Stone Towing Line Records

Manuscript Collection #679
Stone Towing Line
Physical description
3.26 Cubic Feet, 5325 items, 2 items , consisting of correspondence, work orders, product invoices, requisitions, receipts, advertisements, photographs, and publications.
Preferred Citation
Stone Towing Line Records (#679), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
ECU Manuscript Collection
No restrictions

Records (1937-1960) including correspondence, work orders, product invoices, requisitions, receipts, advertisements, photographs, and publications.

Biographical/historical information

In the 1920s, Oscar E. DuRant was a partner with the grocery firm of Anderson and DuRant located at 2-4 South Water Street, Wilmington, N. C. In this same location during the late 1930s and throughout the 1940s, DuRant operated a ship chandlery business as a subsidiary of the Sucony-Vacuum Oil Company of Baltimore, MD. DuRant supplied lubricating oils, mechanical parts, tools, and foodstuffs to merchant and naval vessels throughout World War II, including Liberty and Victory ships constructed in Wilmington. By the early 1960s O. E. DuRant, Jr., had taken over his father's business.

In the early 1900s the Wilmington and Little River Steamship Line was owned in part by a member of Wilmington's Stone family. By 1919, the Stone family's business interests had expanded to include the Stone Towing Line, the Wilmington Towing Company, the Little River Canning Company, the Wilmington Marine Railway on the Cape Fear River's Eagle Island, and partial interest in the Wilmington-Southport Steamboat Company. These Stone businesses were located at 4-8 South Water Street. By 1920 Robert R. Stone, Sr., occupied numerous managerial positions in the family's businesses, including owner (Stone Towing Line), president (Wilmington Towing Company and Little River Canning Company), and manager (Wilmington-SouthportSteamboat Company). His sons Robert R. Stone, Jr., and Thomas H. Stone were Stone Towing Line's assistant manager and secretary/treasurer. Harris B. Stone joined the firm at a later date.

Beginning in the 1940s and throughout the 1950s, Stone Towing Line and Stone Marine Railway served merchant and naval vessels, repairing damaged ships and providing towage and lighterage services on the Cape Fear River. By March 1947, Stone Towing Line defined itself as a partnership consisting of H. B. Stone, R. H. Stone, and R. D. Stone. The latter Stones were likely sons of Harris B. Stone. By September 1947, Stone Towing Line described itself as having been in the towing and transportation business for over fifty years in Wilmington, operating tugs on the entire eastern seaboard of the United States and Canada. The Stone Marine Railway and Drydock Company had a thousand-ton Crandell Marine Railway and one five hundred-ton floating dock for ship repairs. By February 1952, Stone Towing Line also employed two completely outfitted and certified shallow-water commercial divers who performed marine repairs.

Scope and arrangement

The Stone Towing Line Records are separated into two distinct parts. Series I consists of the World War II-era correspondence, invoices, and requisitions of the O. E. DuRant ship chandlery business (1937-1943). Series II contains the Stone Towing Line's correspondence, invoices, and requisitions pertaining to its towing and marine railway business (1942-1960). The materials are diverse, as the two companies were engaged in very different operations on the Cape Fear River.

Series I - Oscar E. DuRant, Ship Chandler

DuRant correspondence (January 1937-September 1943) primarily concerns merchandise orders and deliveries; business contracts; product prices; price quotes; overpricing concerns; wartime government rationing; and product restrictions. DuRant sold products such as oil, machine parts, rope, foodstuffs, galley equipment, and lifeboat supplies.

Of particular interest is the DuRant correspondence dealing with the outfitting of Liberty ships (U.S. Maritime Commission Class EC2-S-C1) constructed in Wilmington.

