Sharing the Common Wealth showcases objects, artifacts, documents, structures and buildings from the collections of PHMC.

While she was being constructed, beginning in July 1842, the vessel known at her December 5, 1843 launch as USS Michigan (in honor of the Union’s newest state) and later as USS Wolverine (renamed in 1905 for Michgan’s state animal so the state name could be used for a new dreadnought battleship) was simply called “Lake Steamer” or “Iron Steamer.” Two decades after USS Michigan‘s commissioning on September 29, 1844, she served as the U.S. Navy’s first iron-hulled warship and participated in the American Civil War. For wartime duty she was equipped with a 30-pounder Parrot Rifle, five 20-pounder Parrot Rifles, six 24-pounder Dahlgren howitzers, and two 12-pounder Dahlgren howitzers (following the installation in 1844 of a 64-pounder, eight-inch pivot gun).

Michigan’s great contribution to the Civil War effort was the recruitment of Navy personnel at Great Lakes ports. At the age of 70, Wolverine was given the privilege of towing the rebuilt Niagara during her centennial tour of the Great Lakes in 1913. After the United States entered World War I, Pennsylvania Militia Ship Wolverine served as a training vessel out of the Great Lakes Naval Training Station near Chicago in 1917 and 1918. In 1949 the decommissioned ship was scrapped.

Based on original plans by naval architect Samuel Hartt and early images of the vessel, L. M. “Skip” Nagle Jr. and Allison Taylor constructed a model of Michigan as she appeared during the Civil War. The model – one of four – is a popular attraction at the Erie Maritime Museum, homeport of Niagara, administered by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in partnership with the Flagship Niagara League.