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The Minnetonka from a contemporary photo postcard (Kinghorn)

S.S. Minnetonka

Sisters: Minnehaha, Minneapolis, Minnewaska (III), Mongolia, Manchuria, Arabic
Builder: Harland & Wolff, Belfast, yard number 339
Launched December 12, 1901; delivered May 17, 1902; maiden voyage May 17, 1902; torpedoed January 30, 1918
Hull: length 600' 8"; beam 65' 6'' 13,398 tons; depth of hold: 39' 6"
Power: twin screws; quadruple expansion engines by builder with cylinders of 30", 43", 63" and 89" diameter, stroke 60"; 1,227 n.h.p.; steam pressure 180 lbs.; 16 knots
Registered in Belfast; official number 113520; call sign MMK

 

The Minnetonka was the third of the MInne class ships built and left Belfast for her maiden voyage from to New York and London on May 17, 1902. In July 1902 she came under the command of Captain E. G. Cannons, but in June 1902, when she had a collision with a Runciman Line steamer off the coast of Sussex she was under the command of Sydney Layland. She is recorded in the Morton Allan Directory of European Passenger Steamship Arrivals making a grand total of 144 voyages to New York between May 1902 and January 1915. She was among the first ships fitted for wireless telegraphy and was using her equipment by February 1902 for on the 5th of that month the New York Times reported the Minneapolis's wireless communication with the Minnetonka, which had just defeated the Etruria in a chess match by wireless telegraphy. The call letters for the Minnetonka were "MMK."

In mid June 1907 Mark Twain (Sam Clemens) traveled to England on board the Minneapolis to receive an honorary degree from Oxford University. He returned home from this, his last European trip, on the Minnetonka in July. Twain befriended several children on the voyage, but in his own words "made a particular pet of little Dorothy Quick," an 11-year old returning home to Brooklyn with her mother. Dorothy became a frequent houseguest of Twain's, both at his Tuxedo Park home, in New York City, and in Redding, Connecticut, and their friendship lasted until his death in 1910. Quick became a writer and poet herself, and her book Mark Twain and Me: A Little Girl's Friendship With Mark Twain formed the basis of a TV movie in 1991. Quick describes taking tea with Mark Twain in the captain's quarters and being shown around the bridge. She talks about the animals carried on these ships and relates how "Mark Twain went on a tour of their quarters and came back very enthusiastic about the way the animals were taken care of." When Dorothy complained that she had missed the tour, Twain remarked that "the air is better up here than down there, and your nose is much too little to put a strain on it!" Dorothy also describes a concert given on July 20, the last Saturday of the voyage, in aid of a seaman's charity. Twain spoke about the blind, and "with a few sentences he held all the people who were crowded into the ship's lounge literally breathless." The program for the concert, which was clearly printed on board, presents Twain as appearing "by courtesy of Miss Dorothy Quick," who he was referring to as his business manager at the time!

In March 1905 a young man named Andrew M. Griscom, whose father was related to Clement Griscom, disappeared mysteriously from his family home in Philadelphia and evidently worked his passage to England as a cattleman on the Mesaba. He returned almost immediately on the Minnetonka, but 400 miles off Nantucket the quartermaster's boy called "man overboard" for a man had been seen "clutching at the log lines as the plunging liner left him astern." The ship immediately swung around and a boat was quickly lowered to search for the man, but no trace of him was found. When a roll call was taken it was realized that Griscom was missing. Nobody saw him go over the rail, but "those who knew of his disappearance have no doubt that it was suicide."

On a happier note the Minnetonka saw romance in May 1907 when her purser, A. H. Norfolk, fell for a passenger, Miss Ada Raffin. This was not a case of love at first sight apparently, but by the time land had been sighted the couple had exchanged vows. They were married in New York in February 1908 and sailed to their home in England on separate ships because Atlantic Transport Line rules forbad an officer on duty and his wife from traveling together on the same ship.

Edward Farnol's memoir More Memories of my Brother Jack records an encounter with the Minnetonka in 1908:

I sent this money I had obtained from Sampson Low on to New York, and within three weeks had a letter from Jack telling us that he was sailing for England in one of the Atlantic Transport Company's ships (I think the "Minnetonka") and would arrive at Tilbury on a given date. I went down to the Port to meet him but as the ship had not got in but was on her way up the Thames, I hired a man with a motor boat to take me down river to meet her. It was one of England's most beautiful days, I remember, with bright sun and sparkling water ruffled by a soft and gentle wind, so that I felt happy and more than glad that the old country should give the returning exile so bright and glittering a welcome home.

