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Image of the Minnekahda (II) after her second refit

S.S. Minnekahda (II)

Builder: Harland & Wolff, Belfast, yard number 446
Launched March 8, 1917; delivered March 21, 1918; broken up 1936
Hull: length 620' 6", beam 66' 4"; 17,281 tons
Power: triple screws; two triple expansion engines by builder plus one low pressure turbine for the center shaft, cylinders of 30", 47 ½", and 54" diameter, stroke 54"
Steam pressure 185lbs.; 16 knots
Registered in Belfast; official number 136369

 

The Minnekahda (II) was ordered in April 1913 as a super-Minne class ship for the London to New York route. She had triple screws and a distinctive modern cruiser stern, but her interior arrangements were to be "upon the same general plan" as those of her successful consorts. The name Minnekahda means "on the boom of the deep" in the Dakota Indian tongue according to a brochure published c.1925 that described her as "a mighty, dependable, powerful vessel," "a wonderful seaboat," and having a "reserve of power insuring uniform passage in all weathers, with speed sufficient to cross the ocean in seven days."

The outbreak of World War One halted construction, which resumed only when the Minnekahda (II) was earmarked for use as a transport. She was launched in 1917 without her superstructure and with four stump masts that could be folded onto the deck when she was at sea. She was used as a troopship bringing American servicemen to France and taking them home again after the war. The Minnekahda (II) was released from her service in January 1920, and sailed initially as a freighter for the Atlantic Transport Line running from London to New York. One of the items of cargo she brought to the USA in April 1920 was 17 tons of gold bullion valued at $9.8 million, one of four similar shipments from the British government sent at the time to repay war loans that were falling due.

The International Mercantile Marine expected to resume the Atlantic Transport Line's successful London to New York passenger service after the war and evidently wanted the Minnekahda (II) to run on that line as originally intended. But the U.S. Shipping Board did not permit the resumption of this service and the Minnekahda (II) was instead completed for use in the emigrant trade. The work was done at the Fore River Plant of the Bethlehem Shipbuilding Co. at a cost of more than $700,000 and she was ready for service by March 1921. She could carry 2,000 passengers and sailed from the Free City of Danzig (Gdansk) to New York for the American Line under Captain Thomas Gates. The Minnekahda (II) was transferred from British to American registry at this time and became the largest ship sailing under the stars and stripes.

The emigrant trade however largely dried up following the introduction of new immigration laws by the U.S. in 1921. New work clearly had to be found for the Minnekahda (II) and the answer lay in the development of a new Tourist Third Class. Transferred back to the Atlantic Transport Line in 1925, Minnekahda was remodeled in Boulogne and her accommodation was upgraded to turn her into a comfortable one class vessel capable of carrying 750 Tourist Third passengers on the London to New York service. According to the New York Times "a new boat deck has been added, thereby considerably extending her promenade space, and there have been a number of improvements in the way of staterooms and bathrooms." She was the very first all tourist class vessel and offered a large lounge or social hall, two smoking rooms, a ladies room, and a dining room seating 400. Unusually, berths were offered at a single rate regardless of the location or size of the stateroom, and the sooner passengers booked the more likely they were to secure the accommodation of their choice. The Minnekahda is recorded in the Morton Allan Directory of European Passenger Steamship Arrivals making a total 67 voyages to New York between April 1925 and October 1930, the year in which the data in the directory ends. She sailed throughout her Tourist Third Class career under the command of John F. Jensen, Lieutenant Commander USNR. She was very successful as a Tourist Class ship and carried 6,228 passengers in her first year.

By the late 1920s tourist class travel had established itself — "passengers no longer show any aversion to it" according to the New York Times. In 1927 the veteran Red Star Line steamer Zeeland, which had been converted for the tourist class trade in 1924, was transferred to the Atlantic Transport Line fleet. She sailed as the Minnesota (III) and enabled the line to once again offer weekly sailings from London and New York, with a first class ship sailing one week and a tourist class the next. But although the International Mercantile Marine's fleet carried 12,113 tourist class passengers in June and July of 1929 and the Minnekahda (II) was the most successful ship in this service the elderly Minnesota (III) was disposed of shortly before the Wall Street Crash and as trade diminished sharply with the growing recession Minnekahda (II)'s days were numbered also.

