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Eastern Steamship Lines New York to Maine by night boats during the 1930s

Eastern Steamship Lines New York to Maine by night boats during the 1930s

Eastern Steamship Lines operated coastwise overnight passenger services along the Long Island Sound between New York and Boston and to other Northeast Coast ports including Portland, Maine, along with services to Canada and cruises.

Eastern Steamship Lines was one of the last American flag coastal passenger services.

  • In 1901, Charles Wyman Morse merged the Boston &. Bangor Steamship Company, the Portland Steam Packet Company, the International Steamship Company, and several local lines on the Maine coast to form the Eastern Steamship Company.

The steamship Calvin Austin pulls away from the Eastern Steamship Company wharf in Lubec. Pope’s Folly Island appears in the immediate background.

  • Eastern Steamship was founded in 1901 when Wall Street financier Charles W. Morse combined six small New England coastwise lines.
  • The company had a troubled financial history because of competition from both shipping lines and railroads.

1910 Postcard photograph of passengers arriving/departing from the Eastern Steamship Landing where steamships bound for Boston docked. Message on back of the card reads: “This is where we land when we get off the large steamers. Mabelle”

  • When Morse’s financial operations collapsed, Eastern Steamship, in turn, went into receivership (1907), emerging as Eastern Steamship Lines (1911) but owned by the New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Co.

The steamer Portland built at Bath Iron Works.

  • The side-wheel steamship Portland was one of the largest and most palatial vessels afloat in New England during the 1890s.
  • She ran between Portland, Maine, and Boston until its loss in 1898.

The Maine Steamship Company pier in New York.

  • Eastern also added the Metropolitan Steamship Co. and the Maine Steamship Co which operated between New York and Portland, Maine, by the steamers of the Maine Steamship Co., “North Star” and “Horatio Hall.”
  • They went eastward, then along the Sound by night, the Massachusetts and Maine coasts by day; going westward, the coasts by day, Long Island Sound by night. Time of passage 20 hours.

  • The mergers and restructuring made Eastern Steamship the second-largest eastern coastwise line, after the Merchants & Miners Transportation Co., but its financial difficulties continued.
  • The line returned to receivership in 1914 and was restructured once again in 1917.
  • It operated profitably and successfully in the 1920s, acquiring additional small lines such as the Old Dominion Line running between New York and ports in Virginia.

SS Evangeline at Pier 18 New York.

  • The SS Evangeline was built in Philadelphia in 1927 for the Eastern Steamship Company services along the U.S. East Coast.
  • She could carry 751 passengers at and cruise at 18 knots.
  • The Evangeline ended her days as the SS Yarmouth Castle, tragically catching fire near the Florida coast with a loss of 89 lives in 1965.

    SS Evangeline at sea.

  • To meet the main competition on the New York to Boston route, New England Steamship Co., Eastern, built several large and luxurious vessels, particularly the Boston and New York (1924), which were, effectively, small ocean liners.

    SS Yarmouth schedule during the late 1930s.  Boston and Yarmouth.

  • The company also acquired a number of other modern steamers and won a mail contract to Nova Scotia.
  • But during the Great Depression of the 1930s, the company was forced to retrench, sell off ships, and abandon some of its routes. It also lost the Nova Scotia mail contract, which had been a reliable source of revenue, in 1936.
  • At the outbreak of the Second World War; Eastern had a fleet of eight sea-going ships, together with dozens of smaller vessels on trips lasting from a few minutes to a couple of hours. The only survivors to be returned to Eastern were Yarmouth and Evangeline.
  • Both were restored and placed on Eastern’s only surviving route. the Boston-Yarmouth line. This service was maintained during the summer months, with the liners being switched to cruising out of Miami during the winter months.
  • The Eastern Steamship Line was practically profitless, and eager to withdraw the ships, so the Nova Scotia government stepped in and subsidized Yarmouth and Evangeline for the 1954 season until its own vessel, Bluenose, was ready.

Jamaican-born E Leslie Fraser purchased the name Eastern Steamship Company along with S.S Yarmouth for $500,000 in 1954.


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