Arthur Foss

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Arthur Foss
Tugboat Arthur Foss 05+.jpg
Arthur Foss in her slip at the Historic Ships Wharf, circa 2007
United States
  • Wallowa (1889-1934)
  • Arthur Foss (1934-1942)
  • Dohasan (1942-1946)
  • Arthur Foss (1946-1964)
  • Theodore Foss (1964-1970)
  • Arthur Foss (1970-Present)
Builder: Willamette Iron and Steel Company, Portland, Oregon
Launched: Summer 1889
In service: Fall 1889
Out of service: Summer 1968
  • YT-335 (1942-1944)
  • YTM-335 (1944-1946)
  • WB6192 (1980-Present)
Fate: Museum Ship
Status: On display
Notes: Believed to be world's oldest wooden tug afloat
General characteristics
Type: Tugboat
Displacement: 573 tons unloaded
Length: 120 feet (37 m)
Beam: 23.9 feet (7.3 m)
Draft: 16.0 feet (4.9 m)
Decks: 4
Installed power: Washington Iron Works diesel, direct reversing 6 cylinder, 700 horsepower (520 kW), 18,382 pound force-feet (24,923 N⋅m)
Propulsion: Direct-drive to 6 feet (1.8 m) diameter 3-blade propeller
Speed: 13 knots (24 km/h)
Capacity: 118 tons diesel fuel
Crew: 7 (inshore tows) - 9 (coastal and oceanic tows)
Notes: Classic heavy wood construction with limited ice-breaking capacity
Arthur Foss (tugboat)
Location Historic Ships Wharf, 860 Terry Avenue N., Seattle
Coordinates 47°37′41.31″N 122°20′12.72″W / 47.6281417°N 122.3368667°W / 47.6281417; -122.3368667Coordinates: 47°37′41.31″N 122°20′12.72″W / 47.6281417°N 122.3368667°W / 47.6281417; -122.3368667
Area Lake Union Park, South Lake Union, Seattle
Built 1889, Portland, Oregon
Architect David Stephenson
Architectural style Sawn old-growth Douglas fir, plank on frame
NRHP reference # 89001078
Significant dates
Added to NRHP April 11, 1989[2]
Designated NHL April 11, 1989[3]
Designated SEATL March 14, 1977[1]

Arthur Foss, built in 1889, as the Wallowa,[4] in Portland, Oregon, it is the oldest wooden-hulled tugboat afloat in the United States. It started off towing sailing ships over the Columbia River bar.


Wallowa was built in 1889 in Portland, Oregon for the Oregon Railway & Navigation Company.[5] The steam engines for the new vessel came from an older tug, Donald, which was retired from service that year.[5] As built, Wallowa was 111.5 feet long, with a beam of 23.75 feet and a depth of hold of 11.5 feet.[5] (According to another report, Wallowa was "about 120 feet long".[6]) Capt. George A. Pease, one of the most experienced pilots on the Columbia River, took Wallowa downriver from Portland to Astoria on September 3, 1889.[6] A.F. Goodrich and John S. Kidd served as engineers on the tug in its early years,[5] as did John Melville.[6]

Early operations[edit]

The first master of Wallowa was Capt. R.E. Howes.[5] Howes was born in 1846 in Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and had been captain of the tug Donald, from which the engines had come for Wallowa.[7] Donald had been used to tow vessels across the dangerous bar at the mouth of the Columbia River, and Wallowa was placed into the same service, operating out of Astoria, Oregon.[7]

Wallowa was taken on its first inspection trip across the Columbia bar on September 23, 1889, starting out from Astoria at 3:00 a.m.[8] Present on board were a number of O.R.& N officials, including the chief of maritime and riverine operations, Capt. James W. Troup.[8] Wallowa returned to Astoria that afternoon, having been found to be fully satisfactory for bar service.[8]

Service in the Klondike Gold Rush[edit]

In 1898, in response to the Klondike Gold Rush, she transported barges full of gold-seeking miners and supplies up the Inside Passage. There is only one other Alaskan Gold Rush vessel still operating today. After the gold rush, she returned to the Pacific Northwest, and worked for the timber industry, pulling rafts of logs to sawmills.

Purchase by Foss Maritime[edit]

In 1929, she was purchased by Foss Tug & Launch Company, and leased to MGM Studios to star in the 1933 blockbuster hit Tugboat Annie.[9][10] Afterwards, Foss rebuilt the ship from the waterline up, and installed a state-of-the-art, 700 hp Washington Ironworks diesel engine, and renamed it Arthur Foss. A year later, a power-steering assist system was installed, because the prop wash from the more powerful engine made steering virtually impossible for a single person.

World War Two service[edit]

In February 1941 Arthur Foss was sent under charter agreement with contractors, Pacific Naval Air Bases[11] to Wake Island for construction of harbors and air bases. In March she was joined by Justine Foss at Wake. Arthur Foss, under Captain Oscar Rolstad, was assigned the task of towing barges loaded with supplies and construction equipment from Honolulu and was returning to Honolulu with two 1,000 ton barges.

Twelve hours out of Wake, the news of the attack on Pearl Harbor was received. Painted white and highly visible the ship was a likely target standing "out like a chain of coral islands on the empty sea" and, despite some discussion of heading for Alaska, the ship continued to Pearl Harbor under radio silence. While underway, the crew hastily mixed all the paint on board with engine grease, and repainted the decks a dark gray to help her blend in with the ocean.

