What’s in a name? Guest post by John G. Sayers

We are grateful to John for another post about one of the treasures of his collection

Deutchland Crew postcard
Deutschland Crew postcard

Captain Koenig and the Crew of the Deutschland.  Interesting. This Real Photo postcard dating from 1916 appeared – at first glance – to be the Captain and senior officers of a German ocean liner, interned by the Americans on the outbreak of the First War. When I saw it, I assumed that it would fill a useful slot in The Sayers Collection. There are other cards of this genre, and the year 1916 would be logical for this assumption.

No such luck. A check on returning home from the event where I purchased this card showed that the liner Deutschland had been renamed in 1910 after 10 years of Transatlantic service, so was not operating under that name after 1910. And it wasn’t the battleship Deutschland, which had gone into service in 1903.

So who are these men? What were they doing in 1916? And why the varied range of attire, some of it casual except for their hats? Surprise! They are the crew of a significant German submarine, which went into service in 1916 as a cargo vessel for the North German Lloyd line, christened as the Deutschland. She and a sister submarine were unarmed non-naval vessels designed to evade the British warships blockading Germany. With a capacity of 700 tons, they were designed to carry strategic materials from America and deliver high-end German products like aniline dyes to the U.S. It appears that they were the first-ever purpose-built cargo-carrying submarines.

There was considerable controversy because the British blockade of Germany could not stop these undersea ships from carrying strategic cargo. Britain claimed that by not interning this boat the Americans were favouring Germany. America was neutral at this stage of the war and concluded that it could not discriminate in regard to what was essentially a cargo ship. If it had been armed and a ship of the German navy, the position would have been different.

Deutschland made only two trips – one to New York and a second one which involved Baltimore. There are images online from the second voyage, but none of this first voyage! Photographer and publisher is G.L. Thompson, New York.

In 1917 Deutschland was taken over from the North German Lloyd shipping line by the German navy, armed for war service, and renamed U-155. Her cargo-carrying ability was inadequate and the need for more attack submarines transcended her value as a cargo carrier. Even though her design was not that of a conventional submarine, serving until the end of the War she reportedly sank over 20,000 tons of Allied shipping.

This postcard, and thousands of other pieces of ephemera, is contained in The Sayers Collection in the John Johnson Collection at the Bodleian Library. A vast quantity of other ocean liner ephemera capturing social, shipping, historical, and commercial information in The Sayers Collection, continues to migrate across the Atlantic to the John Johnson Collection.

Titanic’s sister at war: a guest post by John G. Sayers

We are grateful to John Sayers for continuing to commentate his fascinating donation of Ocean Liner ephemera in this series of blog posts.

The SS Olympic, sister ship to Titanic, was launched and entered service prior to the Titanic. They were so similar that interior pictures of the Olympic could also pass for images of the Titanic.

HMS Olympic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Titanic didn’t survive her first voyage, but Olympic sailed on for over 20 more years. Part of those years were during wartime and a recent postcard find reminds us of that service. Adding to the Stevengraphs in the Sayers Collection at the John Johnson Collection is a charming postcard captioned as the ‘H.M.S. Olympic’. This card is not to be confused with the other example of the same ship that is in the Collection. It’s from the period when she was serving as a White Star Line passenger liner and Royal Mail Ship (hence ‘R.M.S.’). This iteration is different.

Concert programme H.M.T.2810
Concert programme H.M.T.2810

Why ‘HMS’, which would denote a naval ship? Other references to her war service show her as HMT – His Majesty’s Transport. Specifically, a ‘Grand Concert’ Program of November 4, 1916 shows her as H.M.T. 2810 (left). One can only assume that the publisher of the card wasn’t familiar with naval designations. Regardless of the inaccuracy, it’s a beautiful card.

 

 

 

This postcard, and a significant amount of other White Star Line and wartime ephemera is contained in The Sayers Collection in the John Johnson Collection at the Bodleian Library. A vast quantity of other ocean liner ephemera capturing social, shipping, historical, and commercial information in The Sayers Collection, continues to migrate across the Atlantic to the John Johnson Collection.

