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PowerShips

The authoritative magazine of the history of engine-powered vessels and the legacy of man's journey on the world's seas and waterways.

In this issue:

  • The President Monroe of 1940
  • Farewell Saga Ruby
  • A Survivor’s Link to the General Slocum Tragedy

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Funding for the SSHSA educational outreach program is made possible in part by a grant from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities, an independent affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

PowerShips

 

PowerShips Winter 2014 | No. 288

 

The SSHSA Annual Awards 2013

Each year the Steamship Historical Society of America recognizes ships and individuals that have made significant contributions to the history of engine-powered vessels. John Hamma introduces us to the 2013 ship winners – Ship of the Year, Museum Ship of the Year, and Tugboat of the Year – and the individual winners of the C. Bradford Mitchell Award in recognition of a single achievement, the H. Graham Wood Award for long-time service to SSHSA, and the Jay Allen Award for distinguished editorial service.

Remembering the America of 1940

In 1936, the United States embarked on the biggest shipbuilding program the world had yet seen, 6,000 merchant ships in all. The lead vessel was the 33,500-grt America, launched in August 1939 as flagship of the United States Lines and the entire U.S. merchant marine. In his continuing series on the Lives of the Liners, William Miller offers a brief history of the America, including its World War II life as the 10,000-capacity troopship USS West Point.

American Tank Ships

Jim Shaw examines how this very important vessel type has changed since the first deepsea tanker, the British-built Glückauf, was placed in service over 125 years ago, and how the U.S.-flag tank ship fleet has evolved through the decades.

The Vessels of the Lake Okanagan Inland Marine Museum

Charles Bogart gives us a tour of the vessels currently preserved at the Lake Okanagan Inland Marine Museum in New Brunswick: the restored steam paddlewheeler SS Sicamous, the steam-powered tug-icebreaker SS Naramata and the Canadian National Railroad tugCN No. 6.

The SS Nomadic: Last of the White Star Line

SS Nomadic is a White Star Line steamship, launched on 25 April 1911 in Belfast. Built as a tender to RMS Olympic and RMS Titanic, she is now the last surviving White Star Line vessel. Jim Leggett describes how she has been restored to her original glory and is now back home in Belfast’s historic Hamilton Dock awaiting visitors.

Postwar American Export Lines Freighters

As the end of the service life of AEL’s Exporter-type freighters built before WWII approached, the line estimated that some $436 million would be required to build replacements. David Hendrickson presents the second installment of his history of the ships of the “Milkman of the Mediterranean” as AEL was known, the eighteen cargo ships that were delivered to AEL between 1960 and 1973.

The Yacht of Camelot: Bringing Back the Honey Fitz

Magnificent in both appearance and construct during her heyday, Honey Fitz, once a yacht of five Presidents – Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon – had fallen into tragic disrepair after she was retired from the U.S. government and private charters. When the restoration team took control of Honey Fitz her condition could not have been more heartbreaking, but after the labors of a three-year period she emerged as a yacht fit once again for a president. Vera Harsh and Diana Moraco tell us about their recent visit of this magnificent yacht.

PowerShips Fall 2013 | No. 287

Grace Line Special Issue featuring:

"The Quartet of 1932-33:"  The Grace Line added a glorius foursome of ships to their fleet in 1932-33.  In his continuing series on the Lives of the Liners, Mr. Ocean Liner Bill Miller tells us the story of the Santa Rosa, Santa Paula, Santa Elena, and Santa Lucia as they sailed to Caribbean and South American ports, featuring superior accomodations highlighted by an outdoor pool and roll-back roof for the upper deck dining room so that passengers could dine under the stars.

Plus more on the Grace Line....

- "The 52s: Combination Ships" and

- "A Line a Day: A 1925 Voyage to South America Aboard a Grace Line Steamer"

Also in this issue:

- Building Titanic II

- Hip Hip Hooray for the Good Old Waverly

- San Pablo: An Undersea Mystery off Pensacola

- An Introduction to The Posner Maritime Art Collection

- and more!

