Installation of Feliks Topolski Drawings of the Eastern Front in 1941 Opens at The Wolfsonian–FIU

•November 21, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Todays post comes to you courtesy of Associate Librarian, Dr. Nicolae Harsanyi. Dr. Harsanyi, a native of Romania, is a scholar with expertise in Eastern European politics and history. He was asked by the museum to work on an installation of original drawings by Polish artist Feliks Topolski that opened a couple of days ago because he is not only fluent in Russian, but is particularly knowledgeable about the history of the Soviet Union and its relations with its near neighbors. Topolski was living in England when the Second World War broke out following the German (and Soviet) invasion of Poland in September, 1939. Following the German attack on the Soviet Union in the summer of 1941, Topolski accompanied the first British relief convoy sent to Russia to help them defend Moscow, as Stalin would not allow foreign photographers to document front line conditions. As a Polish national, Topolski was granted access by the Soviet regime to visit the Polish army prisoners who were being reformed into units intended to repel the Nazi invaders. (As many as 22,000 Polish officers and intelligentsia captured and rounded up by the Soviet invaders had previously been secretly massacred in the Katyn Forest by order of the Soviet Politburo in April and May, 1940). Dr. Harsanyi did much of the research on the items selected for inclusion in the installation and the descriptive text accompanying those images in the exhibition catalog. Here is his report.

The installation “An Artist on the Eastern Front: Feliks Topolski, 1941” opened this past Thursday. The items exhibited in the last gallery on the fifth floor of the museum are part of the Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf Collection donated to the Wolfsonian–FIU nearly two years ago.  Out of the 57 original drawings donated by the Sharfs, curator Jon Mogul and I have selected 26 original drawings for public display.



The installation was designed by Richard Miltner, our museum’s chief exhibition designer.


Before its public unveiling, the museum staff participated in a curator-led tour of the exhibition. In his opening remarks, Jon Mogul mentioned the importance of the donation for the holdings of the Wolfsonian.


He then went on to present an outline of the life and work of Feliks Topolski.



In my turn, I spoke about some details regarding Topolski’s trip to the Soviet Union, a few months after the country had been invaded by Nazi Germany and its allies.  I also mentioned the circumstances in which Stalin intended to set up a Polish army which would fight the invaders on the side of the Soviet military.


Both Jon and I also emphasized not only the documentary value of the work (scenes from life in the Soviet Union during the Second World War) but also the artistic mastery of Topolski’s drawings, which represent a fresh combination of expressionism and realism.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Gift of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf

On this occasion, the Wolfsonian also published a catalog including an essay by Laura Brandon on war artists, Jon Mogul’s review of Topolski’s life and career, as well as captioned reproductions of the drawings on display. The catalog is available for sale in the museum’s café and shop.


“Every Thursday at 4 p.m….”: Wolfsonian reminiscences of the Union Castle Line

•November 4, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Today’s post comes to you from Dr. Laurence Miller, who, after a lifetime of collecting ocean liner promotional materials, not only gifted them to The Wolfsonian—FIU library, but regularly volunteers his time a couple of days each week to help us document and catalog his collection. Here is Dr. Miller’s most recent post:

“Every Thursday at 4:00 p.m….” This most famous phrase associated with the Union Castle Line reflected the clockwork-like schedule for which the company was famous. Indeed, every Thursday at 4 p.m., a lavender–hulled Union Castle passenger, cargo and mail ship would sail from Southampton, England for South Africa; simultaneously, another would begin the voyage from Capetown to Southampton. To maintain this service—one of the longest in the world—required no less than eight vessels ranging from twenty to thirty thousand tons–small ships by today’s standards, but medium-sized in the immediate postwar era. Each accommodated approximately 650 passengers, (normally in two classes), which, considering the size of the ships, meant that there was an abundance of space per passenger on deck and in public rooms.

XC2008_09_1_273_78_008Laurence Miller Collection, The Wolfsonian—FIU

As passenger liners, the Union Castle vessels had some of the loveliest profiles afloat. The general impression was long and lean. In spite of the narrow-bodied hulls, the ships depended heavily on cargo to remain profitable, and there was keen demand for their cargo space. Machines, vehicles, textiles, apparel, glassware and general cargo were exported from Britain to South Africa. On the northbound sailings, cargo holds were filled with wool, hides, wines, and fruit.

