September Artifact of the Month – USS Leviathan Eagle Ornament

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Eagle decorative ornament from the SS Vaterland, courtesy of The Mariners' Museum.
Eagle decorative ornament from SS Leviathan, courtesy of The Mariners’ Museum.

When asked to work on this collections blog, my supervisor asked what artifacts in particular drew my attention. It’s a little awkward to say, but I’ve always been a fan of wartime histories and I may or may not have responded with a jubilant “WAR,” which sounds worse when you excitedly exclaim it in front of people. Regardless of my intern embarrassment, my declaration has ensured that I often get to focus on war relics, such as this month’s artifact, a metal eagle ornament from SS Leviathan. The eagle is a decorative metal piece that would have been displayed on the interior of the ship following its renovations. It’s two toned in color, with a blueish colored body, and gilt accents on the feathers and legs. It’s pictured twice below, once in color, and once in black and white so that it is easier to see the detailing on the piece.

Leviathan was originally SS Vaterland, a passenger liner built at Hamburg, Germany. In 1914, she was the biggest ship in the world, but only made a couple of trips prior to the outbreak of World War I.  Vaterland had just arrived in New York when war was declared, and was therefore unable to return to Germany. Prior to this, she had made only three round trips between New York and Europe. Instead she remained in a terminal in New Jersey for three years until the United States entered the war in 1917. At that point, Vaterland was taken and turned over to the U.S. Navy, who renamed her Leviathan and kept her in service as a troop ship until 1919. Following the conclusion of the war, Leviathan again found herself in limbo, until she was sent to the Newport News Shipyard in southern Virginia to undergo a complete overhaul and renovations to turn her back into a passenger liner. Her renovation was actually supervised by William Frances Gibbs, the naval architect who would later design SS United States, and the owner of two of the baseballs that were featured in our April Artifact of the Month.   Read more

May Artifact of the Month – Box from the USS Cyclops

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One of the greatest unsolved sinking mysteries of the U.S. Navy is the story of USS Cyclops, a steel twin screw collier that went missing during World War I, rumored to have disappeared within the Bermuda Triangle. Our Artifact of the Month is actually a chest from Cyclops, which was donated to the museum in September 1941. Unfortunately, nothing was found within the sea chest, which was found under the donor’s home in Norfolk, Virginia in 1926.

One of the greatest unsolved sinking mysteries of the U.S. Navy is the story of USS Cyclops, a steel twin screw collier that went missing during World War I, rumored to have disappeared within the Bermuda Triangle. Our Artifact of the Month is actually a chest from Cyclops, which was donated to the museum in September 1941. Unfortunately, nothing was found within the sea chest, which was found under the donor’s home in Norfolk, Virginia in 1926.

The Longest Run

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A card and envelope, ‘Mauretania’ Leaving Southampton c1920 (from a painting by Harley Crossley.) From the Beazley collection.

Hello readers, and welcome back to the Library blog. Today, we are going to take a break from the topic of piracy to explore the world of steamships 100 years ago today. This past summer, we saw a lot of coverage of the world’s fastest transatlantic steamship, the SS United States. But what was the fastest ship in the world a century ago today? After consulting the Herbert and Norma Beazley collection, which contains ephemera from hundreds of notable steamships, I found that the fastest steamship – and holder of the Blue Riband – was none other than the RMS Lusitania’s sister ship the RMS Mauretania.

The RMS Lusitania held the Blue Riband from 1907-1909, and the RMS Mauretania outdid her sister by taking the Riband in 1909 and holding it for 20 years straight! RMS Mauretania traveled 2,784 nautical miles in 4 days, 10 hours and 51 minutes, for an average speed of 26.06 knotts, beating RMS Lusitania’s speed of 25.65 knotts. During World War I, RMS Mauretania was docked in Liverpool until her sister, RMS Lusitania, was torpedoed and sunk in 1914. RMS Mauretania was thereafter used as a troopship and a hospital ship, and would resume ferrying passengers once the war was over.   Read more