PowerShips Fall 2013 | No. 286

Lives of the Liners: The Bretagne/Brittany: Chandris Lines’ "Ship of Destiny" - Some fifty years ago, the 580-foot ship Bretagne became the first American-based cruise ship for Chandris, today operating as the hugely successful Celebrity Cruises. William Miller offers a brief history of the liner and what it meant to Chandris.

Exporters: American Export Lines’ Freighters of 1939-1946 - David Hendrickson presents a detailed history of the ships of the “Milkman of the Mediterranean” as AEL was known. He describes how these freighters and their crews distinguished themselves during WWII and went on to carry countless thousands of tons of tea, olives and olive oil, wine, tobacco, grain, spices, machinery, vehicles, along with military and aid cargoes after the war.

Having Fun at the Behind the FUN Tour - The official theme of Carnival Cruise Lines is FUN, and there is a lot of it to be had on the 70,367-ton M/V Inspiration. Author Frederick Gary Hareland shares his first-hand experience of that fun where he and his family members recently helped their 91- and 92-year-old parents celebrate their 70th wedding anniversary.

The History of a Civil War Transport: The Steamer Clara Poe - The history of the Clara Poe has been essentially silent despite her Civil War service to the Union that lasted 3 1/2 years. Fran Nash’s account of the story of the Clara Poe will inform and entertain, especially during the Civil War Sesquicentennial. It is a bit of American history too important to be left untold.

Retired Nantucket Lightships: A Trio Weathering All Storms - For decades the Bay State waters from Boston Harbor to New Bedford have provided havens for the three long-decommissioned Coast Guard lightships that still carry, to this day, the legend NANTUCKET in large white capital letters on their red-painted hulls. Captain William J. Frappier keeps us up to date on the history of the LV-112, WLV-612 and WLV-613.

Navy’s Potomac Fleet: Transport for Naval Gun Manufacturing - Philip Sims shows us how the U.S. Navy’s Potomac River fleet was used to transport materials for naval gun manufacturing between 1880 and the late 1950s. Moving guns, some of which weighed more than 100 tons, from the Washington, DC, manufacturing facilities to the remote test range upriver at Indian Head was an interesting challenge to the tug-barge-rail system.

The SS Servian: A Vessel of Many Names & Missions - Gary Lombardo documents the long and storied service of the SS Servian, built as a passenger vessel and ultimately modified as a troop transport and a brief stint as a hospital ship. The vessel’s forty years of service placed it directly in the middle of two world wars and resulted in voyages in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

PowerShips Spring 2013 | No. 285

Lives of the Liners: Holland America’s Ryndam of 1951 - Today’s Ryndam of the Holland America Line is a 55,000-grt, 1,200-passenger, luxury cruise ship, roaming the globe with all-first class, hotel-like accommodations. But it was little more than sixty years ago that her  predecessor, the Ryndam, came into service.  She was a far different ship – far smaller at 15,000 tons and carried 875 passengers, but in two-class quarters and in which only a few cabins had private bathroom facilities.  There wasn’t a butler or cabin television to be found. William Miller takes us on a tour of the Ryndam, originally built to cross and not cruise the Atlantic, rebuilt as an all-first-class Greek cruise ship, moored in Biloxi, Mississippi, as a gambling casino ship and eventually sinking in Carribbean waters.

Bogus Brochures, Counterfeit China, & Phony Posters: 10 Fake Ship Collectibles & 5 Ways to Protect Yourself - Are you a collector? Do you know whether the items in your collection are originals. Collectibles expert Don Leavitt tells us everything we need to know about fakes and how to spot them – not museum-level counterfeits but rather the everyday fakes that members might be tempted to buy. He covers numerous reproductions passed off as originals, including posters, French Line china, Holland America Line pin trays, new ship cut-aways mimicking the originals, White Star Line interiors brochures from the 1920s and deck chairs with brass tags reading “First Class Only” along with the ship name.

The Hudson River Day Line - Peter Hess offers a history of paddle wheel steamboat travel on the Hudson, beginning with the 1798 grant given to Robert Livingstone to exclusively operate passenger steamboats on the Hudson and his partnership with Robert Fulton up to the last regularly scheduled Day Line cruise in 1948. Readers get to re-live the times when steamboat travel was the easiest and fastest method of transportation in the Hudson Valley and a ride on a paddlewheel steamer, especially one as grand as a Day Line boat, was an event in itself.