XC2008. Miller Collection, The Wolfsonian—FIU

The large areas reserved for cargo space would eventually hasten the demise of the line once the industry shifted to container ships. The S.A. Vaal found new life as Carnival Cruise Line’s Festivale. Vice President for Operations at Carnival, Meshulam Zonis, inspected the ship and recommended her purchase. He also noted that the ship contained a special area for transporting gold.


Laurence Miller Collection, The Wolfsonian—FIU

Décor in passenger areas ranged from elegant to eccentric. The first class lounge of the Pendennis Castle provides an excellent example of Union Castle elegance; an example of the eccentric can be seen below in a suite sitting room complete with chintz and a fake fireplace!


Laurence Miller Collection, The Wolfsonian—FIU

If the brochure pictures are any guide, the evening ambiance was formal, as can be seen in this photographic illustration of the First Class dining room of Edinburgh Castle.

XC2008_09_1_273_52_014Laurence Miller Collection, The Wolfsonian—FIU

Although the ships of the Union Castle Line were comfortable rather than luxurious, it is the lifestyle on board during the long, leisurely voyages for which the vessels most likely will be remembered. Most passengers were using the ships as transportation, which lent the sailings both a sense of purpose and passenger lists reflecting many segments of British and South African society. The uncrowded, open decks provided abundant opportunity for outdoor enjoyment in good weather, although South African waters could be rough in winter. One of the later ships, the Pendennis Castle, was lengthened in the building yard to permit installation of stabilizers without sacrificing earning capacity.

XC2008_09_1_273_52_010Laurence Miller Collection, The Wolfsonian—FIU

First class accommodations catered to wealthy citizens of Britain and South Africa who traveled, often seasonally, between the two countries, while tourist class afforded emigrants and those of lesser means an affordable way to make the same journey. In both classes, there was extensive deck space where most passengers spent their days and, often, evenings as well. Most of the mail ships were not air-conditioned; rooms were designed accordingly with high ceilings, large windows opening onto shaded decks, and, one hopes, good ventilation. Bathrooms were often shared, even in first class; heavy carpeting was avoided to help create a cool atmosphere. Cabins, especially in tourist class, could be small, perhaps reflecting the limited time spent in them as opposed to on deck.

XC2008_09_1_273_52_006Laurence Miller Collection, The Wolfsonian—FIU

After arriving in Capetown, southbound ships went on to Port Elizabeth, East London, and Durban, South Africa affording South Africans a reasonably priced ten-day round trip vacation voyage between Capetown and the city and popular beach resort of Durban. On the northern end of the mail service, Britons could use the vessels as an inexpensive but pleasant means of reaching Madeira and Las Palmas at any time of the year.
There was no need to forsake maritime surroundings after arrival in Capetown; the line built the Mount Nelson Hotel surrounded by a nicely shaded park and with furnishings from older, retired Union Castle liners. It ensured that passengers had appropriate accommodations in South Africa and reminds one of the hotels Matson Lines built in Honolulu for the same purpose.

XC2008_09_1_273_52_012rtLaurence Miller Collection, The Wolfsonian—FIU

Up until July, 1965, Union Castle offered 13 ½ day voyage lengths for the United Kingdom to Capetown mail service; after that date the company accelerated them to 11 ½-day passages. In fact, Pretoria and Edinburgh had been built more than fifteen years earlier with higher service speeds built into their design. The Mail Service finally ended 120 years to the day from its inception. The final sailing of the mail service was made by a cargo ship, the Southampton Castle, on 24 October 1977. While the mail service garnered most of the attention, the line concurrently maintained a monthly ‘Round Africa service in each direction using vessels of about 17,000 tons. The complete voyage took about two months.

XC2008_09_1_273_46_000Laurence Miller Collection, The Wolfsonian—FIU

A Dedication to Liberty: A Wolfsonian—FIU Reflection on the Anniversary of the Dedication of the Statue of Liberty

•October 28, 2015 • Leave a Comment

In a dedication ceremony presided over by U.S. President Grover Cleveland and attended by numerous French dignitaries, the last rivet was fitted onto the monumental Statue of Liberty anchored on its pedestal in New York harbor on this day in 1886. This gift of friendship from the French people was originally called “Liberty Enlightening the World” and conceived of as a tribute to the Franco-American alliance forged during the American War of Independence.

