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A detail from the postcard printed by the line for passenger's use on board the new Minne class ships; artwork by Charles Dixon (Kinghorn)

S.S. Minnetonka (II)

Sister: Minnewaska (IV)
Builder: Harland & Wolff, Belfast, yard number 614
Launched January 10, 1924; delivered April 24, 1924; maiden voyage May 3, 1924; broken up 1934
Hull: length 600'; beam 80'; 21,998 tons; 5 continuous steel decks; 17,000 tons cargo capacity
Power: triple screws; 4 single reduction geared Brown Curtiss steam turbine engines of 15,000 h.p.
12 boilers, 60 burners for fuel oil; steam pressure 220 lbs.; 16 knots
Registered in Belfast; official number 145438

 

The Minnetonka (II) was the second of four super-Minne type ships planned for the post-war recovery of the Atlantic Transport Line's premiere London to New York passenger cargo business. Each of the new ships was to be named after its illustrious predecessor sunk during the war. In the event however, only two of the ships were actually built because post-war traffic never reached let alone surpassed pre-war levels. Although built to the same dimensions as her sister, the Minnewaska (IV) had a slightly greater tonnage; she reportedly cost £1,175,000 to build.

The ships were ordered in 1919 but their construction was delayed. They were similar in length to the pre-war Minnes but they had a much broader beam which made them even more stable and increased their cargo capacity and passenger accommodation. They were the largest cargo vessels in the world when launched. As well as carrying more passengers the ships offered additional facilities for them including a lounge and a reception room the full width of the ship designed for dancing. Another improvement was the glazing of the fore portion of the promenade deck to provide a measure of shelter. The glazing on the side of the Minnetonka (II)'s promenade deck was carried slightly further aft, and this is the best way of distinguishing between the sisters in photographs.

The U.S. Shipping Board did not authorize a resumption of the Atlantic Transport Line's London to New York service until the new Minnes were nearing completion. The Minnetonka (II) sailed under the command of the veteran captain Thomas F. Gates and is recorded in the Morton Allan Directory of European Passenger Steamship Arrivals making 83 voyages to New York for the Atlantic Transport Line between May 1924 and December 1930.

The depression of 1931 ended any hope the International Mercantile Marine Company had of selling off its foreign-flagged lines and the Atlantic Transport Line was closed down. Alternative work was sought for Minnetonka (II) and her sister, and it was reported in the New York Times that they were to be converted for the New Zeeland frozen meat trade and would be sailing out via the Cape of Good Hope and home via Cape Horn, a round trip of 30,000 miles! In the event the both Minnes were transferred to the Red Star Line's transatlantic tourist third service to enable a weekly sailing schedule to be maintained.

The Minnetonka (II) started on the Antwerp to New York route for the Red Star Line in May 1932 as a tourist class ship carrying 413 passengers. The fare was $98 one way or $172 for the round trip (half the former rate), and was marketed as "the most sensational travel value ever offered," but it did not prove to be a successful venture. She made just twelve round trips for the Red Star Line before her service was terminated in September of the following year. It was announced in May 1934 that both of the Minnes would be laid up in Antwerp but both ships were soon sold to Douglas & Ramsey for scrap. The sale "was accepted yesterday in shipping circles as marking the end of the Atlantic Transport Line" according to the New York Times.

The post-war Minnes were scrapped after remarkably short careers. A factor in the decision to scrap rather than sell the sisters was evidently that the International Mercantile Marine Company did not want then falling into the hands of a competitor. Identifying another issue Time magazine noted when their sale for scrap was announced that "Minnetonka and Minnewaska, built for comfort in an age of speed, took eight days from New York to London" and "because they were slow International Mercantile Marine sold them to the 'knackers' last week for 4¢ on the dollar-$12,000,000 worth of steel & iron & wood for less than $500,000." The Minnetonka (II)'s final voyage to the yard of McLellan Ltd. of Bo'ness on the Firth of Forth for breaking ended on the evening of December 9, 1934, with her "proudly grounding at full speed under her own power" with every light blazing. "A huge wave broke along the waterfront as she went ashore" according to the New York Times, and police had to hold back the crowds that had come to watch.

Sources: The Atlantic Transport Line, 1881-1931; The Ships List; 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; A Century of Atlantic Travel: 1830-1930, Frank Charles Bowen, 1930; The Red Star Line and the International Mercantile Marine Company, Vernon E.W. Finch, Antwerp, 1988; Atlantic Transport Line brochure, dated May 2, 1923 (Kinghorn); Atlantic Transport Line brochure of c.1924 (Kinghorn); The New York Times, August 14, 1922; March 26, 1929; October 27, 1929; December 22, 1931; April 6, 1932; May 5, 1932; May 22, 1932; May 27; 1934, December 10, 1934

The postcard printed by the line for passenger's use on board the new Minne class ships; artwork by Charles Dixon (Kinghorn)
The postcard printed by the line for passenger's use on board the new Minne class ships; artwork by Charles Dixon (Kinghorn)

A Deck: Upper Promenade Deck: Smoking Room, Drawing Room, and Lounge
A Deck: Upper Promenade Deck: Smoking Room, Drawing Room, and Lounge

B Deck: Lower Promenade Deck: Staterooms and suites
B Deck: Lower Promenade Deck: Staterooms and suites

C Deck: Staterooms
C Deck: Staterooms

D Deck: Dining saloon, reception room and staterooms
D Deck: Dining Saloon, Reception Room and staterooms

Poster advertising the new First Class service (Swann Galleries)
A poster advertising the reintroduced first class service in 1924 -- the image was
also used on the covers of the passenger lists of the day (Swann Galleries)