A Mediterranean Passage: Mediterranean Shipping as Viewed from a Greek Cargo Ship in the Early 1980s - Jim Shaw describes his travel aboard the Greek cargo ship Hellenic Leader in the early 1980s, when the era of the conventional cargo ship was coming to an end as containerization took hold on most of the world’s major sea lanes. Hellenic Lines of Greece, considered that country’s unofficial national carrier, was one of the few operators that continued to operate breakbulk ships across the North Atlantic. However, its inability to quickly adopt to the box would lead to its demise before the decade was out. Hellenic Leader was to make her final voyage in 1985.

Museum Profile: Mystic Seaport, Mystic, Connecticut - Museum of America & The Sea Mystic Seaport is a living history museum consisting of a village, ships and 17 acres of exhibits depicting coastal life in New England in the 19th century.

PowerShips Fall 2012 | No. 283

Lives of the Liners: Italy’s South American Sisters: In the early 1950s the Italian Line launched two of its largest and grandest liners since the 1930s, key elements in Italy’s post-war maritime renaissance. William H. Miller offers a brief look at the Augustus and her twin sister, the Giulio Cesare, considered to be among the most handsome liners of their day. While the mechanically-troubled Giulio Cesare went to the scrappers in 1973, the Augustus endured somewhat longer for the Italians, making her last trip as a passenger liner in January 1976. And she, too, recently joined her sister in the scrap heap.

Is There Gold in Your Closet?: Collecting Ship Brochures: Some of the results on collectibles expert Don Leavitt’s list might surprise you. For example, while the Normandie would make the list, it would be near the bottom as ephemera and objects from the fabled ship are very pricey and often not of interest to customers who came of age during the cruise ship boom years of the late 20th century. Titanic would not even be listed, since any collectible from the era requires that you be a millionaire to own it. Who’s on your list?

No Place for a Lady!: Journal of the Wife of a Steamboat Captain: With a load of freight aboard the steamboat Mollie Ebert, Captain George Washington Ebert left the Georgetown, Pa., landing destined for Fort Benton in the Montana Territory. Nancy Ann (Poe) Ebert accompanied her husband on that river voyage. They were steaming right into Indian territory a few years before General Custer and the Seventh Cavalry’s ride to death at the Little Bighorn. Great great grandson Francis Nash draws on Nancy Ebert’s journal account of the journey for a fascinating history of steamboat commerce in 1869.

Breaking the Glass Ceiling on the High Seas: Captain Inger Klein Olsen: Up until the last thirty years, a ship’s crew had been almost exclusively male. The only exceptions where women were to be found were on the passenger decks cleaning cabins. On December 1st, 2010, history was made when one of Cunard’s noble queens, the Victoria, set sail with its first lady driver! Based on a series of interviews conducted with Captain Olsen, historian Lorraine Coons documents her long, interesting journey to the bridge – from tabbie (stewardess) on a cargo ship to skipper of one of the most luxurious passengers vessels at sea.

Shipboard Radio Communications: From Spark-Gap CW to GMD SS: Today we take radio frequency (RF) communications for granted – it’s hard to believe that it’s only been a little more than a century since Guglielmo Marconi made the very first ship-to-shore radio call. Fredrick Gary Hareland presents a timeline of the history of shipboard radio communications, from its beginnings with continuous wave (CW) Morse code radio to the latest Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) procedures, types of equipment, and communication protocols.

The Jonah of Convoy PQ-17: As any seafaring man knows, a Jonah is an omen of disaster aboard ship. The Jonah in this article is an American cargo ship of 5,217 gross tons, built in 1920 and christened the SS Carlton. George Delgado tells her story, which begins on Friday, May 13th, 1942, a fate-tempting double whammy for superstitious seamen.

 

PowerShips Summer 2012 | No. 282

African Queen Celebrates Her 100th Birthday:  This year marks the 100th anniversary of the diminutive African Queen, which still puffs merrily along, her steam whistle tooting here, there, everywhere to the delight of modern boaters. Jim Leggett, featured historian for the History Channel’s special on the Humphrey Bogart/Katherine Hepburn ragamuffin steam launch African Queen, tells the untold story of her fabulous after-movie career, a life steeped in international travels, celebrity and more.

