USCG Cutter Mackinaw to deliver trees to needy families as part of Chicago Christmas Ship tradition

1,200 trees to be transported across Lake Michigan

The United States Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw will deliver 1,200 Christmas trees to Chicago families. (Coast Guard photo by Cmdr. John M. Stone)

CHICAGO – More than 1,000 Christmas trees will make their way to needy families in Chicago thanks to the United States Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw.

The ship, which docks in Cheboygan, Michigan, is participating in the 20th annual Chicago Christmas Ship program.

The Coast Guard cutter is the second of the same name to transport trees as part of the program, after the Great Lakes icebreaker cutter Mackinaw, which was the first vessel used when the program began in 1999.

The voyage will bring 1,200 Christmas trees across Lake Michigan.

History of the Christmas Tree Ship

The Christmas Tree Ship is a tradition in Chicago. While the program is only 20 years old, its origins date back to end of the 1800s.

Herman Schuenemann and his brother, August Schuenemann, would sell Christmas trees on the waterfront in Chicago, while also donating some trees to families who couldn’t afford them.

August Schuenemann died in 1898 when a storm destroyed the ship he was aboard, the S. Thal, while it was making a tree delivery.

A vessel named the Rouse Simmons earned the nickname of the Christmas Tree Ship because, despite the death of his brother, and the likelihood of bad weather on Lake Michigan, Herman Schuenemann continued to deliver trees with the Rouse Simmons.

A storm in November 1912 sank the Rouse Simmons. The storm claimed the lives of everyone aboard the ship, including Herman Schuenemann.

The Rouse Simmons, known as the Christmas Tree Ship, sank in 1912. (Photo: Wisconsin Historical Society)