Numerous well known national companies conducted business with DuRant and correspondence from them is found throughout the collection. Some of the more well-known companies include Armour and Company, Beech Nut Packing Company, Blidberg Rothchild Company, Inc., Del Monte, DuPont, Ethyl-Dow Chemical Company, F.A.O Schwarz, Hershey Chocolate Corporation, Hudson Tea and Spice Company, Old Dominion Tobacco Company, Shell Company, and Standard Oil of New Jersey. Other less well-known companies also conducted business with DuRant, such as Federal-Mogul Corporation, Godfrey Propeller Adjusting Corporation, Hyde Windlass Company, Pure Oil Company, Tide Water Power, and Wall Rope Works.

Also found in O. E. DuRant's papers are correspondence to and from numerous shipping lines, navigation companies, and towing lines that served the pre-war and war efforts during the 1940s, including American South African Line, American West African Line, Atlantic Navigation Company, Black Diamond Steamship Line, Cape FearShipping, Clyde-Mallory Line, Gulf Barge and Towing Company, North Carolina Shipbuilding Company, Pennsylvania Shipping Company, Stone Towing Line, and Sword Steamship Company.

Many state and federal government agencies responsible for war time shipping and navigation corresponded regularly with O. E. DuRant, including Camp Davis, N.C., the Department of Commerce (Bureau of Marine Inspection and Navigation), the Highway Traffic Advisory Commission, the Office of Defense Transportation (Office for Emergency Management), the Office of Price Administration, the Selective Service, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Employees Compensation Commission, the U.S. Maritime Commission, the War Department, the War Price and Rationing Board, War Production Board, and the War Shipping Administration.

The remaining portion of the O. E. DuRant series consists of handling charges (1940), product advertisements, product orders, delivery receipts, and inventory lists (August 1939-August 1943). These shipping documents name the company or ship on-loading goods from DuRant, often give the name of the ship's captain, and list the cargo supplies, usually organized by ship's departments: deck, engine, galley, and steward. The orders are very specific, listing the exact amount of foodstuffs, oil machinery parts, cigarettes, lifeboat rations, etc., taken aboard. Also included is a list of vessels serviced by O. E. DuRant.

Series II - Stone Towing Line

Stone Towing Line correspondence (January 1942-December 1959) primarily concerns towing rates; rate over-charges; union problems (United Marine Division Local 333B of the International Longshoreman's Association, the United Mine Workers of America, District 50); tug accidents; questions concerning the use of U.S. Maritime Commission tugs and private commercial tugs; and tug machinery orders.

Documents reveal that Stone charged an hourly rate for each tug utilized in the towing or lightering of a ship on the Cape Fear River into Wilmington. These rates increased to time and a half depending on the time of day or night, day of the week, or legal holiday. Stone was often forced to increase rates due to high union wage guidelines. Often correspondence from various shipping lines questions Stone's use of an extra tug while docking a large ship, and much out-going Stone correspondence concerns the explanation for this extra tug. Stone Towing Line's oil and coal burning steamers and diesel tugs, mentioned throughout the correspondence, include BLANCHE, DOLPHIN, FIREFIGHTER, MOHAWK, R. R. STONE, STONE, STONE 5, and SUCONY 8. These vessels range from 200-900 HP, 86-106 feet long, 23-24 feet in the beam, and 8-14 depth of hold.

Many tug accidents were written about in the Stone correspondence and include captain's and pilot's depositions, eyewitness accounts, and the placement of blame. Included in the records are tug logs (1950, 1952) which give a small idea as to the tugboat's daily activities. Damage and towing delays caused by Hurricanes Hazel, Dianne, Connie, and Gracie are also mentioned in the correspondence (1954-1969).

By August 1946, World War II ships were mothballed and placed into the Wilmington Reserve Fleet. The U.S. Maritime Commission had chosen the Brunswick River, a basin connecting the Cape Fear and Northeast Cape Fear Rivers, as the location for the housing of this Fleet. Many Liberty ships built in Wilmington were stored there and documents show that Stone Towing Line vied for the towing business connected with the mothballed Fleet. Correspondence (1958) with Congressman Alton Lennon pertains to the U.S. Maritime Commission's use of government tugs in the management of the Reserve Fleet and the subsequent loss of business for Stone Towing Line. The correspondence of Representative Fred Hartley (1958), co-sponsor of the Taft-Hartley Act, which provided protection for employers as well as employees during collective bargaining, concerns the need to strengthen the Act..

