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Louis Shickluna, 1808-1880, shipbuilder

Louis Shickluna
Louis Shickluna

A prominent Canadian shipbuilder, Shickluna was born Augustine Savior Louis Michael Scicluna in Senglea (Malta) on June 16, 1808, where he worked in the Royal Navy's shipyards before emigrating to North America. After arriving in New York, he quickly decided to move to today's Canada, where he found emploment in Trois Riveres, Quebec, where he worked on the SS Royal William one of the earliest vessels to cross the Atlantic using steam power. By 1835, he was engaged in ship construction at Youngstown, New York, where learned drafting and lofting before being persuaded by Henry Mittleberger, a business associate of William Merritt – the founder of the Welland Canal – to establish himself as a builder on the banks of the new canal. Attracted by the traffic stimulated by the Welland Canal's completion in 1833, he leased the financially troubled shipyard of Russell Armington on the Canal at St. Catharines, announcing in the St. Catherines Journal of 2 June 1838 that he was open for business. Shickluna steadily expanded his operations, purchased the yard in 1845, and contributed significantly to the commercial prosperity of the region. Between 1838 and 1880 he is reputed to have directed the construction of over 140 schooners, barquentines, steamers and other vessels designed primarily for service on the Great Lakes, thereby promoting the development of inland navigation in Canada. He died at St. Catharines, Ontario, April 24 1880. Following Shickluna's death, his son Joseph continued to operate the St. Catharines shipyard until 1892.

His truly original designs developed into the unique Great Lakes bluff-bowed schooner designed to make the best use of the dimensions of the canal locks. His spoken English was not good, and he never truly mastered reading or writing. He was married three times. Records of his Canadian citizenship are elusive, but he appears in the Town of St. Catharines Voters List of 1874 as "Owner, Saint Paul Street." He became a prominent citizen who also served as a councillor for St. Catharines. Leaving St. Catherines in late May 1871, he made a final trip to his birthplace in Malta, returning to St. Catherines a year later. He passed away on 24 April 1880, and was buried in his family plot at Victoria Lawn Cemetary.

The names and details of all the "more than 140" ships that were built by Shickluna are elusive The following table assembles 136 lines of data from multiple sources: our database which contains a more detailed list of more than fifty of them, published articles by C.H.J. Snider in his "Schooner Days" series, Richard Palmer in "Inland Seas" Vol 41, no 1, various books in our library and other sources. We have corrected unmistakable errors, but have, at least temporarily, retained a number of "unknowns" (currently 23 entries) pending further research. The list also contains some "rebuilds" rather than new ships.

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"Inland Seas" Vol 41, no 1 "Great Canadian Shipbuilder: Louis Shicluna" by Richard F. Palmer
Canadian Geographical Journal “The Shickluna Story” by Peter D. A. Warwick, June/July 1978 issue, .


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The Canadian Collection

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