Dated May 2, 1923, this brochure promotes the reintroduction of the line's London to New York service (Kinghorn)
Dated May 2, 1923, this brochure promotes the reintroduction of the line's London to New York service (Kinghorn)
Click for PDF file (23,217 KB)

This brochure promotes the convenience of the new Minne class ships in London (Kinghorn)
This brochure promotes the convenience of the new Minne class ships in London (Kinghorn)
Click for PDF file (23,830 KB)

Postcard captioned "London's Largest liner — off Boulogne" (Kinghorn)

A color postcard captioned "London's Largest liner — off Boulogne" (Kinghorn)

The Dining Room was large enough to accommodate all passengers at one sitting, most of them assigned to small and intimate tables.
The Dining Room was large enough to accommodate all passengers at one sitting, most of them assigned to small and intimate tables.
The largest table — the captain's table — occupied pride of place, but the surgeon, chief engineer, and purser also presided over
smaller tables nearbye. (Kinghorn)

The reception room had a parquet floor designed for dancing, a grand piano, and an organ.
The reception room had a parquet floor designed for dancing, a grand piano, and an organ. In addition the ship carried
an "orchestra" of professional musicians. Brochure of c.1924 (Kinghorn). The reception room at the foot of the main staircase
filled the entire width of the ship. One corner housed a grand piano and the opposite corner an organ. (Kinghorn)

The ship's orchestra, from a brochure of c. 1924 (Kinghorn collection)
The parquet floor of this room was designed for dancing, and here the ship's orchestra of "experienced string musicians" played

The ship's lounge was located on the forward part of the upper promenade deck.
The ship's lounge was located on the forward part of the upper promenade deck. It was "finished in American sycamore,
paneled in a style of the mid-seventeenth century... There are numerous easy chairs and upholstered settees, and
a generous supply of card tables." (Kinghorn)

"Beauty and quiet are found in the ship's Reading Room.
"Beauty and quiet are found in the ship's Reading Room. This room, in the style of "the brothers Adam," was
sometimes identified as the Drawing Room, and was designed principally for use by female passengers (Kinghorn)

The exclusively male smoking-room was "a fine, dignified old English style apartment, with paneled cedar walls and walnut furniture, having coverings of dull blue leather - the kind of room in which one might logically look for the shades of Dr. Johnson and Goldsmith engaged in conversation over a pipe and bowl." (Kinghorn)
The exclusively male smoking-room occupied the traditional location at the after end of this deck and was "a fine, dignified old
English style apartment, with paneled cedar walls and walnut furniture, having coverings of dull blue leather — the kind of room
in which one might logically look for the shades of Dr. Johnson and Goldsmith engaged in conversation over a pipe and bowl." (Kinghorn)

Promenade deck, from a brochure of c. 1924 (Kinghorn collection)
The wide promenade deck was glazed in forward to provide some shelter. On these decks morning buillon and afternoon
tea were served, the orchestra played in summer, and dancing was "sometimes indulged in." (Kinghorn)

Promenade deck, from a brochure of c. 1924 (Kinghorn collection)
The promenade deck, from a brochure of c. 1930 (Kinghorn collection)

The sitting room of a suite on the promenade deck (Kinghorn)
The sitting room of a suite on the promenade deck (Kinghorn)

The piece of furniture on the right in the same suite sitting room looks like a desk-bookcase. It opened up to reveal a washstand. From a brochure of c. 1924 (Kinghorn collection)
The piece of furniture on the right in the same suite sitting room looks like a desk-bookcase. It opened up
to reveal a washstand. From a brochure of c. 1924 (Kinghorn)

More photographs of passenger accommodation on this ship, and her sister

The program for the entertainment staged on June 27, 1930 (Ian Newson)
The program for the entertainment staged on June 27, 1930 (Ian Newson)
Click for PDF file (2,423 KB)

Postcard comparing the 21,000 ton Minnetonka of 1924, London's largest liner, with the 1,500 ton Henry Grace à Dieu of 1524, the biggest ship in Henry VIII's navy (Kinghorn)
The postcard to the right compares the 21,000 ton Minnetonka of 1924, London's largest liner, with the
1,500 ton Henry Grace à Dieu of 1524, the biggest ship in Henry VIII's navy (Kinghorn)

Photo postcard showing the Minnetonka (II) leaving port (Ian Newson)
Photo postcard showing the Minnetonka (II) leaving port (Ian Newson)

This "oilette" postcard has a textured surface imitating an oil paining (Kinghorn)
This"oilette" postcard has a textured surface imitating an oil paining (Kinghorn)

Photo: Minnetonka at sea (Ian Newson)
Minnetonka at sea (Ian Newson)

Detail from a photo postcard showing a lightly laden Minnetonka in Red Star Line service (eBay)
Detail from a photo postcard showing a lightly laden Minnetonka in Red Star Line service (eBay)

The Minnetonka, photographed by Alexander Gmelin on October 11, 1930
The Minnetonka, photographed by Alexander Gmelin on October 11, 1930

Breakfast menu for Wednesday, May 14, 1930 (Kinghorn)
Breakfast menu for Wednesday, May 14, 1930 (Kinghorn)
Click for PDF file (1,925 KB)

Breakfast menu for Wednesday, May 14, 1930 (Kinghorn)
Luncheon menu for Wednesday, May 14, 1930 (Kinghorn)
Click for PDF file (2,164 KB)

 

The passenger list issued by the Red Star Line for the tourist class voyage
The passenger list issued by the Red Star Line for the tourist class voyage
commencing in Antwerp on Friday June 9, 1933 (Kinghorn)
Click for PDF file (22,662 KB)

Red Star Line advertisement
Red Line newspaper advertisement featuring the Minnewaska (IV) and Minnetonka (II) (Ian Newson)

 

For more information ...

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

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