From the very day we opened our doors as a public institution in November, 1995, The Wolfsonian has earned a reputation for its extraordinary collection of transportation materials: and most especially, trains, planes, and ocean liners. Steamship lines have always been well represented in the museum’s collection of posters and objects, and the library’s extensive holdings of rare books, brochures, menus, schedules, and other ephemera from the period 1885-1945. Although most of the menus were originally purchased for their illustrated covers, we have had a number of hospitality students at Florida International University interested in reading between the covers to find out what was being served on the grand old steamships in the interwar era.


In September, 2008, our already impressive collection of steamship liner materials expanded exponentially owing to the generosity of Dr. Laurence Miller, former director of libraries at FIU. A life-long enthusiast and connoisseur of the cruise line industry, Dr. Miller had managed to amass a truly awe-inspiring cache of promotional materials from all of the major companies operating in the post-World War Two period.

 Dr. Miller’s collection perfectly complemented our own, allowing us to expand our coverage from Modern to Contemporary times. Dr. Miller has not only donated hundreds of rare books and tens of thousands of brochures, deck plans, menus, and other printed materials produced by the cruise ship industry, but has also come out of retirement to help us process and organize the collection by company.

Now that we have come closer to completing the cataloguing, digitizing, and re-housing of those materials, I thought it was time to share a few more images from that incredible gift with my readers.

As mentioned in my preceding blogs, Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf have recently donated a large collection of rare books to our library, many of which document various world cruises and voyages around the globe in the late nineteenth century.


Mr. Sharf is a serious collector of rare books, view books, photograph albums, and other works on paper, and over the course of a lifetime had established an impressive private library in the course of his scholarly interests and pursuits. He has now begun to donate large chunks of his library to our institution where he can be assured that they will be preserved and made accessible to scholars in perpetuity.


All of the books he has thus far gifted are exceedingly rare and hard to come by, including a number of published accounts of nineteenth-century world travelers; others are absolutely unique—including log book journals of the voyages of the H.M.S. Superb, the Sultan, and the Imperieuse, complete with the occasional watercolor sketch tipped in.

Taken together, these collections all housed under one roof provide interested researchers with virtually everything they might care to know about ocean travel in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century. We have both written and published accounts of the travelers; photograph albums and illustrated journals of the places they visited and peoples they encountered; menus documenting what they ate; deck plans and interior views of the accommodations and public spaces aboard ship; and promotional brochures showing how the cruise line industry worked to entice them aboard in the first place! Hopefully the images included in this blog might serve to whet the appetite of scholars and researchers into paying us a visit. If so, welcome aboard!

~ by "The Chief" on August 13, 2010.


  1. Great photographs of Dr. Miller’s collection!

  2. Frank, that handwritten log and the other voyage accounts look astounding. I want to see them!

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