How Safe are Cruise Ships in 2012:  We were recently reminded about the RMS Titanic disaster with the grounding and partial sinking of the luxury cruise liner Costa Concordia off of Italy’s Tuscan coast. So before we schedule our next cruise, we’d like to know: How safe are cruise ships? Fredrick Gary Hareland answers that question and offers sound advice on how to increase our odds of surviving a modern cruise ship disaster.

The One with the Most Cruises Wins: Ideas, Tips & Opportunities:  Planning for travel this fall? Check out our list of travel ideas, ships to sail, museums to visit, special events for ship enthusiasts. We’ll include tips for making your trip memorable and information on deals especially for SSHSA members.

Cruising the Wolfsonian Museum:  Comprehensively documenting the activities of the ocean liner and cruise ship industry in the post–Second World War era, this collection at the Wolfsonian Museum at Florida International University includes 25,000–35,000 brochures, deck plans, menus, and other printed materials. Dr. Laurence Miller, former director of libraries at FIU, writes about the donation that represents more than fifty years of his passionate collecting.

Art-Space-Ship: The Factory Freezer Trawler Stubnitz:  There are a few ships on the globe that are of major historical relevance, can be easily categorized as floating museum or a maritime history monument and serve in addition another purpose without compromising the general idea of keeping maritime heritage alive. One of these ships is the former East German factory freezer trawler Stubnitz. Dr. Ingo Heidbrink talks about how it became a floating cultural center and most importantly a platform for cultural work that is not moored all the year round in the same port, but sails between European ports all along the North Sea and the Baltic.

Breakbulkers by the Bay:  Before the coming of containerization in the late 1950s the Port of San Francisco remained one of the leading ports of the Pacific by virtue of its breakbulk traffic. Jim Shaw documents the evolutionary cargo ship design changes that took only a few decades to complete and left the Port of San Francisco a mere shadow of its former self.

Providence Steamboat Company: Still a Family Business:  One of the oldest tugboat operations in New England, the Providence Steamboat Company has remained a family-run business. In March 2007 the founding owners, the Mauran family of Providence, sold the business to the McAllister family of New York City, who continue to run the company as part of their own family business, McAllister Towing and Transportation Company. Jillian Fulda, Ed Spinney and Brent Dibner provide a brief history of this tugboat company, which has played a key role in commercial shipping on Narragansett Bay since 1881.

ShiPosium and SSHSA Annual Meeting: A Resounding Success:  “Great networking and idea sharing opportunity.” “Friendly, welcoming people.” “We’ll be in Long Beach next year!” Those are just a few of the accolades for the first-ever ShiPosium and the SSHSA Annual Meeting held May 18-19 in Baltimore, Maryland. Read CDR John Hamma’s summary of the ShiPosium and meeting as well as see who this year’s winners of the prestigious SSHSA Awards are, including Ship of the Year.

PowerShips Spring 2012 | No. 281

Uncover the ugly truth behind the Titanic. In “The Final Board of Inquiry: The Cold Case Investigation into the Loss of the Steamship Titanic,” Commander Richard R. Paton, a former Coast Guard Investigation Officer, “officially” investigates one of history’s worst ship disasters and presents the results of his investigation to you, the jury. 
 
See why financier J.P. Morgan’s attempts to control ocean traffic between Europe and the United States at the turn of the 20th century ended in failure, in Louis C. Kleber’s revealing story, “The Titanic Helps Sink the International Mercantile Marine Company.”
 
Discover why the Titanic, Olympic and Britannic could be considered the first “green” vessels.
 
Learn about the wooden steam schooners that were built to service the lumber trade in the tiny dog-hole ports of coastal California and southern Oregon in the late 1800s and early 1900s.
 
Read about the extraordinary discovery of the steamship SS Newcastle City, recently found lying on the ocean floor where she sank 121 years before.
 
SSHSA members cite visiting maritime museums as a top interest and activity. Beginning with this issue, PowerShips introduces a new feature highlighting a maritime museum (The Mariners’ Museum) written especially for ship history enthusiasts.

