1889 - 1923
the 1880s, the evolution of the steamship was progressing at
a rapid pace. The old remnants from the days of sail were beginning to
disappear in favour of the new-style design of blunt bows and tier decks.
On the North Atlantic the race was on, and the company who could boast
with operating the Blue Riband-holder was guaranteed a lot of free publicity.
was all very appealing to every shipping line working on the Atlantic route,
and everyone wanted their share. The Inman Line, founded as the Liverpool
& Philadelphia Steam Ship Company in 1850, was of course no exception.
However, the company had had more than its share of misfortunes, financial
and maritime, through the last years and the state of the company was poor.
New ships were needed, but there was simply no way that the company could
afford any newbuilds.
the company was forced into voluntary liquidation, when it could no longer
raise funds for unpaid debts. Yet rescue was not far away. The American
financier Clement Acton Griscom, who already had under his ownership the
Belgian company Red Star Line and the American Line, purchased the bankrupt
Inman Line and made it the third separate subsidiary of his consortium
International Navigation Company. The Inman Line was renamed Inman &
International Line, and suddenly funds for new vessels were available.
now placed an order for two new ships from the shipyards of J. & G.
Thomson, Glasgow. Not just any ships, though.
The blueprints showed
ships of unprecedented size, with the exception of Isambard Brunel’s Great
Eastern of 1860. The lure of the Blue Riband had also affected the
Inman & International Line, and so it had been decided that the two
new ships would be built with great speed in mind.
|The City of Paris
at the dockside, in the early 1890s.
of the two ships (yard no. 240) was launched on March 15th 1888,
and was named City of New York. A little more than seven months
later, on October 20th, yard no. 241 left the slipway and was
named City of Paris.
these two ships might have appeared somewhat old-fashioned. Ships like
the White Star’s first Oceanic had already introduced the blunt
bow that would remain on steamships until the 1930s, but the
two new Inman liners were constructed with clipper bows, complete with
a graceful bowsprit. Amidships, three raked funnels stood tall and beautiful.
The ships were fitted with three masts, ready to set sail if necessary,
but that was merely an ultimate safety precaution. Earlier steamships had
been constructed with a single propeller geared to their engines, and if
something went wrong they had to rely on sails to take them to their destination.
Propeller shafts snapping in mid-ocean was not very uncommon and without
sails, ships would have been left drifting helplessly. But with the City
of New York and City of Paris, an engineering novelty was introduced
on the North Atlantic – twin screws. The risk of both shafts breaking was
very low, and sails would never be used to any extent on these new 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 Paris and her older sister were the first ships originally
built with this propulsion arrangement.
highly efficient triple-expansion engines geared to their two propellers,
the speed called for to conquer the Blue Riband would surely be achieved.
But besides fast, these ships were also very safe. Their hulls were subdivided
into 16 sections by 15 transverse bulkheads that rose 15 feet above the
waterline. Below saloon deck, there were no openings – not even watertight
doors – in the bulkheads.
of 1889, the City of Paris was finally completed. The following
month, she set out on her maiden voyage, from Liverpool to New York. Although
her engines worked flawlessly, it would take a little more time before
she could capture the Blue Riband from the current champion – the Cunard
I doubt that the passengers exploring the new City of Paris cared
much about the absence of a speed-record. The interior design of the two
new Inman liners was indeed something extra. The First Class Dining Room
could seat 420 people, and its ceiling was adorned by a glass dome. Furthermore,
first class passengers could enjoy the comforts of the walnut-panelled
smoking room or the library, complete with 800 volumes and stained-glass
windows. For those who wanted a little privacy, the City of New York
and City of Paris offered 14 private suites, with a bedroom and
sitting room done in Victorian style. The comforts on the high seas were
unquestionable, at least in first class.
was still of great concern to the City of Paris’ owners, and by
the summer of 1889, she was the record-holder in both eastbound and westbound
directions, having crossed with an average speed of about 20 knots. However,
in 1891, her westbound record was beaten by White Star’s Majestic.
One year later, in 1892, she lost the eastbound honour to her sister, the
City of New York. But that same year, she once more set a new westbound
record, that would stand until 1893 and the arrival of Cunard’s Campania.
|The USS Yale in
Cuban waters, 1898.