Also found in the collection is correspondence from many well-known companies who conducted business with Stone Towing Line. Some of these companies are American Oil Company (AMOCO), Chrysler Corporation, Esso Standard Oil Company, Gulf Oil Corporation, Schick, Shell Oil Company, Standard Oil Company of New Jersey, Stanley Electric Tools, Texas Company, and Travelers Insurance Company. Correspondence is also found from lesser known companies such as Advance Aluminum Casting Corporation, Crown Central Petroleum, and Nashville Coal Company.

Numerous shipping, shipbuilding, towing, and dredging companies that corresponded with and required the services of Stone Towing Line include the Cape Fear Towing Company, Charleston Shipyards, Dauntless Towing Line, Keystone Shipping Company, Perth Amboy Dry Dock Company, South Atlantic Steamship Line, Sword Steamship Line, United Tanker Corporation, and the Wilmington Shipping Company.

Additional correspondence reflects business done with numerous state and federal agencies, including the Bureau of Machine Services, Camp Lejeune, the Department of Labor, the Department of Revenue, the Federal Communications Commission, the Petroleum Administration for Defense, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Marine Corps, the U.S. Maritime Commission, the U.S. Merchant Marine, the U.S. Navy, the Wage Stabilization Board, and the War Department.

The largest portion of the company's records consists of bills, orders, and receipts, much of which pertains to the collection's correspondence. The bills detail the number of tugs used in a particular job, the ship's name that required assistance, the hourly rates charged, the time of departure, and the length of the job, and, sometimes, the pilotage charges.

The remaining Stone Towing Line papers contain tax receipts (1953-1955, 1958), a newspaper clipping (1956), machinery advertisements, a marine catalog, a gyro compass operations manual, and a list of vessels serviced by the company.

Administrative information
Custodial History

June 15 1994, 3 cu. ft.; Records (1939-1959) of Wilmington, N. C. tugboat company and of O. E. DuRant, ship chandler. Gift of Mr. Harper Peterson, Wilmington, N. C.

Source of acquisition

Gift of Mr. Harper Peterson

Processing information

Encoded by Apex Data Services

Copyright notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

Key terms
Personal Names
DuRant, Oscar E.
Corporate Names
Stone Towing Line--Records and correspondence
United States. Maritime Commission--Records and correspondence
Boating accidents
Liberty ships--North Carolina--Wilmington
Marine railways--North Carolina--Wilmington
Ship chandlers--North Carolina--Wilmington
Ships--Equipment and supplies
Stevedores--Labor unions--United States
Tugboats--North Carolina--Wilmington
World War, 1939-1945--Economic aspects--United States
Cape Fear River (N.C.)

Container list
Box 1 O. E. DuRant: Correspondence January 1937 , October 1942
Box 2 O. E. DuRant: Correspondence November 1942-September 1943, undated; Handling Charges 1940; Advertisements; Orders, Deliveries, Receipts, Inventories August 1939-December 1941
Box 3 O. E. DuRant: Orders, Deliveries, Receipts, Inventories January 1942-August 1943, undated; List of vessels serviced by O. E. DuRant
Box 4 Stone Towing Line: Correspondence January 1942-December 1956
Box 5 Stone Towing Line: Correspondence January 1957-December 1959, undated; Tug Logs 1950, 1952; Bills, Orders, Receipts June 1943-December 1953
Box 6 Stone Towing Line: Bills, Orders, Receipts January 1954-December 1956
Box 7 Stone Towing Line: Bills, Orders, Receipts January 1957-January 1960, undated; Newspaper Clipping 1956; Tax Receipts 1953-1955, 1958; Advertisements
Box 8 Stone Towing Line: Marine Catalog and Buyers' Directory 1950-1951; Sperry Gyro-Compass Operations Manual; List of vessels serviced by Stone Towing Line