New York/New York
1888 - 1923
the 1880s, the quest for size and speed was raging on the North
Atlantic. Owning and operating the largest, fastest or most luxurious guaranteed
a shipping company a whole lot of free publicity, something that was vital
in the fierce competition from other lines. Newspapers enthusiastically
reported the comings and goings of the great liners of the world, and the
public loved to read about the mind-boggling facts and specifications about
& Philadelphia Steam Ship Company, which had been founded in 1850,
was by now more known as the Inman Line, and it too wanted its share in
the action. However, financial and maritime troubles had scarred the company,
and they could simply not muster the necessary funds for the new ships
needed to match their rivals. The company was forced into voluntary liquidation
in 1886, when it could no longer find money for unpaid debts. It seemed
as if the Inman Line was to become history soon.
soon came, from an American financier by the name of Clement Acton Griscom.
His consortium, the International Navigation Company, already had the Belgian
company Red Star Line and the American Line under its wings, and following
negotiation, the Inman Line
was purchased and became the third separate subsidiary of the INC. With
this, the company was renamed the Inman & International Line. All of
a sudden, funds for new tonnage was available through the INC.
|The lovely lines of the
City of New York.
the company could approach the shipyards of J. & G. Thomson, Glasgow,
and place an order for two new vessels. Not just any vessels, these two
were intended to turn the Inman & International into one of the finest
shipping companies operating on the North Atlantic. The blueprints called
for the largest and fastest liners on the run so far, with a size exceeding
the 10,000-ton mark. The two would be near identical sisters, and decorated
with great luxury.
of the two, labelled yard no. 240, was launched and christened City
of New York on March 15th, 1888. Her sister, the City
of Paris, would follow some seven months later. A little less than
five months later, on August 1st, the City of New York
was ready to set out on her maiden voyage from Liverpool to New York.
this event, the Inman & International Line could boast with operating
one of the absolute greatest ships on the North Atlantic run. The luxury
on board the City of New York was unprecedented; passengers could
enjoy such amenities as electric lighting, electric ventilation and not
to mention hot and cold running water. The public rooms were the finest
of its time, boasting such splendid areas as the walnut-panelled First
Class smoking room or the library, complete with stained glass windows
and 800 volumes. The City of New York also offered 14 private suites
for the really well-to-do, including a bedroom and sitting room done in
in the First Class dining saloon was adorned by a great glass dome, which
provided generous natural illumination. Throughout the ship’s career, this
dome would crash in under the rigors of the North Atlantic on numerous
occasions. There were in fact quite a few times that stewards had to seal
off the soaked areas, and the destroyed carpets and furniture had to be
replaced when the ship reached shore.
only revolutionary on the inside, the City of New York and her sister
were indeed something special on the outside as well. What almost seemed
as a throwback to the earlier days of sail, they had clipper-like bows,
complete with bowsprit. The three raked funnels amidships were accompanied
by three masts, ready to set sail should it ever be necessary. This was
a time of great evolution of the steamers, and the two Inman sisters introduced
a feature that would once and for all make sails a thing of the past –
twin screws. On earlier liners, the engines had been geared to a single
propeller. Propeller shafts snapping in mid-ocean was not uncommon, and
when that happened, ships had to rely on sails to bring them to their final
destination. With two propellers, the chance of both shafts breaking down
was almost nil, and sails would never be used to any extent on either of
these two ships. Actually, the very first ship with twin screws on the North
Atlantic was the French Washington from 1864. Originally a paddle
steamer, this ship was rebuilt with two propellers in 1868. However, the
City of New York and her younger sister were the first ships originally
built with this propulsion arrangement.
voyage of the City of New York was a success, although she had not
been able to capture the Blue Riband from the current record-holder, Cunard
Line’s Etruria. Time would show that the City of Paris was
the faster of the two ships, holding the Blue
Riband for both east- and westbound
crossings at one point. However, the City of New York had her share
of the glory when in 1892 she set a new eastbound record with an average
speed of 20.11 knots. Although she lost the prize to Cunard’s speed queen
Campania the following year, she had proven her worth and lived
up to the expectations of her owners.
|A nice profile view
of the City of New York.
same year, 1892, the British government withdrew is subsidies from the
two Inman steamers. This meant financial worries for the company, and Griscom
came up with the solution of transferring the two ships within the INC,
to the American Line. Yet there was a catch – a US law that required American-flagged
vessels to be built in the country. Griscom was able to win the grant of
exception from congress, by promise to commission two new liners from American
shipyards. These two ships were to be the St. Louis and the St.
Paul. It was also agreed that the ships were to be available for possible
on February 22nd 1893, the City of New York was transferred
to the American Line and registered under the American flag. With this
event, the trademark Inman-prefix ‘City of’ was removed, and the ship was
renamed simply New York. With a slightly decreased passenger capacity,
the New York was placed on the company’s New York-Southampton route. She
remained in this service for the following five years. Then, her commercial
career was interrupted by war.
the US government appropriated the New York for use as an auxiliary
cruiser. She was sent to the Newport News Shipbuilding and Dry Docks Company
to receive her batteries and be converted for navy use. The vessel was
renamed USS Harvard, and was commissioned on April 26th,
1898 at New York, and placed under the command of Captain C. S. Cotton.
