USS Neversail: The Landlocked Ship That Made Its Own Waves

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Recruiting poster showing USS Recruit. Carlton T. Chapman, artist, ca. 1917. The Mariners’ Museum and Park 1998.33.28

During World War I, a Navy vessel ‘sailed’ the concrete of New York City for three years. The only water it ever encountered was from the sky and the city’s municipal water supply. The battleship, nicknamed “USS Neversail” and the “Street Dreadnaught,” was officially christened USS Recruit.

This recruiting poster depicts Recruit proudly steaming through the waves, leading other vessels in its wake. In reality, Recruit was constructed, commissioned, manned, decommissioned, and dismantled without ever touching an ocean. Yet despite being landlocked, the ship played an important role during World War I.   Read more

Tell Me About It: Colonial Line Pier

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Colonial Lines Pier, New York City
Close view of the Colonial Lines Pier in New York, c.1930

This 1930s photograph grabbed my attention with its jam-packed composition and crisp morning light. Taken from the water, it is a spectacular view of the Colonial Line pier with New York City in the background.

Tell me about it: Is that a bell tower in the foreground part of the pier? What would it have been used for? I would love to hear your thoughts in the Comments area below!

The Museum’s cataloging tends to focus on the vessels in a photograph, so this image was identified as Meteor, the name of the steamer at dock, but she is barely visible. To me, the image reveals so much more: a booming city with its skyscrapers peeking above the pier in the foreground. Meteor provided service between New York and New Bedford. The Colonial Line was located at Pier 44 on the North River, known today as the Hudson River.

The Forgotten Faces of Titanic series: The Story of Richard Norris Williams II

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People in life jackets
Women and Children First, ca. 1912-1915
Courtesy of The Mariners’ Museum and Park

One fateful night 107 years ago, a ship on its maiden voyage from Southampton, England, to New York City, struck an iceberg and began its long journey into the annals of maritime history. Passengers and crew members came from all corners of the world, including close to 300 Americans. Richard Norris Williams II was one of those traveling on board Titanic

At just 21 years old, Richard Norris Williams II was already an accomplished tennis player and was studying at Harvard University. Richard and his father were heading home to play in a tournament and came aboard as first-class passengers in Cherbourg, France. As first-class passengers onboard a White Star liner, they enjoyed all the amenities that the ship had to offer, including barbershop, daily newspaper, gymnasium, heated pools, elegant meals, and more.

After striking the iceberg, many of the passengers were finding their way to the main deck. Confusion ensued as the lifeboats were lowered into the water below. Some were not even completely full. Richard and his father were among those who jumped into the frigid water, clinging to the side of a nearby lifeboat. Richard was rescued by R.M.S. Carpathia, but sadly, his father was lost. 

While aboard Carpathia, Robert was given the devastating news that his legs would have to be amputated due to hypothermia. However, he profusely refused this treatment. It took some time but Robert eventually regained the use of his legs.

Just two months later, Robert was playing in a tournament outside Boston against Karl Behr, a tennis player who also survived the sinking. From 1913 to 1926, Robert’s tennis career intensified, winning the following championships:

  • Intercollegiate Singles titles in 1913 and 1915
  • Doubles titles in 1914 and 1915
  • US Nationals Men’s Single Championships in 1914 and 1916
  • US Mixed Doubles Championship with Mary K. Boone in 1912
  • Men’s Doubles at Wimbledon in 1920
  • Gold Medal winner at 1924 Olympics in Mixed Doubles with Hazel Hotchkiss (Wightman)
  • US Men’s Doubles in 1925 and 1926

In between winning tennis championships, Robert joined the American Expeditionary Forces during World War I. Because he served with distinction, he was awarded the Croix de Guerre and the Legion of Honor. After the war, he came back to the world of tennis and was later inducted in the International Tennis Hall of Fame in 1957. Once his playing days were over, he became an investment banker in Philadelphia and served as president of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

Robert Norris Williams II died June 2, 1968, from emphysema. He is interred at St. David’s Churchyard in Devon, Pennsylvania. 

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