John H. Wilterding Jr.’s Passion
for Maritime History Began Early

As a child ships held a special fascination for John Wilterding Jr., especially World War II vessels. Later his interest broadened to include Great Lakes merchant ships.

His collection of ship information began by chance, Mr. Wilterding said.

"Mr. James P. Kaysen had purchased my book, McDougall's Dream - The American Whaleback in 1969. Later I met with Jim at his home in Cedarburg, Wis., and a 25 year friendship began," he said. And so did his historical interest in collecting information.

"During this time I added ship data, photos, and ephemera to (Kaysen's) Great Lakes collection consisting of 15 two-inch ring binders containing individual ship companies," he said. "Each ship was recorded on color coded cards. Ship ownership was put on white cards, ships that were sold on yellow cards, and ships that were scrapped on red cards, and marine disasters on blue cards."

In 1994 Mr. Wilterding took over the collection, and during the ensuing years he kept updating the collection, which includes data from 1900 to the 21st century. The collection now includes 69 two-inch ring binders with about 175 pages per binder.

"It has been a labor of love for me."

He donated the collection in 2012 to the Wisconsin Marine Historical Society and the Milwaukee Public Library for the enjoyment of others.

"I hope that others will add to the collection," Mr. Wilterding said in a letter when he donated the collection.

John H. Wilterding Jr. was 83 when he died November 21, 2013.

During the Korean War he serviced as a corpsman at Subic Bay, Philippines. He was a 1958 graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Pharmacy and later worked as a pharmacist in Neenah, Menasha and Algoma. He was married and had two children.

In addition to his passion for maritime history, Mr. Wilterding had an interest in Midwest railroads and collected pocket watches.