A Taste of the Past

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Click for a large view. From The Mariners’ Museum collection.

Greetings readers, and welcome back to the Library blog. In its day, the SS United States was the pinnacle of transatlantic transportation. Passengers could travel in style, and enjoy all manner of comforts from air conditioning to news broadcasts. The luxury of the voyage was also present in their dining, as a rich tapestry of food options was presented for each meal. Roughly 55 years ago on a Friday in 1957, passengers on the SS United States were treated to the following menu for their dinner.

This particular menu has a host of delicious and elegantly prepared dishes available. While the quality of this fare would be customary to the richer and more sophisticated guests on board, humbler passengers of average means would no doubt have been elated to see soups, fish, fruits, roasts, entrees, cakes and ice creams all so richly prepared and served together on a single menu. The extra care and specialization put into its cuisine is apparent in the translation of the menu text into German for the convenience of the German guests, and everyone who dined on that particular Friday would no doubt have remembered it prominently – at least until breakfast the next morning. It’s refreshing to see that the SS United States took as much care in feeding its guests as it did in crossing the Atlantic as quickly as it could be done.   Read more

Tuesdays Past and Present

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Click on the picture for a much, much better view. From The Mariners’ Museum collection.

Hello everyone, and welcome back to the Library blog. This blog mentions the SS United States with some frequency, but I’m sure many people are curious what a typical day might be like aboard one of her Caribbean cruises. The Mariners’ Museum Library has a large collection of programs from the SS United States, which offer a glimpse into one of those days – but how does a cruise aboard the SS United States compare to a modern one? How would your average Tuesday differ from past to present? Using the below pictured program, we can compare its Tuesday in 1962 to a modern Carnival cruise line’s Tuesday in 2008, which can be viewed in its entirety HERE. Both vessels arrive at St. Thomas on their respective Tuesdays, so let’s see how they compare!

On first inspection, the programs share some similarities: both have morning religious service followed by breakfast, a morning excursion to the island, lunch, dinner, and entertainment. However, a number of differences present themselves. First, the SS United States seems to have a much shorter program than the Carnival line. The SS United States program covers only the basic events of the day, while the Carnival program extensively lists each and every activity aboard ship by time and location. Carnival features a schedule teeming with family activities, sports, games, music and movies in large number: the SS United States program only has one movie, two cocktail hours, a swimming pool, afternoon tea and a dance.   Read more

Scraps of the Past

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Click on the picture to read the text! From The Mariners’ Museum collections.

Hello readers and welcome back to the Library bog. Some of you may remember a previous Director of The Mariners’ Museum named William Wilkinson, who served from 1973 until 1991. When Wilkinson passed away in March of 2010 he left behind a grand legacy to the Museum, which includes the Chesapeake Bay gallery, recognition of the Mueum as a prestigious museum, and a beautiful treasure: a scrapbook on the SS United States.

Wilkinson’s scrapbook contains a wide variety of material, from articles and photographs to souvenir logs and even meal menus. The largest collection of items is a series of articles covering a range of topics that are almost entirely comprised of newspaper clippings. These clippings report on the launching of the ship, her attainment of the transatlantic speed record, and many other notable features the ship possesses. After the articles, the most numerous type of object is a series of meal menus. These menus detail some of the exquisitely prepared breakfast, lunch and dinner options available to the passengers. Some of the options make ones’ mouth water, but others – like Smoked Ox Tongue and Boiled Pig’s Knuckles from the July 20th 1957 Luncheon Menu – force your eyes to quickly dart away before your appetite spoils.   Read more

A Pressing Issue

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The Leviathan. From The Mariners’ Museum collection.

Hello everyone, and welcome back to the Library blog. The Daily Press just printed an article by Michael Welles Shapiro reviewing the new book by Steven Ujifusa, “A Man and his Ship: America’s Greatest Naval Architect and his Quest to Build the SS United States.”  The book explores the tenacity displayed by SS United States chief designer William Francis Gibbs in his efforts to get the ships he designed built over the years, with great emphasis given to the SS United States. In order to highlight Gibbs’ determination Ujifusa covers an incident early in his career, when a great deal of friction erupted between Gibbs and the shipyard president Homer Ferguson over the redesign of a ship called the Leviathan after World War I.

Ferguson made a below-cost bid on the shipbuilding rights to the ship and wanted to make up his deficit by charging money for a boatload of design changes to the ship specifications. Gibbs would have none of that – he designed the Leviathan with a specific set of specifications and refused to allow any alterations to her blueprints that would increase her cost. Ferguson ended up getting in trouble for losing money on the Leviathan, but his resignation was not accepted. As for Gibbs, his determination in getting his ships built paid off for him when he designed the SS United States.   Read more

A Byte of History

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People who remember traveling on the great ship have bought bits of the places that were special to them, like the Promenade Deck pictured above. From The Mariners' Museum Collection.

Hello readers, and welcome back to the Library blog. Julie Zauzmer, a staff writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, posted an interesting article on Philly.com today (article HERE). The SS United States Conservancy has created a virtual copy of the SS United States in order to raise money for the conservation of the real ship. Donors can purchase virtual pieces of the vessel for the price of $1 per square inch, and use that space to display things like photographs and messages. Creating a virtual ship like this is an interesting step not just the SS United States, but for museums in general: when you need to quickly raise funds or awareness for a project, what better way than by using the internet? The Conservancy has given an electronic version of the ship to the people, and let them run with it.

Financially, the project is off to an admirable start. The Conservancy needs $25 million to renovate the ship and convert its interior into a museum, and has raised $6 million already. The catch is that their current allotment of money will only allow them to hold on to the ship until November of this year. After that, the SS United States will be sold for scrap metal. A poor end for the flagship of the American merchant fleet and the world’s fastest transatlantic passenger ship.   Read more