 

Woven silk postcards (Stevengraphs): guest post by John G. Sayers

We are very grateful to John for another blog post contextualising the ocean liner ephemera which he is donating to the John Johnson Collection.

In the very early 1900s postcards were an inexpensive form of communication, travelling at a postal rate costing less than letters. However, if you wanted to display a special level of love and friendship you could pay the money to purchase a woven silk postcard.

Stevengraph from the John Johnson Collection: Bookmarkers 4

Woven silk images were reportedly first introduced in the 1860s using Jacquard looms which had become redundant in the face of imported competition in ribbon manufacturing. Thomas Stevens was the innovator and he was able to adapt the looms to create pictures in silk. Bookmarks, greeting cards, and eventually postcards were among the upmarket products coming out of the mills in Coventry. Because of the leadership of Thomas Stevens, they became known as Stevengraphs.

The Sayers Collection illustrates two different styles of Stevengraph ship postcards. One is a colour image of the ship with the name of the ship and sometimes other information printed below the image. The other style is a ‘Hands Across the Sea’ card with national flag images depicting the countries normally served by the named ship. For example, the Lusitania card depicts British and American flags; the Empress of Ireland card pictures the British and Canadian flags.

Because all these cards were relatively expensive to the sender they are uncommon and relatively expensive to the collector. Frequently they were sent in an envelope since they are relatively fragile, so postally used versions are relatively rare.

Values depend upon the ship, the condition of the card, and the shipping line. As would be expected, White Star Line cards, particularly RMS Olympic, sister ship to Titanic, have an enthusiastic following. Ships in disasters are expensive because some people collect cards related to disasters. In this collection, RMS Lusitania and RMS Empress of Ireland fit solidly into that bracket.

What do these cards tell us? First, that the British textile industry in the later 1800s was creative and adaptive. Second, that postcard manufacturers were always searching for new types of product and found one in specialized shipping images purchased in bulk and then mounted into postcards.  Third, that buyers will pay more for what is perceived as a quality product.

These charming postcards are contained in The Sayers Collection in the John Johnson Collection at the Bodleian Library. A vast quantity of other ocean liner ephemera capturing social, shipping, historical, and commercial information in The Sayers Collection, continues to migrate across the Atlantic to the John Johnson Collection.

 

Nazi Cruising Treat. A guest post by John G. Sayers

If you work for a large corporation – particularly in a Sales capacity – you will probably be familiar with incentive programs. They are not unique to the corporate world, and an interesting historical example is the Strength Through Joy travel programs offered in Nazi Germany during the 1930s.

Global tourism was in recession, and in order to maintain German tourist resources – and jobs – a series of travel incentives were offered through the Strength Through Joy movement. My understanding is that low-priced domestic tourism was available to the Party faithful as a reward for their support and contributions. The level of tourism was related to the amount of that support, and ship cruises were at the apex of possible rewards.

A ship named the Wilhelm Gustloff was built and launched in 1938 specifically to cater to this travel trade. Noteworthy is that this was the first liner built specifically and solely for cruising. At over 25,000GRT, she was larger than many of the liners used by Cunard for Tourist Class trans-Atlantic service, and represented a significant landmark in ocean liner cruises.

When Gustloff went into service in April 1938, she represented the highest travel reward for a Party member or supporter. This postcard, written on the first day of her Maiden Voyage and postmarked with a Wilhelm Gustloff cancellation two days later, would make a significant statement to the recipient about the sender’s elevated stature in the eyes of the Nazi administration. The message may be mundane but the postmark tells it all.

Gustloff postmarkWilhelm Gustloff was in cruising service for only a short period of time. In September 1939 she was requisitioned by the military and used primarily as an accommodation ship during the war. In January 1945, carrying a flood of refugees and wounded fleeing the oncoming Russian army, she was torpedoed and sunk by a Russian submarine in the icy waters of the Baltic. Estimates of the passengers crammed on board range from 6,000 to 9,000 – in the chaos there were no formal records kept. Most of those passengers perished, leading to the greatest loss of life in maritime history.