When she arrived in New York on October 12, 1931, Minnekahda was laid up temporarily at Pier 52. By the time was transferred to Staten Island, where she was to spend the winter, there were already strong rumors in shipping circles that she was soon to be scrapped. Adding strength to these rumors, as soon as his ship was laid up Captain Jensen was transferred to the recently reconstructed and renamed Baltimore Mail Liner City of Hamburg. The Minnekahda (II) never went back into service and was sold to the shipbreakers Arnott, Young and Co. of Dalmuir near Glasgow around the beginning of March, 1936. She sailed under the British flag to the Clyde on April 14, 1936, for breaking under Captain William Scott Smales, a voyage that took 14 days at an average speed of 9 knots.

Sources: The Atlantic Transport Line, 1881-1931; The Ships List; Atlantic Transport Line brochures of c.1914 and c.1925 (Kinghorn); Passenger Ships of the World Past and Present, Eugene W. Smith, Massachusetts, 1977; A Century of Atlantic Travel: 1830-1930, Frank Charles Bowen, 1930; 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 New York Times, December 5, 1918; January 28, 1919; April 7, 1920; November 4, 1920; March 31, 1921; November 14, 1921; March 2, 1922; July 22, 1922; December 4, 1924; August 18, 1925; December 9, 1925; March 20, 1926; November 12, 1927; August 13, 1929, May 28, 1930; July 22, 1930; December 3, 1931, March 15, 1936

Minnekahda (II) A Deck, the promenade deck, after the 1925 refit, housed the women's lounge and the smoking room
A Deck, the promenade deck, after the 1925 refit, housed the women's lounge and the smoking room

Minnekahda (II) B Deck after the 1925 refit, housed staterooms and a "general room" (lounge)
B Deck after the 1925 refit, housed staterooms and a "general room" (lounge)

Minnekahda (II) C Deck after the 1925 refit, housed most of the staterooms and the dining saloon
C Deck after the 1925 refit, housed most of the staterooms and the dining saloon

Minnekahda (II) D Deck after the 1925 refit, housed a few additional staterooms
D Deck after the 1925 refit, housed a few additional staterooms

artists impression of the Minnekahda as intended, 1914 brichure (Kinghorn collection)
An artist's impression of the Minnekahda (II) as she was intended to look, from a 1914 brochure (Kinghorn)

A wartime postcard showing the Minnekahda (II) as actually completed, without her superstructure and sailing
A wartime postcard showing the Minnekahda (II) as actually completed, without her superstructure and sailing
with her stump masts folded down (Ian Newson)

A wartime postcard showing the Minnekahda (II) as completed for military service, without her superstructure (Kinghorn)
A wartime postcard showing the Minnekahda (II) as completed for military service, without her superstructure (Kinghorn)

Photo postcard of the Minnekahda (II) in Southampton Water after her first refit and in American Line service (Kinghorn)
Photo postcard of the Minnekahda (II) in Southampton Water after her first refit and in American Line service (Kinghorn)

The Minnekahda (II) refitted after the war as an emigrant ship and passing through in the Kiel Canal for the American Line.
The Minnekahda (II) refitted after the war as an emigrant ship and passing through in the Kiel Canal for the American Line.
From a postcard mailed in 1922 (Ian Newson)

The Minnekahda (II) passing through in the Kiel Canal for the American Line (Ian Newson)
The Minnekahda (II) passing through in the Kiel Canal for the American Line (Ian Newson)

