Elsie Schuenemann at the wheel of the Christmas Ship, near the Clark Street Bridge on the Chicago River; the boat carried Christmas trees to Chicago from Michigan; her father, Captain H. Schuenemann, died when the Rouse Simmons, ship carrying Christmas trees, sank in 1912 / December 1916 / Chicago Daily News negatives collection, DN-0003451. Courtesy of the Chicago Historical Society
"In the early 1900s, Herman Schuenemann was a known vendor in the Marine Christmas tree trade. Capt. Schuenemann had a crew who would cut trees from the northern woods of Michigan, strap them down upon his ship and then set sail for Chicago. Once in port, he would sell the trees off the deck of the sailing vessel Rouse Simmons. Every year, families and their children would gather at the pier and anxiously await the arrival of the "Christmas Ship". On November 23rd, 1912, during a fierce winter storm with his ship covered with ice Capt. Schuenemann and his crew of seventeen with approximately 5000 fresh-cut trees sank, not far from the shores of Two Rivers Wisconsin." (from The Christmas Ship Story)
Today an organization called Chicago's Christmas Ship, raises money to buy trees and deliver them -- via the Christmas Ship (the US Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw) -- to poor children in Chicago.