Wednesday, 21 September 2016

SS Minneapolis

The first in my cosy mystery series begins with Flora's Secret, where my heroine Flora Maguire travels home to England on the SS Minneapolis' maiden voyage from New York. This steamship was a mini-Titanic, a luxurious floating hotel catering for a small complement of First Class Passengers

SS Minneapolis
The Minneapolis was the first of the four famous Minne class ships ordered by Bernard N. Baker in 1898. An Atlantic Transport Line brochure brochure issued in 1923 boasted, "no ship ever had a more devoted following than these," and in 1947 the Minnes were described by the New York Times as "probably the most popular single-class ships in Atlantic shipping history."
The Aft Deck where young Eddy played Pirates in the lifeboats

The Minneapolis cost $1,419,120 (£292,000) to build and had the largest registered tonnage of any ship afloat excepting the Oceanic when she was launched. Unusually, her maiden voyage began from New York and arrived on the Thames for the first time on May 1, 1900.

The Minne sisters were among the first ships to be fitted for wireless telegraphy and sailed under the command of Captain Thomas Gates with a compliment of first class only passengers. The ship was fitted out like a mini-Titanic with luxurious suites, an elegant dining room and library.

A Promenade Deck Suite

Report in The Illustrated London News of the SS Minneapolis shortly after her arrival at Tilbury on 1st May 1900.

....Everything on the Minneapolis is of the best quality, but as simple as possible. The walls of the saloon are in light oak with allegorical figures burnt in the woodwork; an exquisite frieze in the same work, full of life and spirit, runs round the top. The dome in the ceiling gives ventilation and height to the room. The chairs and sofas are upholstered in red satin damask, and the whole effect of the saloon is bright and cheery, while also harmonious.

Bunny's beloved 'Matilda'

Dining Salon

The coverings of the sofas and chairs are in a very beautifully designed tapestry, the whole idea of the room being to keep it quiet and restful. The smoking room is admirably adapted to the purpose for which it is intended. The decorations are in plain dark oak, and the seats upholstered in a very handsome red leather, all dinginess is thus avoided. Cozy corners are very suggestive of small parties sitting quietly together to have the friendly games which so materially assist in passing away the time.

No modern steamer would now be complete without suites of rooms, and the Minneapolis, being the most modern of steamers, has several suites situated on the promenade deck, which are as perfect as possible. The brass bedsteads are hung with fresh dimity curtains of pink roses on a white ground, the little window curtains all matching. Hanging cupboards and doors add to the convenience of the passengers. A bath-room is attached to each suite, and the private sitting room adjoining the bed room is charmingly fitted with a writing table and comfortable sofas.
Thomas F Gates

SS Minneapolis' Commander

An Englishman, Gates joined the Atlantic Transport Line when he was twenty and became second officer on the Suffolk in 1887. A sociable pipe-smoking teetotaler "who danced two hours every night of clear weather" according to Time.  He was known affectionately as "Tommy," or "Giggles Gates" — the "laughing skipper" because of his infectious laugh and popularity with passengers. One of the most popular commanders in the merchant fleet he became a US citizen, and his endless energy, his powerful voice, and that laugh were "known in ports all over the world" according to an obituary in the New York Times, and it was said that when his ship docked, he never needed a megaphone from the bridge.

Images from The Atlantic Transport Line Website
More here; The Atlantic Transport Line
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1 comment:

Petrea Burchard said...

It's so fun to see photos of the places in your book! It's just as I pictured!