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Website of the Month – The Gjenvick-Gjønvik Archives – The Future of Our Past – Featuring infromation about The Baltimore Mail Steamship Company

Website of the Month – The Gjenvick-Gjønvik Archives – The Future of Our Past… Cruising the Past salutes The Gjenvick-Gjønvik Archives – with a visit to their excellent coverage of The Baltimore Mail Steamship Company.

Gjenvick-Gjønvik is one of the largest private archives of historical documents from the 1800s through 1954 with concentrations in Steamship and Ocean Liner documents and photographs, Passenger Lists, materials covering World Wars I and II, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and Immigration documents from Ellis Island, Castle Garden and other Immigration Stations.

Featured on today’s Cruising The Past are excellent photos from The Gjenvick-Gjønvik Archive’s piece on The Baltimore Mail Steamship Company.

Click here to visit the Gjenvick-Gjønvik Archive.

Passengers Sailing Home

Passengers Sailing Home aboard the Baltimore Mail Ships

Cruise History: The Baltimore Mail Steamship Company

On 21 March 1930 the United States Postmaster-General awarded the Roosevelt Steamship Company a mail contract for a weekly service from Baltimore and Norfolk to Hamburg, with or without a call at a French port, by five 16 knot passenger-cargo liners ; all having accommodation for 81 tourist class passengers, mostly in rooms with private bath.

At that time, the Roosevelt Steamship Company, presided over by Cermit Roosevelt, and the International Mercantile Marine Company, whose president was P. A. S. Franklin, were closely allied. They founded the Baltimore Mail Steamship Company, which was incorporated in the State of Maryland on 7 July 1930.

The United States Maritime Commission finally decided in 1937 that the Baltimore Mail Steamship Company was a non-essential service. Meanwhile, the Company had applied to the Maritime Commission to run the five ships in the coastal trade between New York and San Francisco via the Panama Canal as replacements for the California, Pennsylvania and Verginia of the Panama Pacific Line wich were running for Moore McCormack between New York and South America.

This was allowed by the US Government and the United States Line, then a subsidiary of the International Mercantile Marine Company, operated the ships under the trade name of Panama Pacific Line.

New Ships - One Class - Low Cost - Baltimore Mail Line Brochure from the 1930s






Hamburg, Germany—charming old city of inland waterways and verdant foliage.

SLEEK, powerful liners, driven by oil-burning engines, ply the new route from Baltimore and Norfolk to Havre and Hamburg. Their “Clipper” bows hark back to the famous Baltimore Clipper ships of the early nineteenth century, which raced before the wind with widespread sails, carrying the American flag to ports all over the globe.


Passengers Checking in Before Embarking on the Baltimore Mail Line Steamships

Passengers Checking in Before Embarking on a Baltimore Mail Line Steamship

SAILING from Baltimore, you can add to your pre-sailing itinerary Washington, less than an hour away, and the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. If you should embark at Norfolk, you are in the heart of the lovely Virginia tidewater country with its estates reminiscent of colonial times and of the planter aristocracy of the old South. In summer you can enjoy surf bathing at Virginia Beach.

Passenger Lounge on the Promenade Deck

Passenger Lounge on the Promenade Deck

ON Baltimore Mail liners the main lounge is inviting, informal, comfortable. Deep armchairs, soft divans, suffused lights. A grand piano for those who love music. A cosy place for an hour with a good book, or for an evening of bridge. The lounge is located forward on the promenade deck.

The Shelter Deck

View of the Shelter Deck

THE shelter deck is glass enclosed and furnishes protection on days when the sea kicks up. Here may be spent hours of complete relaxation in a deck chair —snug under a steamer rug. The promenade deck runs completely around the passenger section of the ship and affords plenty of room for hiking. Unusually ample space everywhere distinguishes the Mail Line ships.

Typical Stateroom with Bath

Stateroom with Bath

YOUR stateroom aboard a Baltimore Mail liner is larger, roomier, less crowded and more comfortable. All staterooms are amidships, outside and on upper decks. Attractively decorated, finely furnished, 6o% have private baths. All have built-in wardrobes. Beds are unsurpassed for comfort. Stateroom with bath may be had at an astonishingly low rate.

Stateroom en Suite

Stateroom en Suite

FOR parties traveling together staterooms may be engaged en suite, which adds to the comfort and enjoyment of the crossing. Such an arrangement serves to accentuate what is most striking about the passenger accommodations of these one-class ships — the total lack of crowding—the complete freedom which all enjoy.

The S.S. City of Baltimore approaching the Landing Stage

The S.S. City of Baltimore approaching the Landing Stage

IT is a colorful scene as panting tugs work the big ship out from her berth and into the channel to start her trip across the Atlantic. Friends wave and bid bon voyage, the ship’s siren screams, tugs pipe their reply and the shrill whistle blasts from the officer on the bridge add to the excitement. For passengers lining the rails it is a thrilling time—they are on their way.

