The Little Ship that Couldn't

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Image found on Wikipedia
Image of General Slocum found on Wikipedia

Last month I posted an article about a new piece to the collection, an one cent token from the Knickerbocker Steamboat Company, which had been in the pocket of a survivor of the June 15, 1904 disaster on the ship, General Slocum. (Click HERE to see that post)  I have spent a lot of time researching the ship and the disaster in an effort to create various articles about it, including one for our Member’s Magazine, Ahoy!.  In the course of this research, I have started calling poor General Slocum the little ship that couldn’t.  Why?  Well, because she had numerous problems throughout her fairly short career.

She was built in 1891 by Devine Burtis of Brooklyn, New York (keel laid December 23, 1890) and was launched on April 18, 1891.  She was owned by the Knickerbocker Steamboat Company and was sister ship to Grand Republic.  From the beginning, General Slocum had a number of missteps:   Read more

Sinking of the steamboat General Slocum

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We receive quite a number of amazing donations here at The Mariners’ Museum, but every now and then we receive something this has such an amazing and touching story that we can’t help but be affected.  One such recent donation is an one cent token from the Knickerbocker Steamship Company, donated by Robert Zipse.  This token, and others like it, were used to purchase goods while on one of the Knickerbocker Company vessels.  What makes this particular token (pictured below) so special is the sentimentality and meaning attached to it by the man whose life was forever changed by a day that was supposed to be filled with joy and fun.

On June 15, 1904, St. Mark’s Evangelical Lutheran Church chartered the Knickerbocker Steamboat General Slocum for their annual excursion and picnic to Locust Grove.  St. Mark’s was located in area of Manhattan known as Little Germany as there was a large population of German immigrants in the neighborhood, including many who had only recently arrived.  As this excursion was on a weekday, it was mostly attended by women and children.  This included William F. Zipse (pictured below in 1906) who at the time was 15 years old, his mother Sophie Zipse (pictured below on the day of her wedding) and William’s five siblings, Sophia (17), Mary (13), Louise (10), Helen (3) and Albert (1).   Read more