Headline: The Atlantic Transort Line 

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S.S. Michigan (III)

Other name: Irishman
Builder: Harland & Wolff, Belfast, yard number 327
Launched October 5, 1899; delivered December 14, 1899; broken up 1924
Hull: length 500' 8"; beam 65' 5"; 9,494 tons
Power: twin screws; quadruple expansion engines by builder each with cylinders of 21 ¼", 31 ½", 46", and 66" diameter, stroke 48"; 604 n.h.p.
Steam pressure 165 lbs.; 12 knots
Registered in Belfast; official number 110591


This ship was laid down as the Belgia for the Hamburg America Line but while building she was purchased by the Atlantic Transport Line. In 1900 she was transferred to the Dominion Line (in the process of becoming part of the International Mercantile Marine Company) in exchange for their Irishman and renamed Irishman (II) managed by Frederick Leyland & Co. She was sold in 1924 to shipbreakers in the Netherlands.

The Irishman during her Dominion Line days painted in White Star Line colors and
engaged on its Australia route. From a postcard signed and dated by a passenger in 1912 (Kinghorn)

In his 1915 Reminiscences of a Showman Louis E. Cooke described how Barnum and Bailey's circus traveled to the Hamburg in the early Spring of 1900 for a tour of Europe:

...Arrangements were also made with the Atlantic Transport Company, of New York, whose steamers were the only ones large enough to handle the great railway cars and other heavy material, which we had already constructed at Stoke-on-Trent, in England, to be transported across the English channel. One of their largest and newest ships, the Michigan, with a tonnage of 14,000, was selected to perform the service. The immense hatchways of that vessel enabled the lowering of our railway cars, the most of which were over sixty feet in length, directly into place on the first or second deck or they were slid into the hold between decks like sticks of timber. It required two trips of this ocean giant to perform the task and the officers of the company are deserving of great credit for the manner in which they accomplished the work.

Everything at Stoke-on-Trent was completely overhauled and ready early in February for the shipment, which took place on March 14, the first of the special trains containing the canvas, seats and properties, baggage, horses, and a portion of the working staff left Stoke for Tilbury docks, London, where the work. of loading the Michigan began at once and continued day and night until the morning of the 20th, when at 1:30 a. m. the good ship, a modern Noah's Ark, with more show property loaded thereon than Noah and all his following ever dreamed of, started on her first voyage across the North Sea to Hamburg, where she safely docked two days later and the work of disembarkation began.

The same evening the Michigan sailed back to London for the second cargo, consisting of the performing horses, a few of the loose or lead animals and such of the railway outfit as could not be handled on the first trip. Then the big ship steamed out of the docks in London on her second and last journey to Hamburg, reaching there the second night thereafter, where the work of unloading began at once and the last of the show was safely deposited on German soil thirty-six hours later.

Sources: The Atlantic Transport Line, 1881-1931; wikipedia, The Ships List 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


For more information ...

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

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