Chicago Marine Heritage Society

41° 52' 55" N - 087° 36' 43" W

Chicago's Christmas Ship

Chicago's Christmas Ship is a not for profit, all volunteer organization, derived from the marine community of greater Chicago. It is dedicated to the acquisition and donation of Christmas trees, together with social services and other supporting care, to the disadvantaged. It is dedicated to the betterment of the Christmas Season for families and children who would not otherwise have had an opportunity to afford, experience and enjoy the Holiday Season with a Christmas tree.

The Chicago Marine Heritage Society is one of the founding partners of Chicago's Christmas Ship and continues to support every aspect of this incredible Chicago tradition as a permanent partner.

The Rouse Simmons was the original "Christmas Tree Ship" that came to Chicago at the beginning of the holiday season for over 30 years in the early 1900’s. The “Christmas Tree Ship” was a three masted schooner that was easily recognized by waiting crowds when they saw a Christmas tree tied to her main mast and her decks loaded with thousands of Christmas trees destined for Chicago families.

Chicago's boating community reenactment of the olden days of the Rouse Simmons landing in Chicago is now portrayed by the US Coast Guard Cutter Mackinaw. The trees are off-loaded from the Mackinaw by local youth volunteers, including Sea Cadets, Venture Crews, Sea Scouts and Young Marines and loaded onto trucks for distribution to more than a thousand deserving families throughout Chicago by Ada S. McKinley Community Services. The trees were purchased with money raised by the "Chicago's Christmas Ship" Committee. This committee is comprised of, and supported by, all facets of the Chicago's boating community: the International Shipmasters' Association, Chicago Marine Heritage Society, US Navy League, Chicago yacht clubs, Friends of the Marine Community, the Coast Guard Auxiliary and the Chicago Yachting Association, to name a few.

Chicago's Christmas Ship Committee also hosts educational programs for local area schools aboard the Mackinaw. More than 300 children from the Chicago area learn about the role of the Coast Guard, the "Christmas Tree Ship" tradition, observe a Sea Partners ecology presentation and experience a ship tour by the Coast Guard Auxiliary. Members of the Mackinaw's crew and volunteers from Chicago's boating community decorate the ship for the "Chicago's Christmas Ship" tree event.

The Mackinaw's arrival is a culmination of efforts by the Chicago's Christmas Ship Committee, working together with the Coast Guard, the Coast Guard Auxiliary, the Sea Partners Program, Chicago Navy Pier, private individuals, and the hard working generous boaters of the marine community to help make Christmas special for deserving Chicago families.