A contemporary compiler of accidents noted 1,167 marine accidents on the Great Lakes for the year 1871 alone. "Of this number, 225 were caused by collisions," he clarified, "280 vessels went ashore, 81 were burned, 26 capsized, 19 foundered, 182 sprung a leak, 65 waterlogged, 60 were dismasted, 110 lost deck-loads, and 10 exploded their boilers." Against this background, some inventors looked for ways to prevent accidents, while others sought ways to preserve life during accidents. George Clark of Ecorse, Michigan, joined the second group when he wrote, "The nature of this invention relates to certain improvements in the construction of lifesaving rafts, and has for its object the preservation of life in case of disaster at sea, by making the raft very buoyant, thoroughly protecting the float-cylinders, so they will not be injured under any ordinary circumstances, and furnishing a much more durable, a lighter, and more easily handled raft than those heretofore in use for this purpose."
"It is the design to have these rafts kept on the hurricane-decks of steamers, whence they may readily be thrown into the water by one or two persons of ordinary strength, thus avoiding the delay and uncertainty of working falls and cranes in launching boats. Both sides of the raft being alike, it makes no difference which side is up when thrown into the water. I am aware that cylindrical floats are used; but these extend the whole length or breadth of the raft. These, being confined within a frame under certain circumstances, and being rigid, might, in a sea, have the effect of levers to pry the frame-work of the raft to pieces. I adopt the short cylinders connected together in the manner described, and laid in courses, to prevent such an accident, and give greater flexibility to the raft."
George Clark, Life-Raft, U.S. patent no. 146,316, Jan. 13, 1874.
J. W. Hall, Marine Disasters of the Western Lakes during the Navigation of 1871 (Detroit, 1872).