The 151-foot statue of a woman holding high the torch of liberty was designed by French sculptor, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi (1834-1904), and its copper wrought and assembled in Paris.




The steel structure needed to support the giant copper shell was jointly designed by the architect Eugène Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc (1814-1879) and finished after his death by Alexandre Gustave Eiffel (1832-1923)—latter to win international fame as the designer of Paris’ iconic Eiffel Tower.


The statue was completed in France in May, 1884, and three months later the cornerstone of the pedestal was laid on Bedloe’s Island in New York harbor. Afterwards, the statue was dismantled and shipped in pieces to the United States in more than two hundred individual crates.


The images from this post derive from the book, The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World, described and inscribed by the sculptor Bartholdi, and published in New York in 1885 “for the Benefit of the Pedestal Fund.”


When Ellis Island was opened as the central immigration processing station in 1892, the nearby Statue of Liberty became a symbol of hope for those seeking a new life in the United States.


Since that time, Lady Liberty’s image has been invoked to instill a sense of patriotism, most especially in times when American liberty seemed threatened by winds of war. Once the United States became directly involved in the Great War in 1917, sheet music covers and even children’s books reproduced this great symbol of liberty and Franco-American friendship to sell citizens on the necessity of intervening in the “European conflict” on the side of our old ally.


Gift of Francis Xavier Luca and Clara Helena Palacio Luca



Gift of Pamela K. Harer

A propaganda poster designed by Armando Vassallo also used Lady Liberty, (combined with the flags of the Entente allies), to welcome America into the fight against autocracy.


Another powerful liberty bond poster used a decapitated Lady Liberty and New York City burning in the background to graphically depict the worst case scenario of what might befall America and liberty if she were to lose the war.


Gift of Henry Hacker

A label printed to celebrate the Armistice that ended the Great War also depicted the Statue of Liberty.


Victory Gold Levi Collection, The Wolfsonian—FIU

Between 1929 and 1939, during the difficult decade of worldwide depression and the rise of fascism in Europe, Lady Liberty was used in propaganda designed by the critics of American capitalism. In a block book printed (but not published) by the Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA) during the infamous Scottsboro race trial, Lady Liberty has been displaced by a Ku Klux Klansman wielding a machine gun and holding a hang man’s noose, and sporting a dollar sign and swastika.


One of the CPUSA’s most prolific artists, Hugo Gellert (1892-1985) portrayed a distressed Lady Liberty with a burned-out torch on the lining papers of his illustrated satire, Comrade Gulliver: An Illustrated Account of Travel into that Strange Country the United States of America.


On the opposite side of the political spectrum, Italian fascists also recognized the importance of the image of the Statue of Liberty, and deployed it in propaganda materials commemorating a “good-will” transatlantic flight to the Chicago world’s fair—a feat that also demonstrated the power and reach of Mussolini’s fascist state.


In 1938, Vaughn Shoemaker, the American cartoonist responsible for creating and popularizing “John Q. Public,” returned from a trip to troubled Europe and bestowed a grateful kiss on Lady Liberty.


But it was the threat and then outbreak of the Second World War that brought the image of the Statue of Liberty back into the American consciousness. In 1941, artist Harry Gottlieb depicted Lady Liberty as a literal beacon of freedom for those fleeing Fascist and Nazi oppression in Europe.


Natacha Carlu’s poster printed by the Free French Press and Information Service in 1942 coupled Lady Liberty with Marianne and the slogan: “Liberty…Sweet Liberty…Guide and Support Our Vengeful Arms.”


Other graphic artists preparing Americans for wartime service once the United States entered the conflict also deployed Lady Liberty in a barrage of propaganda posters, pamphlets, postcards, envelopes and stationery.




Gift of Leonard A. Lauder




Victory Gold Levi Collection, The Wolfsonian—FIU

Achille’s Keel: A Wolfsonian Glimpse of the Achille Lauro on the Anniversary of the Hijacking

•October 10, 2015 • 1 Comment

On October 7th, 1985, four heavily armed Palestinian Liberation Front terrorists hijacked the Italian liner, Achille Lauro in the Mediterranean Sea just off the coast of Alexandria, Egypt. While hundreds of passengers had disembarked earlier that day to visit Cairo and make excursions to the ancient pyramids, 320 crewmembers and 80 passengers aboard the cruise ship were taken hostage. The hijackers demanded the release of 50 Palestinian militants imprisoned in Israel and threatened to kill the Americans and British passengers and blow up the ship if their demands were not met.

