Friday, May 3, 2013

Postcards – Ships From Early 1900’s

Among other things, I’m into history, ships, planes, trains, old cars, travel, food and collecting ‘stuff’.  This blog has been drawn from my antique postcard collection.  While my collection includes trains, planes, and my hometown, the largest number of postcards focuses on boats or ships of one type or another…

If you think about it…post cards are the ‘text messages’ or even ‘tweets’ of the first half of the 20th Century.  I’ve included the messages sent via these postcards in the text below as well as any history I could discover regarding the ships themselves. 

This postcard showing the passenger liner Kaiser Wilhelm II was printed in 1904 and mailed to Carl Hauser in Lacrosse Wisconsin in 1906.  It’s from ‘Papa’, postmarked New York City, and the only message is the one shown above in the side margin.  “Papa sailing on the Oceanic 3:30 pm today.  7/18/06.  Love from Papa.”
This is the second SS Kaiser Wilhelm II.  She was completed in Stettin Germany in the spring of 1903.  This ship had a reputation as a high class, high speed trans-Atlantic liner.  The ship was 706 feet long and could reach a speed of 27.0 miles per hour. (23 knots) Her passengers ranged from the extremely luxurious first class cabins down to ‘steerage’.

This famous photo by Alfred Stieglitz…called “The Steerage” provides a stark visual of what sailing was for the common folk.  Steerage passage was very profitable for the shipping lines in the early part of the 20th Century.  Artisans and craftsmen with their families traveled from the USA back to Europe when their skills were no longer needed for construction of homes and buildings…and of course, immigrants to the USA traveled on the westbound ships.

The Kaiser Wilhelm was westbound to the USA when war began with Britain on August 4, 1914.  She eluded British warships and reached the safety of New York’s harbor.  She sat in the harbor for almost 3 years before the USA declared war on Germany…and then our government seized the ship.
She was renamed the USS Agamemnon.  She served as a troop transport for the balance of the war...transporting 38,000 troops to Europe.  After the end of the war, she made 9 trips between France and the USA, bringing almost 42,000 service personnel home.  The USS Agamemnon was decommissioned in late 1919 and was turned over to the War Department for use as a US Army Transport.  She was renamed the USS Monticello in 1927, but saw no further active service.  The ship was too old for use in WWII and she was sold for scrapping in 1940.

This 3-masted schooner is a British ship, the Bramloch, loading wheat in Everett Washington.  The postcard was sent in 1908 from Oscar ‘Lossum’ or ‘Fossum’ in Everett to Charles Bell in Santa Clara Province, Cuba.  The message on the back is “Please exchange cards.”
I couldn’t find any further information on the Bramloch…but it is interesting that a 3-masted sailing ship was still being used to ship grain overseas in the early part of the 20th Century.

In 1906, ‘Janet’ sent this postcard showing the steamer Cabrillo leaving the town of Avalon on Catalina Island en route to Los Angeles.  The card went to Miss Olga Zuehlke in Saginaw Michigan.  “This is the boat we came over on.  Janet”
The SS Cabrillo was launched in February of 1904.  It was owned by the Wilmington Transportation Company…and the Banning brothers.  They actually bought Catalina Island in 1891.  This was one of the two steam ships they designed to ferry passengers back and forth to the island.  The Cabrillo had a luxurious interior, a social hall, 10 staterooms and food service on the main deck.  She could accommodate up to 1,200 passengers…
With WWI and a fire that destroyed more than half of Avalon, the Banning’s were forced to sell…and William Wrigley Jr., the inventor of chewing gum.  He eventually bought the entire island...and the Chicago Cubs baseball team! By the mid-20’s, the Cabrillo had been replaced by larger and faster ships and it was only used for local service around the island. 
During WWII, the Cabrillo was taken over by the military and she was used to serve as a troop transport in the San Francisco Bay area.  Then the US Army operated her until 1947 when she was permanently moored in Napa California.  All that remains today is her hull…

This postcard of the Steamer Sagamore on Lake George in New York is dated 1906 and it was mailed by Gertrude in Wallkill New York to Miss Alice Eames in Lyons Falls New York.  This is the message on the back of the card: “Dear Alice, I received your letter yesterday and was so glad to hear from you.  We are having fine weather here.  The bathing suit is just OK.  Haven’t thought much about coming home.  Love to your mother and a good share for yourself.  Hastily, Gertrude” 
The Sagamore was launched in April of 1902.  She was the first steel hulled ship on Lake George.  The ship was initially 203 feet long, but at the end of her first season, it was determined that she was top heavy, so she was cut in two and another 20 feet was added in the middle.  She could carry 1,500 passengers at speeds up to 20 miles per hour. (17 knots) The ships saloon was finished in hazel with cherry trimming, corridors were paneled with mirrors and her furnishings were plush.  Of course the difference in those days is that the ships customers were not mere tourists as we are today, they were passengers bound for one of the great hotels on the lake…  A young Franklin D. Roosevelt was one of those passengers in the early days.

In July of 1927, the Sagamore rammed a rocky reef in the fog and began to sink.  The captain stuffed the hole with mattresses and he sailed the passengers to safety.  He then beached her in a cove as shown in the photo above.  She was repaired at a great cost and sailed for another 5 years.  With the onset of the Depression and mounting financial deficits, in 1933 she was withdrawn from service.  The Sagamore was finally scrapped in 1937… She was stripped of anything of value, with her upholstered armchairs selling for $5.00 each.
For a look at the many ships and the long history of the Lake George Steamboat Company, you can click on the following:
Just click on any of the photos to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by and sharing a bit of maritime history with me!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave


Sorry for the big space at the bottom of this edition of my blog... I couldn't make it go away!



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