An early photograph of Minnekahda as originally completed and in American Line colors (Kinghorn)
An early photograph of Minnekahda as originally completed and in American Line colors (Kinghorn)

an American Line postcard with artwork more familiar from the later version updated to show A.T.L. colors and flags. (Kinghorn)
An American Line postcard with artwork more familiar from the later version shown below,
updated to show Atlantic Transport Line colors and flags (Kinghorn)

an American Line postcard for Minnekahda mailed in Hamburg in 1924. (Kinghorn)
An American Line postcard for Minnekahda (II) mailed in Hamburg in 1924 (Kinghorn)

an American Line postcard for Minnekahda mailed in Hamburg in 1924. (Kinghorn)The program for the entertainment staged on October 9, 1926 (Ian Newson)
Left: The passenger list for the experimental voyage of the Minnekahda (II) as a tourist class ship for the Atlantic Transport Line,
departing New York on July 3, 1924 reprinted for marketing purposes with a testimonial letter from a committee of passengers (26,551 KB PDF file) (Kinghorn).
Right: The program for the entertainment staged on October 9, 1926 (1,865 KB PDF file) (Ian Newson)
Click images for PDF documents

Poster promoting "the affordable ship"
As an affordable means of crossing the ocean for educational tours, Minnekahda (II) was promoted as "the Student Ship."
Reproductions of this poster are available from American Print Archives

photo postacrd of Minnekahda as fitted for emigrant trade, 1920 (Kinghorn collection)
The Minnekahda (II) after her first refit -- actually the photograph used on one of the postcards above retouched to show
Atlantic Transport Line colors on the funnel (Kinghorn)

Tourist class rates brochure issued by the New York office in 1926 (Kinghorn)
Tourist class rates brochure issued by the New York office in 1926 (Kinghorn)
Click for PDF file (24,350 KB)

Tourist class rates brochure issued by the New York office in April 1926 (Kinghorn)
Tourist class rates brochure issued by the New York office in April 1926 (Kinghorn)
Click for PDF file (8,473 KB)

photo postacrd of Minnekahda as fitted for emigrant trade, 1920 (Kinghorn collection)
The Minnekahda (II) after her first refit and apparently in Atlantic Transport Line service (Kinghorn)

The Minnekahda (II) after her second refit in 1925 added passenger accommodation, extra lifeboats and a new promenade deck
The Minnekahda (II) after her second refit in 1925 added passenger accommodation, extra lifeboats and a new promenade deck
for tourist third class service. This artwork was widely used in promotional materials at the time (Ian Newson)

A brochure issued by the London office to promote the Minnekahda's tourist class service (Kinghorn)
A brochure issued by the London office to promote the Minnekahda's tourist class service (Kinghorn)
Click for PDF file (23,542 KB)


Brochure issued in February 1925 by the New York office to promote the Minnekahda's tourist class service (Kinghorn)
Click for PDF file (30,745 KB)

cabin a cabin, Minnekahada, from o brochure of c.1925 (kinghorn)
State rooms with from two to six berths were provided at "one price" per berth. From brochures of c.1930 and c.1925.
(Kinghorn)

Sheet music for a souvenir song c.1925
Sheet music for a souvenir song by Charles K. Davis. Click here for PDF of document. (Kinghorn)

Image photographed at the dockside, from a brochure of c.1926Passengers on Minnekahda's stern,
Left: Image photographed at the dockside, from a brochure of c.1926 Right: Passengers on Minnekahda's stern,
from a brochure of c.1930 (Kinghorn)

dining room, Minnekahada, from o brochure of c.1925 (kinghorn)the lounge, Minnekahada, from o brochure of c.1925 (kinghorn)
The dining saloon on C Deck and the lounge or "General Room" on B Deck, from a brochure of c.1925.
In the center of the dining room was "large dancing space over which the ship's famous jazz
orchestra presides." The lounge contained "a well stocked library" and "once or more during the
voyage a concert is given here; and impromptu entertainments are not unusual."
(Kinghorn)

Breakfast menu from the Minnekahda (II) dated September 7, 1930 ( Kinghorn)Lunch menu from the Minnekahda (II) dated  August 12, 1926 (Kinghorn)Dinner menu from the Minnekahda (II) dated September 7, 1930 (Kinghorn)
Breakfast, lunch and dinner menus from the Minnekahda (II) dated respectively
September 7, 1930, August 12, 1926, and September 7, 1930 (all Kinghorn)
Click images for larger view