The Achille Lauro sailed to Syria, but was refused permission to anchor. The terrorists responded by shooting and pushing a wheelchair-bound Jewish-American passenger, Leon Klinghoffer, overboard. The ship was piloted to Port Said, and on October 9th negotiators convinced the hijackers to free the remaining hostages and to surrender to Egyptian authorities in exchange for safe passage. On October 10th, the hijackers boarded an EgyptAir Boeing 737 airliner in Cairo and headed for Tunisia. U.S. Navy F-14 fighter planes intercepted the airliner and forced it to land at a NATO base in Sicily, where the hijackers were taken into custody. The hijack participants were later tried, convicted, and sentenced to 15 to 30 year prison terms; the organizers of the plot were sentenced in absentia to life in prison.

The Achille Lauro has been inextricably linked in popular imagination to tragedy ever since. Promotional materials in The Wolfsonian–FIU library’s Laurence Miller Collection, however, present a rosier view of the liner in happier times.



The Wolfsonian–FIU, Laurence Miller Collection

Beautiful color photographs reproduced in advertising brochures celebrate the bright and modern interiors of the ship’s public rooms and lounges, and comfortable first and tourist class accommodations.




The Wolfsonian–FIU, Laurence Miller Collection

There was also the ubiquitous deck plan included to orient their travelers in the layout of the ship.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Laurence Miller Collection

The promotional literature also emphasized the “exotic” ports of call and destinations that prospective passengers would have the pleasure of visiting on a typical cruise.


The Wolfsonian–FIU, Laurence Miller Collection

The Achille Lauro—(which had originally been built by the Rotterdamsche Lloyd Line and had first been commissioned as the MS Willem Ruys)—had experienced other serious incidents over the course of some fifty years of service. In 1953, the ship collided with the MS Oranje and in 1975 with a cargo ship; in 1965, 1972, 1981, and 1994, the ship was plagued by serious onboard fires. The last one, originating with an explosion in the engine room, could not be contained and resulted in orders to abandon ship. The Achille Lauro subsequently sank in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Somalia on December 2nd, 1994.

Unhappy Anniversary: A Wolfsonian Reflection on the Abandonment of the Czechs and the Appeasement of Hitler, Munich, 1938

•September 30, 2015 • Leave a Comment

As is clear from some editorial cartoons published by the American cartoonist Vaughn Shoemaker (creator of “John Q. Public”) in September, 1938, Europeans experienced another great “war scare.” That month, Adolf Hitler made demands for a “greater Germany” and initiated a campaign of threats, bluff, and bluster designed to carve out more territory in the “heart” of Europe.


The WolfsonianFIU, Anonymous donor

Flushed with his recent success in engineering the relatively bloodless annexation of Austria into his “greater Germany,” in September, 1938, Herr Hitler turned his attention and appetite on the “German-speaking Sudetenland,” determined to wrest it away from the Czechoslovakian Republic created in the wake of the First World War. Hitler’s demands on September 22nd for the “immediate cession” of the territory and the removal of the Czech population by the month’s end triggered troop mobilization in Czechoslovakia and France and the threat of another European war.



The WolfsonianFIU, Anonymous donor

In an attempt to avert the crisis, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and French Prime Minister Edouard Daladier traveled to Munich to meet with Herr Hitler. If the Czechs hoped that Britain and France would honor their commitment to defend their nation in the event of a German invasion, the pact signed in Munich must have come as a grave shock.


The WolfsonianFIU, Anonymous donor

While Daladier was against appeasing and encouraging Nazi Germany’s aggressive and expansionist aims, his British counterpart was unprepared and unwilling to go to war over Czechoslovakia. In fact, Chamberlain not only cheerfully signed the Munich Pact, but stayed behind to sign another document with Hitler to ensure the future of an Anglo-German peace. Returning to England, Chamberlain addressed crowds of ecstatic Londoners claiming that the Munich Pact had secured “peace with honor” and “peace in our time.”


The WolfsonianFIU, Anonymous donor

The peace celebrations were decidedly short-lived, at least for the Czechoslovaks. The day after Chamberlain’s self-congratulatory speech in London, the Czechoslovak government capitulated to Hitler’s annexation demands, knowing their tiny army could not stand alone against the mighty German Wehrmacht.


The WolfsonianFIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Loan

Having whetted his insatiable appetite with the Sudetenland, Hitler annexed the remainder of the country in March 1939 and the Czech nation ceased to exist.


The WolfsonianFIU

While Neville Chamberlain momentarily appeared to be the master negotiator who saved the world from the threat of a second “Great War,” history has been less kind to his image and his influence. In a political parody of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland published before the outbreak of WWII in 1939, Chamberlain is depicted as the hookah-smoking caterpillar besting a diminutive Hitler.


The WolfsonianFIU, Gift of Pamela K. Harer

After Nazi Germany invaded Poland and provoked the Second World War, the British Prime Minister’s policy of appeasement fell into immediate disrepute, and images of Chamberlain are far less flattering.


The WolfsonianFIU, Gift of Martijn F. Le Coultre


The WolfsonianFIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection


The WolfsonianFIU, Gift of Francis Xavier Luca & Clara Helena Palacio Luca

For the Czechs, of course, that disillusionment came much earlier.


The WolfsonianFIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

The Making of…The Making of Miami Beach: New Wolfsonian–FIU Library Exhibit Opens Today

•September 18, 2015 • Leave a Comment

The last in a series of three library installations celebrating the City of Miami Beach’s centennial anniversary, Miami Beach: From Mangrove to Tourist Mecca, opens to the public today. This exhibit focuses on the early transformation and development of the island from a barren wilderness populated by crocodiles, rattlesnakes, raccoons, rats, and “mosquitoes by the millions,” to a burgeoning winter resort community for the nation’s well-to-do.



Images courtesy of the City of Miami Beach Historical Archive

Today’s post will focus not so much on the historic publicity photographs, brochures, and other printed materials that are on display, but on the installation of those works and on some of the other items considered, but left out of the show.

Three Florida International University graduates, James Little, Jeremy Salloum, and Paula de la Cruz-Fernandez, worked cooperatively to research, make the initial selections, and write the draft interpretative and descriptive labels for the exhibition, and put together a Powerpoint slide presentation for a kiosk screen. That raw material was then edited by myself, and sent on to exhibitions manager, Lisa Li Celorio and others in the curatorial department for further refining. As the curators did their fact-checking and proofing, and formatted and printed out labels, exhibition designer Richard Miltner, senior preparator William Kramer, and art handlers Steve Forero-Paz and Carlos Alejandro began the work on installing the artifacts in the display cases.




Because of the constraints of space, curators are constantly required to make difficult decisions as to what to include and what to “cut” from the final checklist of items to go on display. Fortunately, the internet offers an opportunity to provide our virtual visitors with a selection of materials–(many of them from the Washington Storage Archive)–that might also have been included in a larger exhibit about Miami Beach in the nineteen-teens and twenties. Vintage photographs not included in the exhibit picture the mangrove and palmetto scrub originally covering the island and an early view of Ocean Drive;

August 201593971a

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…the work done to cut and clear, dredge and fill, and expand and create new land for development;

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…the bathhouse casinos, aquarium, and luxury hotels built to attract and accommodate winter-weary Northern guests;

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The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

…the tea dances, swimming, golf, and tennis competitions, polo matches, and boating regattas organized to entertain those visitors;



The Wolfsonian–FIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

…the damage done to those early structures by the Great Hurricane of 1926;

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…and the building of and renovations made to The Washington Storage Company edifice now serving as The Wolfsonian museum.

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Another photograph not included in the exhibit pictures “a ‘big day’ at the Roman Pools Bathing Casino” on 23rd Street, circa 1918, when a lighter-than-air craft flew overhead.

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Another depicts the view of the same bathing casino with its distinctive windmill used to pump seawater into the pools.

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Another features an airplane race on the bay side of Miami Beach, capitalizing on the mania for the new flying machines and integrated into the Miami Midwinter Regatta boat races organized by Carl G. Fisher to promote tourism to his luxury hotels.

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Another photograph not included in the exhibit shows the “up-scale” guests at an exclusive dinner party on Miami Beach held inside one of the early “casinos” (or bath houses).


While we displayed a photograph of the exterior of one of the electric trolleys that ran from downtown Miami, across the County Causeway, and made a loop on Miami Beach, there were others I would have like to have included as well. A final couple of photos that didn’t make the “final cut” reveal quite a bit about societal norms in this period were shots of the interior of the trolley car with the signage for segregated seating.

