Resurrection of a Lost 1931 Maritime Sign

When the S.S. City of Milwaukee Maritime Museum commissioned us to replicate a long lost 1931 sign, it was all anyone could talk about at Broadview. Being in the business of helping other businesses exposes us to a broad range of projects, and every once in a while, something unique and completely out of our core industry focus comes about, like this awesome vintage sign.

The S.S. City of Milwaukee originally set sail in 1931. After half a century of carrying cargo back and forth across Lake Michigan, the steamship went out of business and sat empty in Frankfurt harbor, decaying for years until a group of volunteers decided to restore it, move it to a permanent mooring in Manistee, MI, and turn it into a museum.

Two identical bronze plaques declaring the ship's name, the name of the builder, and the year it first launched were missing, assumed stolen during it’s period of vacancy. Then one day, a founding member of the museum stumbled upon one of the missing plaques in a private artifact collection. Shortly thereafter, the same plaque appeared aboard the ship overnight. The details on why or how it was returned are unclear, but it was a miracle that opened up new possibilities for the museum.

Museum curators had the recovered plaque remounted in the more prominent of the two original locations–overlooking the bow of the ship on the second level (shown in the image below, under the National Historic Landmark plaque). They believed the second plaque–originally located in the engine room–would remain lost forever. One of the volunteers suggested they contact his friend over at Broadview to see if we could replicate it. Our history buffs and nautical enthusiasts were elated, and we happily took on the project.

Broadview's master craftsmen were able to use the original plaque as a template for creating a silicone mold. Our resident materials expert found a urethane material containing real bronze to pour into the mold, which would form the final product. The museum was so happy with the outcome (shown below), they're considering selling our replicas in their souvenir store!

To learn more about this historic vessel, get a tour, throw a party on board, or even stay overnight in the ship's new bed and breakfast, visit www.carferry.com. They also do ghost tours in the fall! Check it out… if you’re into that sort of thing.