This postcard, and a significant number of other Strength Through Joy ephemera such as Menus and Cruise Activities, is contained in The Sayers Collection in the John Johnson Collection at the Bodleian Library. A vast quantity of other ocean liner ephemera capturing social, shipping, historical, and commercial information in The Sayers Collection, continues to migrate across the Atlantic to the John Johnson Collection.

 

Secrets of White Star Line Ship Logs. Guest post by John G. Sayers

We are grateful to our donor, John Sayers, for another fascinating post giving insight into the significance of shipping ephemera

As with the shipping logs of every other line, the White Star Line Voyage Logs provide a day-by-day record of the voyage, and a summary of the average speed of the ship. However, the White Star Line logs are important at a higher level of shipping research.

Log for 1898-12-21 A Britannic WB
1898-12-21 A Britannic WB

When Cunard took over the White Star Line in 1934, they phased out most of the White Star Line ships fairly quickly. Only the relatively new Georgic and Britannic remained in service. The White Star administrative offices were integrated into Cunard, and the records of the former are reported to have been destroyed.

So, the only surviving information about the line and its ships is in the on-board documentation that has been saved by passengers, such as the Logs of each voyage. As with so many other lines, these are difficult to find and, by this collector’s assessment, worth acquiring even if not in perfect condition. The importance of the message trumps the condition of the medium.

For example, ships are sometimes compared in terms of their rated maximum speed. But running a ship at maximum speed may be neither prudent nor possible. Wear and tear, fuel consumption, and risks such as icebergs (as encountered by Titanic) can all serve to reduce the practical working speed. The advertised top speed may not be the actual average rate in crossing the Atlantic, and so the Logs’ values provide a more accurate practical assessment of the ‘working’ speed of a ship in service conditions.

To passengers who have come through a rough voyage, the reminder in the form of the printed Log is probably not likely to be retained. For other voyages, once the Log has been shared with admiring friends and relatives, its value to the traveler has diminished, unless it represents memories of a winning guess in a day’s Pool for the distance travelled, so it is no longer a useful memory.

This material, and a vast quantity of other ephemera capturing social, shipping, historical, and commercial information in The Sayers Collection, continues to migrate across the Atlantic to the John Johnson Collection at the Bodleian Library.

Fun and games at sea. Guest post by John G. Sayers

Our wonderful and indefatigable donor, John Sayers, in another insightful post relating to the Sayers Collection of Ocean Liner Ephemera

Welcome aboard! Anyone who has been carried across the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean by plane will probably have concluded that it was a long, boring trip. Not so. Or at least not by comparison to the travellers of decades ago when ocean liners were ‘the only way to cross’.

We’re talking about days and days at sea, interrupted only by meals. For some passengers, mal de mer sharply reduced their appetites. For others, the bar was the beacon, particularly during Prohibition in America. The shipping companies were aware of the days and days of uninterrupted boredom facing passengers, so they provided games and sports as distractions.

cover of Normandie Games booklet
Normandie Games Booklet

 

This ‘GAMES’ booklet from the legendary S.S. Normandie describes and illustrates ‘Little Olympics Afloat’ on the expansive deck space for tennis, shuffle-board and other sports in what they describe as a ‘Stadium at Sea; A Work-out on the Waves’. Also, there was the gymnasium with its rowing machine, hand-ball, and a shooting gallery; and Sun-Deck Sports and Sea Air including Tennis and Trap-Shooting. Exhausting!

 

 

For the 12 days between Honolulu and Yokohama in 1931, the S.S. President McKinley offered a daily schedule of sports capped off with a ‘Gymkhana’ on the final day of the trip.

President McKinley Games
President McKinley Games

Other ships offered Bridge and a variety of other games, and on board a British troopship in 1940 there was even a boxing match between members of the Royal Air Force (R.A.F.) and the British Army! The trooping experience must have been a stressful one, because it was December 21, 1940 on board the Viceroy of India of the P&O Line. She had been requisitioned by the Government and converted for trooping service only the month before, and these men were off to battle – somewhere!

 

This material, and a vast quantity of other ephemera capturing social, shipping, historical, and commercial information in The Sayers Collection, continues to migrate across the Atlantic to the John Johnson Collection at the Bodleian Library.