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Cuba, “So Near And Yet So Foreign”: A Wolfsonian Glimpse Into An Era of Easy Access from the U.S. by Ship

•September 5, 2015 • 1 Comment

Even as most travel by U.S. citizens to Cuba remained illegal, as early as the summer of 2013 the American tour company, Road Scholar, began offering U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned “people-to-people” trips to the island with educational and cultural exchange itineraries. Road Scholar visitors could travel by chartered flights, or could travel by ship from Jamaica and Miami to Havana. Now, after more than fifty years of a policy of embargo, the Obama Administration has restored diplomatic ties, reopened an American embassy in Havana, and signaled its receptivity to potentially lifting the U.S. ban on travel to Cuba sometime in the near future. Ironically, after so many years of isolation, the island has truly become for most Americans a destination “so near and yet so foreign.” Ironically, this was the slogan coined by the (pre-Castro) Cuban Tourist Commission, which was intent on playing up Cuba’s exoticism to attract American visitors in the 1940s and 1950s.



Today’s blog post will take a look at some promotional materials from this earlier era when travel to the island “only 90 miles from Key West” was a simple thing for American tourists.

As I prepared to launch a new Wolfsonian-FIU library exhibition, “Miami Beach: From Mangrove to Tourist Mecca,” I chanced across an old photograph while rummaged through the Washington Storage Archive. On the verso of the vintage photo of The City of Miami was a handwritten note dated 1920 claiming that this was “the only ship in 1920 running between Miami + Havana, Winters only.” It would not monopolize the trade for long.

August 201594040


The Munson Steamship Line’s first passenger liner, the Munamar, had been built by Maryland Steel in Baltimore, and after the First World War served the eastern Cuba route. The New York based firm continued to offer cruises with stops in Nassau, Miami, and Havana until the company declared bankruptcy in 1937.



Eastern Steamship Line’s S.S. Evangeline, built in 1927 to accommodate more than 751 passengers, offered cruises of various lengths and regular weekly runs between the ports of New York, Nassau, Miami and Havana.

Eastern Steamship Lines 1

Clyde-Mallory Lines had a couple of ships providing direct overnight passenger service between Miami (“A Nation’s Winter Playland) and Havana (“Paris of the Western World”) during the winter season of 1929/30.



Even after the onset of the Great Depression, the Clyde-Mallory Lines’ S.S. Iroquois and S.S. Evangeline continued to offer summer vacation getaway packages with stops in Miami and Havana. In fact, the S.S. Evangeline’s sister ship, the S.S. Yarmouth, sailed out from the port of Havana on January 1, 1959, the same day that Fulgencio Batista formally resigned his position as head of state, and afterwards boarded a plane at 3 a.m. and flew to the Dominican Republic.



The P&O (Peninsular & Occidental) Steamship Company also had a couple of ships regularly sailing to our island neighbors to the south. The S.S. Cuba sailed to Havana, Cuba from Tampa, and returned by way of Key West, Florida.


Built in 1931 and capable of accommodating more than 600 passengers as well as automobiles, the P&O’s S.S. Florida was also sailing between Miami, Key West, and Havana in the thirties.



Passenger services were interrupted in the wake of the 1934 hurricane that destroyed the terminal and railway connections to Miami, and were suspended during the Second World War, but resumed in the postwar period until the Castro regime closed Cuba to cruise ships in 1960s. After that, the S.S. Florida sailed between Miami and the Bahamas.




P&O even encouraged passengers taking the S.S. Florida to Cuba to explore the island in their own automobiles, as the ship was “equipped for safe and rapid automobile handling.”


Although primarily a cargo ship operation, the United Fruit Company’s “Great White Fleet” also carried tourists to “Cuba…pearl of the Antilles” and other ports of call.

Ships and ports

Ships and ports 1Ships and ports 2


United Fruit’s six great sister ships offered “Complete Facilities for Fun on Deck,” “spacious” public areas, and “attractive” staterooms for 95 passengers in “exclusively first class accommodations.”


The West India Fruit & Steamship Company’s City of Havana Special also provided convenient ferry service from Key West, Florida to Havana, Cuba.


In the years leading up to the Cuban revolution, the cruise line industry increasingly had to compete with airlines for passengers interested in visiting the island, but that will be the subject of a future post.


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