The vessel was then sent to the West Indies assigned as a scout, to help
locate the Spanish fleet. On June 7th 1898, the Harvard
went back to Newport News. She remained there until June 26th,
when she was given new duties of carrying troops and supplies to Cuba.
the naval battle of Santiago, the Harvard was ordered to aid in
the rescue of Spanish sailors from the burning wrecks of the Almirante
Oqunedo and the Maria Teresa. Dropping nine of the ship’s boats
and sending them into the turmoil of firing and exploding ammunition, the
crew of the Harvard was able to rescue 35 officers and 637 men from
the wrecks. Many of the saved Spanish sailors had lost everything in the
horrible carnage of the fires on board their ships, and they were given
new clothing, hats and shoes upon their arrival on board the Harvard.
The most seriously injured were transferred to the hospital ship Solace,
while the others were incarcerated on the Harvard as prisoners of
war. But this heroic effort was soon to be overshadowed by a tragic event
that would be known as ‘The Harvard Incident’.
4th 1898, the Harvard lay at anchor off Siboney, Cuba.
The prisoners of war were being guarded by members of the 4th
Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. A line had been marked on the ship's
deck, beyond which the prisoners were not allowed to pass. Near midnight,
a prisoner appeared to make an attempt to cross the line. No one knew why,
it was later suggested that he might have been trying to avoid the heat.
He was ordered to return, but failed to do so, possibly because he did
not speak English. The sentry fired, causing the other prisoners to rise
to their feet. Thinking that the Spanish prisoners were about to attack,
the men of the 4th Massachusetts fired a volley into the mass
of prisoners. When the smoke had lifted and order had been restored, six
Spaniards lay dead and thirteen more were injured. The incident was found
to have occurred through ‘a sad mistake’.
this tragic event, the Harvard was used for transporting American
troops back to the US. On her final war voyage, she left Santiago on August
21st and arrived at Montauk Point on August 25th,
1898. She was then decommissioned on September 2nd, and returned
to her owners and given back the name New York. In January the next
year she resumed her regular New York-Southampton service.
after only three days of her first post-war crossing, the New York’s
starboard engine broke down. The ship was brought
to Southampton, were the she
went through repairs. Three months later, she was ready to resume service.
In April that same year, she was again taken out of service, this time
in order to go through a rather extensive refit. The ship’s original triple-expansion
engines were replace by new ones, and her three funnels were replaced with
two taller ones. On April 14th 1903, the New York was
back on the Atlantic, as usual on the New York-Southampton trade. She remained
in that service for the following decade.
|The New York at
sea, sporting her new guise with only two funnels.
What was to be the New York's
perhaps most famous incident occurred on April 10th 1912, when she nearly collided
with the Titanic on her maiden departure. While the brand-new White Star liner was moving down
the River Test to reach open waters, she passed the New York which was moored on the
outside of the Oceanic. As the Titanic passed the two ships, hydrodynamic forces
pulled the New York from her moorings and she was drawn towards the Titanic. Yet
swift action taken by the Titanic's bridge crew and tugboats in the vicinity managed to
keep the two ships from colliding. The collision and the subsequent delay it would have caused to the
Titanic's maiden voyage was avoided. It is easy to suspect that history might have looked
a lot different if the collision had not been prevented from happening.
In 1913, the New York
was evidently an old ship, and newer vessels had made her very old-fashioned
and outdated. With this in mind, the American Line decided to remove the
ship’s First Class fittings and make her a Second- & Third Class-ship
only. In 1914, she was transferred to the New York-Liverpool run.
same year, the First World War broke out. The major liners of the world,
such as the Olympic, Aquitania, Mauretania, Kaiser
Wilhelm der Grosse and Kronprinz Wilhelm were called in for
war duties. But the now ageing New York was not required for immediate
military service, and she remained on her commercial run through nearly
the whole conflict. But in 1918, she was again taken by the US Navy and
commissioned as the USS Plattsburg. In this guise, she made eleven
cruises to Europe carrying troops to war zone as part of the final offensive
against Imperial Germany, and then bringing them home. She was returned
to the American Line on October 6th, 1919.
was given back her name New York, had one of her three masts removed,
and resumed transatlantic service in 1920. Being a very old ship, she stayed
with the American Line only for another nine months. In 1921, the New
York was sold to the Polish Navigation Co. who retained her name and
used her for one round voyage New York-Antwerp-Danzig-Southampton-Cherbourg-Brest-New
York. Her new company was in serious financial difficulties and the ship
was then seized for debt and sold. In 1922 she went to the Irish American
Line and later the same year to the United Transatlantic Line. On June
10th 1922, she left New York for the last time for the American
Black Sea Line on a voyage to Naples and Constantinople where she was sold
for demolition at auction by order of the US government. The New York
spent her last days in Genoa, where she was scrapped in 1923.
|The City of New York/New
York - Specifications:
||560 feet (171.1 m)
||63 feet (19.3 m)
||10,508 gross tons
||Steam triple expansion
engines turning two propellers.