Minnekahda's dining saloon on C Deck set up for a social event with the orchestra's instruments on stage.
Minnekahda's dining saloon on C Deck set up for a social event with the orchestra's instruments on stage.
From a brochure of c.1930 (Kinghorn)

Program for the concert held on board on August 26, 1928 (Kinghorn)
Program for the concert held on board on August 26, 1928 (Kinghorn)
Click for PDF file (3,343 KB)

Program for the entertainment held on board on August 13, 1930 (Kinghorn)
Program for the entertainment held on board on August 13, 1930 (Kinghorn)
Click for PDF file (2,065 KB)

Dated May 2, 1923, this brochure promotes the reintroduction of the line's London to New York service (Kinghorn)
Brochure issued by the New York office in March 1930 promoting the tourist class service (Kinghorn)
Click for PDF file (32,821 KB)

Incomplete tourist cass rates brochure issued by the New York office in January 1931 (Kinghorn)
Incomplete tourist cass rates brochure issued by the New York office in January 1931 (Kinghorn)
Click for PDF file (9,027 KB)

The postcard provided gratis to Minnekahda's tourist class passengers (Kinghorn)
The postcard provided gratis to Minnekahda's tourist class passengers (Kinghorn)

Items mailed by passengers on board during the voyage were given the ship's postmark
Sailing under the U.S. flag Minnekahda (II) carried mail. Items mailed by passengers
on board during the voyage were given the ship's postmark (Kinghorn)

The passenger list issued by the London office for the voyage sailing on June 14, 1930 (Kinghorn)
The passenger list issued by the London office for the voyage sailing on November 26, 1927 (Kinghorn)
Click for PDF file (10,669 KB)

The passenger list issued by the London office for the voyage sailing on June 14, 1930 (Kinghorn)
The passenger list issued by the London office for the voyage sailing on June 14, 1930 (Kinghorn)
Click for PDF file (15,326 KB)

deck games, Minnekahada, from o brochure of c.1925 (kinghorn)shuff;leboard on deck, Minnekahada, from o brochure of c.1925 (kinghorn)
A game of quoits on deck, and passengers playing shuffleboard

in the ladies room, Minnekahada, from o brochure of c.1925 (kinghorn)a family settling into their stateroom, Minnekahda, brochure of c.1925 (kinghorn)
The Ladie's Room on A Deck (the promenade deck) and a family settling into their stateroom

The smoking room on A Deck (the promenade deck). The "general room" or lounge on B Deck functioned
The smoking room on A Deck (the promenade deck). The "general room" or lounge on B Deck functioned
as a second smoking room, and one to which presumably female smokers could go.

stairs to the upper deck, Minnekahada, from o brochure of c.1925 (kinghorn)ice making machine, Minnekahada, from o brochure of c.1925 (kinghorn)
"The stairs to the upper deck" and "An ice making machine." Click left image for larger view.

kitchen ranges, Minnekahada, from o brochure of c.1925 (kinghorn)a store room, Minnekahada, from o brochure of c.1925 (kinghorn)
The "big kitchen ranges" and "a store room full of good things"

bread oven, Minnekahada, from o brochure of c.1925 (kinghorn)dough mixing machine, Minnekahada, from o brochure of c.1925 (kinghorn)
"The bakers' ovens are capacious" and "an electric dough mixing machine.

fresh bread and rolls, Minnekahada, from o brochure of c.1925 (kinghorn)coffee, Minnekahada, from o brochure of c.1925 (kinghorn)
"fresh bread and rolls" and "plenty of good coffee"

This photo postcard does not identify the ship, but has "S.S. Minnekahda June 17, 1927" written by hand on the reverse (Kinghorn)
This passenger's snap printed on photo postcard stock does not identify the ship, but has
"S.S. Minnekahda June 17, 1927" written by hand on the reverse (Kinghorn)

 

 

For more information ...

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

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