All Aboard! Recent Visit to The Wolfsonian by the SSHSA Board Members

On January 21, The Wolfsonian museum hosted a board meeting of the Steamship Historical Society of America. 


The event was initiated by SSHSA board members Laurence Miller and Thomas Ragan—both long-term supporters of the museum and donors of significant collections in our rare book and special collections library. The Wolfsonian holds approximately 35,000 brochures, deck plans, menus, and other printed matter promoting ocean liner and cruise ship travel from the mid-nineteenth through the twentieth centuries. After completing their business in our conference room, the members were invited to view a display of promotional materials in our library, followed by a guided tour of the galleries. On the fifth floor, our guests had the chance to see Jean Dunand’s La Chasse [The Hunt], two bas-relief copies of the original panels that decorated the men’s smoking room of the great art deco ocean liner, the Normandie.



The WolfsonianFIU, Gift of The Frederick and Patricia Supper Foundation, Palm Beach, Florida

Today’s post comes to you courtesy of Dr. Laurence Miller—(who has generously donated his time as well as his collection to the museum)—and from our FIU Graduate Research Assistant, Crystal Garcia.


Thanks to  the generosity of Thomas Ragan, Ms. Garcia has been able to focus exclusively on researching, processing, cataloguing, and updating our bibliographic records for the institution’s steamship and cruise line materials. Here is their report:

Dr. Laurence Miller’s extensive collection at The Wolfsonian consists of ship-related printed materials from the post-World War II period—a perfect complement to the Mitchell Wolfson Jr. collection, which primarily consists of promotional materials from the interwar period.


The WolfsonianFIU, Gift of Laurence Miller

Dr. Miller is seen in this photograph alongside ship’s Master Captain Vittorio Fabietti taken on board Tropicale during a brief pre-inaugural cruise from the port of Miami in 1981. The Tropicale  was the first ship built by Carnival for the line, and in later years, Captain Fabietti (formerly of the Italian Line) took charge of all new Carnival construction.  The photograph is part of the Carnival Cruise collection which includes brochures, deck plans, and menus ranging from 1972 to 2010.


The WolfsonianFIU, Gift of Laurence Miller

The Laurence Miller Collection also includes material from the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique, (or French Line). Founded in 1861 by the Péreire Brothers, this line became France’s national flag carrier in the North Atlantic. The Ile de France was one of the line’s most famous ship, and in her final years she was used in cruises sailing from New York to the West Indies. In spite of the ship’s lack of air conditioning and deep draft, her cruises remained popular. The vessel once ran aground in Martinique and had to be towed to Norfolk for repairs.


The WolfsonianFIU, Gift of Laurence Miller

In the post-World War II period, the Liberte became the new flagship of the French Line. The ship was a war prize, having originally been commissioned as the German Europa. The Wolfsonian has deck plans printed for first, cabin, and tourist classes.


The WolfsonianFIU, Gift of Laurence Miller

Messageries Maritimes was France’s link to its colonies in the Far East and Indian Ocean. The Felix Roussel sailed from Marseilles to the Orient from 1930 to 1955 and served as an Allied troopship from 1940-47. Large fold-out deck plans were known as “bedsheet” plans because of their size. Obviously, the larger the plan, the more spacious the cabins appeared to be!


The Laurence Miller Collection at The Wolfsonian is far too comprehensive to describe in full detail in this brief post, so we will finish here with just one more fleet brochure from that collection published for the Union-Castle Line.


Thanks to the generosity of Thomas Ragan, The Wolfsonian-FIU now has an extensive collection of materials from the Moore-McCormack Lines. Some of these materials from the era of FDR’s “Good Neighbor” policy were displayed in a library installation a few years ago.


The WolfsonianFIU, Gift of Thomas Ragan

Menu covers for Moore-McCormack’s “Good Neighbor Fleet” featured artwork of the native peoples of the Caribbean and South America by Ada Peacock. This 1950 menu for the S.S. Argentina  offered such interesting breakfast options as deerfoot sausages and finnan haddie.


The WolfsonianFIU, Gift of Thomas Ragan

Ragan’s contributions to our cruise line holdings also include materials from other steamship companies as well, such as this brochure for the M.S. Victoria. Originally owned by the Union-Castle Line and called the Dunnottar Castle, Incres Lines purchased the ship in 1958 and turned her into one of the finest postwar cruise ships.


The WolfsonianFIU, Gift of Thomas Ragan

John Henry, a journalist and free-lance author based in New York City, has also donated some of his steamship materials, though the bulk of his collection will come later as a bequest. The brochure for the Royal Mail Lines below provides beautiful color illustrations of the interiors of the R.M.S. Alcantara, which served as a troop ship and armed merchant cruiser during the Second World War before returning to civilian service in 1948.




The WolfsonianFIU, Gift of John Henry

Ultimately, the Alcantara was sold to Japanese shipbreakers and was scrapped in 1958.

Much of Mr. Henry’s focus was on ships and passenger steamers operating on the Great Lakes and St. Lawrence River Valley.


The WolfsonianFIU, Gift of John Henry

Mr. Henry also collected Union-Castle Line materials, such as this ca. 1949 brochure for the R.M.S. Pretoria Castle and the R.M.S. Edinburgh Castle, two of the larger ships in the Union-Castle fleet.


The WolfsonianFIU, Gift of John Henry

In 1958 the Pretoria was renamed the S.A. Oranje where she served with Safmarine until 1975 though in the same mail service to South Africa in coordination with the Union Castle Line.

It is also worth noting that Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf have over the years donated some wonderful ship materials as well, including some hand-illustrated logbooks from the ships that helped Britannia rule the waves in the glory days of empire in the 1880s.




The WolfsonianFIU, Gifts of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf

Other Sharf gifts include some “Round the World” cruise materials, including a logbook for the Red Star Line’s S.S. Belgenland world cruise in 1927/1928 and a 1930s brochure for the Cunard Line’s R.M.S. Franconia.




The WolfsonianFIU, Gifts of Jean S. and Frederic A. Sharf

The Franconia was the second of three Cunard liners bearing this name. With the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939, she became a troop ship and took part in the Norwegian campaign. She also served as a communications ship for the Yalta Conference.

All of these promotional materials and logbooks complement without duplicating the rich selection of ship-related materials originally amassed by our museum founder, Mitchell Wolfson Jr,, who concentrated his own collecting efforts primarily on the interwar years. Mr. Wolfson collected objects and artifacts, such as this barometer for the Norddeutscher Lloyd shipping company’s Bremen (1933) and this pitcher inspired by the prow of the French Line’s fast and luxurious S.S. Normandie.



The WolfsonianFIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Collection

Mr. Wolfson continues to add to the collection as well, as is attested to by following promotional materials for various steamship lines.




The WolfsonianFIU, Mitchell Wolfson, Jr. Promised Gifts


~ by "The Chief" on February 1, 2017.

One Response to “All Aboard! Recent Visit to The Wolfsonian by the SSHSA Board Members”

  1. superinteresante ¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡¡y PRECIOSAS IMAGENES


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