AN OLDER, MORE STREAMLINED GENERATION OF OCEAN LINERS: SOME RECENT GIFTS TO THE WOLFSONIAN-FIU LIBRARY

Today’s blog post comes to you from Library Assistant Michel Potop. Michel has been cataloging and providing digital links for a variety of items recently donated to the collection by museum founder, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Lately that material has included some rare ocean liner promotional materials, menus, and other printed ephemera. Once Mr. Potop completed his work, the items were forwarded to Visual Resources Photographer, who quickly shot and processed the images, making them immediately available to the public via our catalog. Here is Mr. Potop’s report:

Living here in the “cruise capital of the world,” often in my workday commutes across the causeway to Miami Beach, or on fishing expeditions on my days off, it would have been impossible not  to notice the  leviathans that tower many stories above the Atlantic waves.

Obviously, many passengers go for the “bigger is better” slogan. But while the gargantuan scale of these “ships on steroids” may accommodate ever more passengers and offer more spacious and modern amenities, “bling,” and “glitz,” they seem to have sacrificed the streamline simplicity and grace of some of their 20th century predecessors.

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I was thinking of such comparisons as I worked to process and catalog some new ocean liner promotional materials that museum founder, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. has deposited with us as part of a larger promised gift to the collection. From these  recent donations, I have selected some examples of vessels that project a certain aura of sheer elegance associated with their names.

Launched  by the Norddeutscher Lloyd Bremen (North German Lloyd) firm at the end of the Jazz Age, the Europa and Bremen were among the fastest liners of their time. These transatlantic steamships crossed the Atlantic  in just five days at speeds surpassing 27 knots.

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These achievements were due to their bulbous bow construction and their streamlined silhouettes.

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Even aboard these older ships, the designers made provisions for the athletically minded passengers. Here one can see the electric horse—a popular gymnastic machine of the era—which made me wonder if the user wore proper equestrian attire. One of those contraptions was also present in the sports room aboard the Titanic.

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Most of the older generation of ships also featured swimming pools.

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Other typical amenities for outdoor pastimes included quoit and shuffleboard courts.

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The good-taste of the interior design is reflected in the simple but elegant decor even in the third and tourist class sections of the old ships.

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Most of the modern “horizontal skyscrapers” that we can now see in Fort Lauderdale and Miami are also designed for the masses, but seem a bit gaudy and glitzy in comparison. The tourist class coziness is well present also in the Bremen’s Tourist class Grand Saloon.

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While the nearby islands of the Bahamas have become the archipelago port of call for many cruises leaving from South Florida, I was struck by the more exotic ports of call represented in some of the 1950s Pacific Steam Navigation Company ephemera recently gifted to us by Mr. Wolfson. Below are some materials from the 20.225 tons liner Reina del Mar.

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The friendly and inviting décor in the “Sala de Juegos” to me is very similar to Miami’s sense of style.

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The culinary delights of cruise ship packages was no less important in the late 1950s as it is today, as is attested to in these vintage 1957 menus of the famous liner, Jean Mermoz.

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Menus in those days were designed as much to inspire as to list the meal options, and the covers of this particular voyage provide an image of how Westerners perceived African “exoticism.”

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MENU FROM INAUGURAL VOYAGE

Nowadays it appears that most cruises are orientated more towards leisure than transportation. Regardless of one’s choice of vessel, (whether your tastes tend toward the Queen Mary 2 or the Epic of Seas) as long as you enjoy the company of family and friends, the voyage should be considered a success.

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~ by "The Chief" on July 17, 2013.

One Response to “AN OLDER, MORE STREAMLINED GENERATION OF OCEAN LINERS: SOME RECENT GIFTS TO THE WOLFSONIAN-FIU LIBRARY”

  1. Excellent! Thank you so much.

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