Rippley Steam Engine and Launch

Rippley lifeboats built during World War I. We believe the
men in the picture are two of the Rippley brothers.

The Rippley brothers – George, Frank & Will – started business in Grafton, Ill., in 1892 as the Rippley Hardware Company building boats and “steel motors”. They incorporated as the Rippley Boat Company in 1910. During World War I, the Rippley Boat Company built over 1,000 lifeboats for use on allied ships and employed as many as 125 men.  Perhaps our launch is one of those lifeboats set up to ferry workers back and forth across the Mississippi River.  It is also possible that our steam engine was also built by The Rippley brothers perhaps in the late 1800’s or early 1900’s before kerosene, napha and gasoline engines became popular. Sold out in 1921, at which time the company name changed, to Mid-West Boat and Barge Company. The new owners, Samuel Edwards and R. F. Purdy sold the company to Everett Fry in 1923, where it was re-named Grafton Boat Works. Grafton Boat Works lasted until 1971, having built "steel king" motor boats in the 50's and 60's, as well as large towboats and Navy Seal attack craft for the Vietnam War in the late 60's.



The progress on the Lore's Rippley Steam Launch is coming right along as you will see from the following pictures. We have mounted the restored steam engine into the boat and connecting all of the steam and water lines. We then will build a roof canopy over it along with windows fore and aft to keep out the weather. This same boat and steam engine at one time was used to ferry Henry Ford and friends back and forth to Harsen's Island in the St.Clair River. It has quite an interesting history that is presently being researched and will accompany it as a display in our Great Lakes Lore Maritime Museum when it is finished.


There are some finishing touches we are doing to the launch and hope to run it this summer, 2009.


Rippley Steam Engine

Front of Boiler, Barrel was full of coal.

Rippley lifeboat built during World War I

1918 Rippley Steam Launch, with top removed to start restoration work by The Great Lakes Lore Maritime Museum.

Almost fully Restored Rippley Launch

Almost fully Restored Rippley Launch
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