1892, the British government withdrew their subsidies from the City
of Paris and her sister. Griscom then found it best to transfer them
within the International Navigation Company. His intention was to register
them under the US flag, operated by the American Line, but there was one
problem: an American law requiring American-flagged ships to be built in
the United States. Griscom found a solution to this problem, by winning
the grant of exception from Congress. In return, he promised to order for
the American Line two new ships built at US shipyards. These subsequently
became the St. Louis and the St. Paul. And so, the two
Inman sisters were transferred
to the American Line. The Inman trademark ‘City of’-prefix was removed,
and the two vessels were renamed simply Paris and New York.
their new company, the Paris and New York operated on the
New York-Southampton run. The Paris did so successfully until April
1898, when she was chartered by the US Navy for military use in the Spanish-American
War. Renamed the USS Yale, she served as an auxiliary cruiser in
the West Indies and later also as a transport. Although this military career
did not last long, the Yale was involved in action a number of times.
In Cuban waters, she was a few times under fire and replied in kind. Fortunately,
she went through unscathed, and was returned to the American Line after
five months of Navy service, in September 1898.
back the name Paris, the ship was returned to the company’s New
York-Southampton route. In 1899, however, she was involved in a major mishap.
Steaming in dense fog, a few hours out of Southampton, the Paris
ran aground off the Manacles, Cornwall. The ship sprung a leak and was
wedged between the rocks for three weeks. Compressed air was used to free
the hull from water, allowing the holes to be cemented over. When made
seaworthy, the Paris was towed to Belfast for reparations.
American Line decided that the Paris needed more than just reparations.
While in Belfast, her three funnels were replaced with two taller ones,
and her name was changed to Philadelphia. Shortly afterwards, her
middle mast was also removed and with these changes, her appearance was
changed dramatically. Returned to her owners, the Philadelphia was
used on the Southampton-Cherbourg-New York service. She stayed on this
route for a little more than a decade, but she was being outmatched fast
by newer ships. While still fast and safe in comparison with other ships,
the Philadelphia’s exterior and interior designs were now hopelessly
outdated. So, in 1913, her first class accommodations were removed, and
the ship was reassigned to the Liverpool-New
|The Paris rebuilt
as the Philadelphia. Her middle mast has not yet been removed.
in 1914, the First World War erupted. The passenger traffic on the North
Atlantic was changed dramatically as the large liners of the day were called
in for military duties. Older ships like the Philadelphia were not
as attractive for such use, and the old speed champion continued her commercial
service. However, in 1918, the US Navy requisitioned her once again for
military purposes. In this guise, she was renamed USS Harrisburg
and was used to transport troops to Europe. During this last year of the
war, she transported 30,000 troops and steamed 270,000 miles. Following
the Armistice of 1919, she was used for repatriation work. Decommissioned
in December of 1919, the old ship was returned to her owners and given
back the name Philadelphia.
the now aged Philadelphia was put on the New York-Plymouth-Cherbourg-Southampton
run. However, the American Line did not have much interest in her, and
in 1922 she was sold to the New York-Naples Steamship Co., her intended
service being Gibraltar-Naples-Palermo-Piraeus-Constantinople. Within this
company, she only made one voyage. She left New York with Constantinople
as destination, but when the ship approached her first port-of-call – Naples
– the ship was a floating problem. The company was facing heavy financial
difficulties, and the crew had become mutinous. After an attempt to scuttle
the ship had been made, the officers were forced to patrol the decks with
the ship’s arrival in Naples, the authorities came on board and arrested
the crew. The abandoned ship was left alone, and it eventually drifted
ashore. Subsequently, she was sold for scrap. In 1923, she was towed to
Genoa where she was broken up.
|The City of Paris/Paris/Philadelphia
||560 feet (170.8 m)
||63 feet (19.2 m)
||Originally 10,499 gross
tons, 10,786 gross tons when rebuilt as the Philadelphia.
engines turning two propellers.
||Originally 1,740 people,
1,265 people when rebuilt as the Philadelphia.