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Builder: Harland & Wolff, Belfast, yard number
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
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