PowerShips Winter 2012 | No. 280

The Shanghai Incident

More than four years before the United States entered World War II, one of the premier Pacific liners, the President Hoover, found herself caught up in another war in Asia. Dan Scott tells a tantalizing story of the final weeks of the President Hoover’s life, a tale of tragedy resulting in the loss of the beautiful ship and seriously undermining the already weakened foundations of an American shipping empire.

The Other Scharnhorst

Roughly fifteen years after the end of World War I, Germany introduced a trio of first-rate liners, conveying the message that Germany was back and ready to do business. Steven Duff highlights one of them, the Scharnhorst, notable for its innovations—turbo-electric machinery, the unusual Maierform bow design, Oertz streamlined rudders, and hulls assembled with the latest technology, arc-welding.

Keeping the Shieldhall Steaming

The steamship Shieldhall was built in the 1950s to take treated sewage sludge out to sea for disposal. Now owned by a charitable society, the ship is maintained and run by a team of dedicated volunteers. Graham MacKenzie reports on the status of the Shieldhall and the repairs being undertaken so it can regain its passenger certificate in time to participate in the Titanic centenary commemorations in April.

The SS United States, Part Three: Troublesome Times

On the morning of November 7, 1969, America’s flagship and the pride of the U.S. Merchant Marine docked for the last time. In the final article of this series, Larry Driscoll talks about the final days of the SS United States as well as continued efforts to preserve the ship, a maritime bag lady covered in rust and bird droppings, her paint chipped and peeling, but from a distance still dignified and majestic.

Sylvan Dell of 1872—Remembering a Pioneering New York Commuter Steamboat

The Sylvan Dell was a typical sidewheeler, built to meet the growing need for commuter services linking workplaces in New York City with increasingly less rural Harlem. Richard Elliot remembers the “Queen of New York Harbor,” a steamer that went on to become a virtual vagabond, repeatedly chartered to others, and ending up entertaining excursionists on day trips out of Philadelphia. 

Regular Features

  • Regionals: Shipping news from points around the compass
  • Heard on the Fantail
  • Tugboats
  • Questions & Answers with Steamboat Bill
  • Book Reviews
  • Full Steam Ahead: News from SSHSA Headquarters

PowerShips Fall 2011 | No. 279

In the days before there was a bridge-tunnel across the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, the crossings were handled by big passenger-vehicle ferries. William Baxter has their story in Vessels of the Virginia Ferry Corporation 1930-1956. 

On one of the last cruises of the steam-powered liner Ivory, Thomas Rinaldi sat down with her officers and engineers to discuss the operations of that rapidly-disappearing type of vessel. Steam's Swan Song is his interview with them. 

During the Civil War, the Union Army, as well as the Navy, operated an interesting fleet of steamers. Charles Dana Gibson has their story in The Union Army's Procurement of Vessels for Coastal and Gulf of Mexico Service 1861-1865. 

Larry Driscoll brings us part two of his in-depth history of the liner United States in SS United States: The Last Queen of the Merchant Marine.

PowerShips Summer 2011 | No. 278

Larry Driscoll, the author of the acclaimed history of the liner America, brings us the first installment of his in-depth look at the career of the liner United States, that coincides with current efforts to save the ship and restore her. Subsequent installments will appear in the fall and winter issues.

Another ship preservation effort involves the Spanish-American War-era cruiser Olympia. She has been preserved on the Philadelphia waterfront for decades but her situation has become critical. Robert Foley has the story.

In days gone by, booking passage on a passenger-carrying freighter, was sometimes an alternative to traveling on the great glamorous liners. John Fostik returns to those days in his fascinating article Cargo Liners to Remember.

To many people today, the loss of the Cunard Liner Oregon in 1886 is not well known. But it is well known to Jane Mitchell LaSure, who has a family connection to it. In this issue, she recounts the disaster and her family link to it.

In Q-Ships: Undercover Naval Warfare by the Merchant Marine, Louis Kleber examines the one-time wartime phenomenon of armed vessels masquerading as merchant ships in search of prey on the high seas.

PowerShips Spring 2011 | No. 277

In their 45 years of service, the liners that began life as Moore-McCormack Lines’ Brasil and Argentina underwent numerous ownership changes and 17 name changes between them. Come along as veteran seaman Edmund Squire re-visits the colorful careers of two of the last deep-sea passenger liners built in the U.S. 

