John J. Boland and Adam E. Cornelius enjoyed one of the longest and most remarkable business partnerships in the history of Great Lakes shipping. Their partnership began in 1904 when they formed Boland & Cornelius, a vessel brokerage and chartering business on the Buffalo waterfront. In 1907, they founded American Steamship Company and it was not long before the combination of their distinct personalities and talents proved to be perfectly suited for the emerging shipping business on the Lakes. Together, they led ASC through the challenging early years, the Great Depression, and World War II to great prosperity during the post-war years. In the 1950s, they turned the leadership of the company over to their sons, who carried their legacy forward into the second Boland & Cornelius generation. Their foresight and unparalleled ability to respond to change led the way to many innovations that had a positive impact on Great Lakes shipping in their time and to the present day.
John J. Boland, the son of a Great Lakes sailing schooner captain, started a small shipping brokerage and ship chartering business in 1895. One of his early employees was a young stenographer named Adam E. Cornelius. Despite his waterfront background, Boland was known as a soft-spoken and personable man who became a prominent figure in the Buffalo business community. During his more than 50-year career, he was respected as one of the leaders in the industry and is remembered today for his many significant contributions to Great Lakes shipping.
In 1902, Adam E. Cornelius went to work for John J. Boland who hired him to do clerical work for six dollars a week. His acute business sense soon became apparent and quickly led to the Boland & Cornelius partnership. During the Great Depression, he conceived the idea of changing the company to a self-unloader operation, saving the company and changing the way shipping was done on the L akes from that time forward. Throughout his lifetime and to the present day, he is considered one of the great pioneers of shipping on the Great Lakes.