The liner soon came into sight, steaming very slowly up river, and I got my boatman to run close up under her counter. A Quartermaster who was leaning over the ship's rail must have thought me some kind of official for he shouted asking if "I was coming aboard"--of course I yelled Yes! as soon as possible and, at once, he lowered a long rope ladder end invited me to climb up. I grabbed the highest rung I could reach and hung on so that in no time at all I was swinging over the water, for the ship went steadily ahead and my boatman backed away from the ship's side to keep out of her wash. Looking up I saw the Quartermaster looking down at me, his face and that of my brother both grinning at my climbing efforts and evidently exchanging jokes about my antics on the nasty swinging ladder. However, I climbed fairly steadily up and over the side on to the deck where Jack slapped me on the back, giving me his familiar old smile and his "well done, Old Cock" just as he used to do when I was a small boy and had pleased him.

In the very early days of World War One Captain E. G. Cannons thought that the Minnetonka was being chased by a German cruiser, and raced her at full speed through thick fog to the safety of New York harbor, with all lights out and her forghorn silent. Approaching Nantucket she had exchanged suspicious wireless messages with an unidentified ship and Cannons felt it necessary to make a run for safety. Passengers reported that as she accelerated away, "we felt the ship begin to shake from forward to aft and the thumping of the engines could be heard all over the promenade deck."

The Minnetonka commenced the last of her 137 trans-Atlantic voyages on December 31, 1914 and early the following year became a military transport (HMT 158). On February 2, 1917, the submarine U 35 tried to attack the Minnetonka while she was sailing from Marseilles to Bizerta (south of Sardinia) with the destroyers Nereide and Sheldrake as escorts, but the range was too great. UC 34 had no better luck on September 24 when she encountered the Minnetonka between Sicily and Tunisia escorted by the destroyers Yanagi and Kashi. But on January 30, 1918, the Minnetonka's luck finally ran out when she was sailing unescorted from Port Said to Malta and Marseilles and encountered UC 67 and U 64 some 40 miles East North East of Malta. Two torpedoes were fired by U 64 at 16:43, one of which struck and damaged the Minnetonka. At 17:00 U 64 fired one more torpedo and 10 minutes later UC 67 surfaced and fired 10 rounds at the sinking ship. Fortunately she was carrying military mail and there were no troops on board. Four crewmen died in the attack and nine were taken prisoner.

Sources: The Atlantic Transport Line, 1881-1931; The Ships List; Atlantic Transport Line brochures of 1909 and 1913 (Kinghorn); London Ship Types, Frank C. Bowen, London, 1938; Passenger Ships of the World Past and Present, Eugene W. Smith, Massachusetts, 1977; Merchant Fleets in Profile 2; the Ships of the Cunard, American, Red Star, Inman, Leyland, Dominion, Atlantic Transport and White Star Lines, Duncan Haws, 1979; The Great War Forum; the New York Times, June 30, 1898; April 8, 1900; February 5, 1902; December 28, 1902; January 26, 1907; July 27, 1909; August 11, 1914

Minne postcard captioned fro Minntonka
The standard Minne class postcard captioned in this case for the Minnetonka (Kinghorn)

Minne upper promenade deck from an Atlantic Transport Line brochure (Kinghorn)
Minne upper promenade deck from an Atlantic Transport Line brochure (Kinghorn)

Minne promenade deck from an Atlantic Transport brochure (Kinghorn)
Minne promenade deck from an Atlantic Transport brochure (Kinghorn)

Minne saloon deck from an Atlantic Transport brochure (Kinghorn)
Minne saloon deck from an Atlantic Transport brochure (Kinghorn)

The promenade deck of a Minne class ship.
This promenade deck image was published in a 1909 brochure and was identified in a later brochure as the Minnetonka (Kinghorn)

Ladies playing shuffleboard close to the aft wheelhouse. From a keen photographer's souvenir album recording a voyage to Europe on Minnetonka c.1902-5 (Chauncey Walden)

Ladies playing shuffleboard close to the aft wheelhouse. From a keen photographer's souvenir album recording a voyage to Europe on the Minnetonka c.1902-5 (Chauncey Walden)

The view astern from the back of the promenade deck. From a keen photographer's souvenir album recording a voyage to Europe on Minnetonka c.1902-5 (Chauncey Walden)

The view astern from the back of the promenade deck. From a keen photographer's souvenir album recording a voyage to Europe on the Minnetonka c.1902-5 (Chauncey Walden)

Crewmen washing the decks aft in the morning. From a keen photographer's souvenir album recording a voyage to Europe on Minnetonka c.1902-5 (Chauncey Walden)
Crewmen washing the decks aft in the morning. From a keen photographer's souvenir album recording a voyage to Europe on the Minnetonka c.1902-5 (Chauncey Walden)

Passengers promenading. From a keen photographer's souvenir album recording a voyage to Europe on the Minnetonka c.1902-5 (Chauncey Walden)
Passengers promenading (note the white jacketed cook or steward presumably returning to his quarters in the stern).
From a keen photographer's souvenir album recording a voyage to Europe on the Minnetonka c.1902-5 (Chauncey Walden)