Dining Saloon

View of the Dining Saloon

THE dining saloon — light, airy, with snowy linen, gleaming glass and silverware, deft, unhurried service, famous food. And again spaciousness—every passenger has his place at a table and all can be seated at one time. Hence you can choose any time you wish for dining during meal hours.

THE BALTIMORE MAIL LINE’S five sister ships constitute the newest fleet plying between America and Europe. But they are more than simply units of a new fleet. They are the full development of a new idea in ocean travel accommodation at a cost, under the reduced rates, that is astonishingly low.

. . They offer a distinctive innovation in transatlantic passenger service. For the first time ships have been specifically designed not rearranged to provide all one-class accommodations that in size, appointments and rates are unequalled on the steamship lanes to Europe.

. . Until you have made the crossing on the Baltimore Mail Line you cannot fully appreciate how inexpensively you can enjoy utmost ocean comfort and how pleasant it is to travel one-class. The entire ship is yours. And this very feature attracts to a one-class liner people of the sort with whom you will enjoy spending eight or nine days at sea.

. . In the fall, winter or spring, the Baltimore Mail Line offers a particularly pleasant route to Europe. It is the only North Atlantic line sailing regularly from Baltimore and Norfolk. Both these ports are on the upper fringe of the warm Southland and you sail at once into the tempering tide of the Gulf Stream, enjoying the full benefit of its warm current.

THE SHIPS of the Baltimore Mail fleet are identical. All staterooms are above, on the main and promenade decks, and amidships where there is practically no vibration and a minimum of motion.

. . Every stateroom has full outside exposure, with large ports affording light and fresh air. Rooms are larger than average, with colorful hangings, built-in wardrobes and dressing tables, and reading lamps over each bed. There are no narrow passageways through which to reach porthole or entry. Sixty per cent of all staterooms have bath or shower, and all have hot and cold running water.

. . Ships are five hundred and seven feet long, with a beam of fifty-six feet. They have a maximum sea speed of eighteen knots and dock in Havre eight and one-half days after leaving Norfolk.

. . When you consider that you can cross on a new one-class liner, with the full freedom of the ship, at a rate lower than third-class passage would have cost only a few years ago, you will agree that these ships offer the outstanding travel value of the North Atlantic.

. . There is a sailing every Wednesday from Baltimore and every Thursday from Norfolk; westbound, Friday midnight from Hamburg or Bremen (ask agent or write us for schedule) and Sunday morning from Havre.

Smoking Room

The Smoking Room

For the men a corner in the oak panelled smoking room, for cards and companionship such as it only found at sea. A cooling dring at their elbows, served from the adjoining steward’s pantry. Small wonder that the smoking room on the after part of the promenade deck is a favorite haunt for many — both men and women.

View of the Boat Deck from the landing stage.

View of the Boat Deck from the landing stage.

A BROAD sports deck extends the full length of the passenger section. Here the departing passenger may see all that goes on at sailing time. At sea, a place for sports or a place where one can find a sunny nook in which to laze away the hours, time forgotten, enjoying that incomparable feeling of being well-fed, well-served and completely content.

Passengers Playing Deck Tennis

Passengers Playing Deck Tennis

DECK tennis is only one of the sports enjoyed at sea. When mealtime rolls around, its devotees find themselves possessed of wonderful appetites following invigorating exercise in the pure, crisp sea air. Food on the Baltimore Mail liners is just made for such appetites.

Automobile being loaded onto a Steamship

Automobile being loaded onto a Steamship

WHEN booking passage you may book your automobile, too. All documents required for its operation abroad may be obtained before sailing. You have only to drive to the dock and when Havre or Hamburg is reached, drive away again, where fancy dictates. Automobiles are carried uncrated as excess baggage.

View of the Interior Quai de Maree, in Havre, France

View of the Interior Quai de Maree, in Havre, France

INTERIOR of Quai de Maree, in Havre, where Mail liners dock. You tie up at the pier and go ashore on a gangplank. Havre is the gateway to France and the nearest port to Paris—less than three hours by rail. From Havre, too, there is fast and regular service to England by channel steamers.

The S.S. City of Baltimore on the River Elbe onwards to Hamburg

The S.S. City of Baltimore on the River Elbe onwards to Hamburg

GOING up the River Elbe to Hamburg. The start and ending of the voyage are similar, through inland waters. All ports where Baltimore Mail ships call are so situated that your rail or motor trip to point of embarkation is shorter and less expensive.

Passengers Sailing Home

Passengers Sailing Home aboard the Baltimore Mail Ships

BOUND abroad or for home, sailing time is thrilling, its scenes are long remembered. Often, too, it is the beginning of the most enjoyable part of the European holiday — the days at sea. There is provided on Baltimore Mail ships all that makes crossings most enjoyable—the sort of service and accommodations expected of the newest line on the Atlantic.

Credit: The Gjenvick-Gjønvik Archives

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