The ship was spotted by US naval scout planes and escorted into Pearl Harbor on December 28, 1941 where Admiral Claude Bloch cited the crew for action beyond the call of duty.[12] Arthur Foss was the last vessel to escape Wake Island before Imperial Japanese forces captured the island on 23 December 1941.[4][13]

Arthur Foss thus escaped the fate of Justine Foss that was captured, forced to serve Japanese purposes and then scuttled with members of her crew executed along with many of the other civilian contractors held captive.[12] Arthur Foss was acquired by the US Navy in 1942, renamed Dohasan and designated YT-335 and later YTM-335.[14] In 1946 the tug was returned to Foss Towing and Barge Co. and renamed Arthur Foss.[14]

Post-war operations[edit]

Arthur Foss at Kirkland, Washington in the 1980s

In 1948 the tug was assigned the task of towing log cribs and later bundled log rafts in the Strait of Juan de Fuca continuing this work until retirement in 1968 to set the record for the longest uninterrupted log-towing service in the Straits.[9][15]


Arthur Foss has a six-cylinder, 700 horsepower (520 kW) diesel engine that produces 18,382 lb.ft of torque, at 200RPM. Her top speed is 13 knots (24 km/h).[16] The vessel is 120 feet (37 m) long with a beam of 23.9 feet (7.3 m) and a draft of 16 feet (4.9 m). When last operated the vessel was owned by Foss Launch and Tug Company (now Foss Maritime) who donated her to Northwest Seaport in 1970.

National Historic Landmark vessel[edit]

Northwest Seaport partly renovated her in 1980, 2001, 2004, 2008, and 2013, although a comprehensive restoration has not yet been attempted. Fundraising is under way to return the vessel to cruising condition.[17] The vessel was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1989[3][4] and is a city landmark as well.[18] and a featured attraction at Seattle's Lake Union Park. The vessel is open for public tours on most summer weekends, or by appointment.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Landmarks A-Z". City of Seattle. Retrieved 2013-03-05. 
  2. ^ National Park Service (2007-01-23). "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 
  3. ^ a b "ARTHUR FOSS (Tugboat)". National Historic Landmark summary listing. National Park Service. Archived from the original on 30 January 2008. Retrieved 2008-03-01. 
  4. ^ a b c Delgado, James P. (1988). "Tugboat Arthur Foss, ex-Wallowa National Historic Landmark Study" (PDF). National Park Service. Retrieved 27 December 2016. and
    —— (July 9, 1988). "Accompanying five photos, exterior and interior, from 1988" (pdf). National Park Service. Retrieved 2012-08-22. 
  5. ^ a b c d e Wright, E.W., ed. (1895). "Ch.18, "Finest Steamers Appear on Puget Sound Waters"". Lewis & Dryden's Marine History of the Pacific Northwest. Portland, OR: Lewis and Dryden Printing Co. 366. LCCN 28001147. 
  6. ^ a b c "Telegraphic. Specials to the Astoria". Daily Morning Astorian. 33 (53). Astoria, OR. September 4, 1889. p.2, col.2. 
  7. ^ a b Wright, E.W., ed. (1895). "Ch.18, "Finest Steamers Appear on Puget Sound Waters"". Lewis & Dryden's Marine History of the Pacific Northwest. Portland, OR: Lewis and Dryden Printing Co. p.369, n.14. LCCN 28001147. 
  8. ^ a b c "The O.R.& N. company's new tug Wallowa …". Daily Morning Astorian. 33 (69). September 24, 1889. p.3, col.1. 
  9. ^ a b "Museum Ship: Visit Tugboat Arthur Foss". Northwest Seaport Maritime Heritage Center. 22 March 2013. Retrieved 1 April 2013. 
  10. ^ Burrows, Alyssa (1 February 2007) [2002]. "Filmography in Seattle". HistoryLink. 
  11. ^ Contractors, Pacific Naval Air Bases[not in citation given]
  12. ^ a b Skalley, Mike (June 2010). "The Arthur Foss Escaped to Hawaii, But the Justine Foss Was Caught in the Japanese Invasion of Wake Island" (pdf). The Look Aft. Tow Bitts. Foss Maritime. 23 (2): 18–19. 
  13. ^ "Wake Island". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Navy Department, Naval History and Heritage Command. Retrieved December 28, 2016. 
  14. ^ a b Photo gallery of Dohasan (YTM-335) at NavSource Naval History
  15. ^ Skalley, Mike (September 2010). "Logs Brought Foss to Neah Bay in the 1920s" (PDF). The Look Aft. Tow Bitts. Foss Maritime. 23 (3): 19. Archived from the original (pdf) on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 3 April 2013. 
  16. ^ "Washington Iron Works Operator's Manual" (PDF). 1934. 
  17. ^ "Arthur Foss". Maritime Heritage Network. Archived from the original on 29 October 2005. Retrieved 1 March 2008. 
  18. ^ Landmarks Alphabetical Listing for T Archived 9 February 2012 at the Wayback Machine., Individual Landmarks, Department of Neighborhoods, City of Seattle. Accessed 28 December 2007.
  19. ^ "Historic Fleet: Tugboat Arthur Foss". Northwest Seaport. Archived from the original on 2009-07-27. 


External links[edit]