In "A Night Out with the Three Cunard Queens," SSHSA President Robert Cleasby recounts the night when the Queen Mary 2, Queen Victoria,and the new Queen Elizabeth met for the first time in New York, all documented with spectacular color photography. 

Restoring a more than century-old steamboat that has been laid up for 20 years is no easy task but it’s one that is ongoing in Detroit. Richard Anderson has the story of the famous Boblo steamer Columbia and the restoration project that seeks to return her to operation. 

The Great Lakes region is fortunate to be blessed with a number of preserved steamships and museums telling the story of the region’s great maritime heritage. PowerShips columnist Rich Turnwald visits four classic Great Lakes passenger steamers that have been preserved in all their glory, including one that is still steaming. 

The paddle steamboat Mary Woods 2 was a popular attraction for many years at Jacksonport State Park in Arkansas, but the end has come. PowerShips’ Western Rivers columnist Charles Bogart looks back on her career. 

Maersk Line recently placed an order for ten container ships it describes as “the world’s largest and most efficient vessels,” and ones that will change the industry’s understanding of size and efficiency. PowerShips editor Jack Shaum has a preview. 

The liner United States has changed hands and her new owners are confident they can succeed where others have failed to preserve the one-time flagship of the American merchant marine. Look for an update in "Another Step Forward for the United States" by editor Jack Shaum.

 

PowerShips Winter 2010-11 | No. 276
SSHSA's Ship of the Year Award for 2010 goes to two vessels - the iconic liner SS United States and the classic steam yacht Cangarda. Richard Rabbett has the story of their selection.

During the 1960s and early 1970s a famous American shipping firm undertook a comprehensive fleet replacement. Join author David Hendrickson for an in-depth look at "Prides, Clippers, and Seabees: New Freighters for the Lykes Bros. Steamship Company."

The Nantucket Lightship was unquestionably one of the most famous of American lightships. Robert Mannino brings us the history of Nantucket Lightship LV-112 and the ongoing effort to restore and preserve her.

Take a trip along Norway's colorful and rugged coast with author Steven Duff as he writes of "A Voyage to the Roof of the World."

The famous Ellis Island ferry Ellis Island is no more, but she is well-remembered in New York harbor. National Park Service historian Barry Moreno tells of her long career and the successful effort to document her and preserve a number of her artifacts at the famous immigration facility.


PowerShips Fall 2010 | No. 275
Just when it appeared she might be headed for the scrapyard the record-breaking liner SS United States received a reprieve.  This issue of PowerShips has the latest developments on the projected restoration of the great liner.

In his day Theodore E. Ferris was acclaimed as one of the nation's pre-eminent naval architects, but today his work is largely forgotten.  John Emery takes a look at some of his more famous ships in "The Passenger Ships of Theodore E. Ferris."

Plans are in the works for a revolutionary new passenger vessel that would carry the famous name France. Our photo-feature offers a glimpse into what she would look like.

Even though they are all but gone small coastal steamboats are still viewed with great affection by many maritime historians. Joseph Giglietti revisits one of them—the Quonset of Block Island fame.

Click here to view a preview of the Fall 2010 issue of PowerShips.

 

PowerShips Summer 2010 | No. 274
The world's oldest deep-sea passenger vessel is retired after an incredible 95-year seagoing career! Peter T. Eisele has her story in "The Many Lives of Newport News Hull 176."

At age 100, the Toronto ferryboat Trillium continues in service. Gordon Champion, Mike Filey, and Jenny Suttaby combine forces to tell the story of her long career, including a rebirth following a lengthy lay-up.

Reaching back into his wealth of sea stories, Captain Edward C. March brings us the story of a marathon World War II trip in "A Wartime Voyage on a Liberty Ship."

Not only are the Western Rivers now devoid of overnight passenger vessels, one of them has reached the end of the line. Charles H. Bogart has the story in "Mississippi Queen—1976-2010: A Life Cut Short."

In "Queen Victoria & The Pirates," Philip Simms tells how the giant Cunarder prepared earlier this year for a cruise through dangerous waters.



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