. Largest ship on the Lakes.
Make It Better has put together a very through 2019 Chicago Museum Guide and guess who has made the list? Check out all the recommend Chicago museums to visit this year.
The CMM will not participate in this months BAC Third Friday Open Studios. Although the museum will be closed during Open Studios (Friday, Feb 15 from 7-10pm) please feel free to attend the BAC's FREE event in support of the other participating artist. The museum will be open during its normal business hours, 10-4, only
CMM will be CLOSED tomorrow, Wednesday January 30, due to extreme cold weather. We will reopen with regular hours on Thursday, January 31. Stay safe and stay warm!