A dinner menu card with abstract of log from the Minnetonka, November 19, 1904 (Kinghorn)
A dinner menu card with abstract of log from the Minnetonka, November 19, 1904 (Kinghorn)
Click for PDF file (3,687 KB)

A Thanksgiving Day dinner menu card with abstract of log from the Minnetonka, November 30, 1911 (Kinghorn)
A Thanksgiving Day dinner menu card with abstract of log from the Minnetonka, November 30, 1911 (Kinghorn)
Click for PDF file (2,990 KB)

Mark Twain and Dorothy Quick on board Minnetonka in July 1907 (www.old-picture.com)
Mark Twain and Dorothy Quick on board the Minnetonka in July 1907 (www.old-picture.com)

Minnetonka from Tucks "Celebrated Liners" series (Kinghorn)
The Minnetonka from Tucks "Celebrated Liners" series (Kinghorn)

Dinner menu dated September 21, 1913 (Kinghorn)
Dinner menu dated September 21, 1913 (Kinghorn)
Click for PDF file (2,864 KB)

The passenger list issued by the London office for the voyage of the Minnetonka commencing August 29, 1914 (Kinghorn)
The passenger list issued by the London office for the voyage of the Minnetonka commencing August 29, 1914 (Kinghorn)
Click for PDf file (3,167 KB)

A passengers snap of one "Mr. Bakeman" on the upper promenade deck, c.1903 (Kinghorn)
A passengers snap of one "Mr. Bakeman" on the upper promenade deck, c.1903 (Kinghorn)

A passengers snap of the Minnetonka enetering the docks at Tilbury c.1903 (Kinghorn)
A passengers snap of the Minnetonka enetering the docks at Tilbury c.1903 (Kinghorn)

A passengers snap of a cargo winch on the Minnetonka c.1903 (Kinghorn)
A passengers snap of a cargo winch on the Minnetonka c.1903 (Kinghorn)

A passengers snap of a salors washing the foreward saloon deck on the Minnetonka c.1903 (Kinghorn)
A passengers snap of a salors washing the foreward saloon deck on the Minnetonka c.1903 (Kinghorn)

A passengers snap of a salors washing the foreward saloon deck on the Minnetonka c.1903 (Kinghorn)
A photo postcard taken on the forward saloon deck of the Minnetonka marked "Copyright. G.A. Pratt. Southampton" (Ian Newson)

A program for the sports day held on the Minnetonka on September 14, 1907, printed on menu card stock (Kinghorn)
A program for the sports day held on the Minnetonka on September 14, 1907, printed on menu card stock (Kinghorn)

A late colored A.T.L. postcard captioned Minnetonka (Kinghorn)
A late colored Atlantic Transport Line postcard captioned "Minnetonka" (Kinghorn)

Photo postcard of Minnetonka at Tilbury (Kinghorn)
The Minnetonka from a contemporary photo postcard (Kinghorn)

A photo postcard depicting the Minnetonka at anchor(Ian Newson)
A photo postcard depicting the Minnetonka at anchor (Ian Newson)

A photo postcard depicting the Minnetonka (Ian Newson)
A photo postcard depicting the Minnetonka (Ian Newson)

Sports program from the Minnetonka, September 18 -20, 1913, printed on ships letterhead (Kinghorn)
Sports program from the Minnetonka, September 18 -20, 1913, printed on ships letterhead (Kinghorn)
Click for PDF file (1,127 KB)

Photo postcard of Minnetonka at Tilbury (Kinghorn)
A generic Minne image on a postcard captioned Minnetonka and mailed in 1907 (Kinghorn)

A photo postcard captioned "Minnetonka 1902" (Ian Newson)
A photo postcard captioned "Minnetonka 1902" (Ian Newson)

Photo postcard of Minnetonka at Tilbury (Kinghorn)
A generic Minne image on a postcard mailed on board the Minnetonka in 1903 (Kinghorn)

Composite photo of a Minne class transport (Ian Newson)
A composite photograph of a Minne class ship in service as a transport during the Great War. Given the lack of visible ventilators on the aft deck
this is probably Minnetonka. From an album compiled by James Grant Hutchison, an Atlantic Transport Line officer for many years. (Ian Newson)

Postcard showing HMT Minnetonka in stormy weather (Kinghorn)
This postcard showing the Minnetonka in a storm is one of a series of French cards showing transports in heavy seas. (Kinghorn).

Composite photo of a Minne class transport (Ian Newson)
A French photo postcard of c.1917 shows the Minnetonka in the harbor at Marseilles with her stren gun clearly visible (Kinghorn)

 

For more information ...

Kinghorn "The Atlantic Transport Line 1881 - 1931" McFarland, 2011

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