2006-02-03 / Columnists

The Big Ships of Yesteryear Received A Grand Welcome Here In New York

Lots of times at a postcard bourse or auction or sale or meeting, a lot of cards, because of their condition, wind up in the under a dollar category. At other times, the “as is” category is most interesting, but the historical content and other aspects, such as rarity, are taken into consideration by the dealers of such, and the price adjusted a little higher!

Yours truly found an interesting card in the latter variety, a card that was published almost a century ago... and to this historian’s eye..was worth its weight in gold. The three and a half by five inch illustrated, and in color, postcard, was published to commemorate the first appearance of the four-stack steamship- Lusitania – in New York Harbor on September 13, 1907. This was her maiden crossing of the big pond as the newest of giant ocean liners, traveling from Europe to the United States. This ship played a most important role in American history. Do you know what that role was? (1) In a few years, three giant fourstackers were built for ocean crossings, and only one vessel of the three did not complete her maiden voyage to New York Harbor! That one vessel was the well-known Titanic, which struck an iceberg and sank on or about April 12, 1912. There was a great loss of life, about twice that of the Lusitania.

Titanic has two sister ships... do you know their names and dispositions? (2) What’s that? No! No! The Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth used oil, not coal, and were built in contemporary times, as compared to all the aforementioned steamships of the past, past!

The scene shown today was shot from a high point at the old Battery on lower Manhattan, looking towards New Jersey. The brick structure at lower right was a fort built during the War of 1812. Do you know what it was known as or named? (3) Do you know what it later became at the Battery Park? (4) Do you know where it was moved to in 1957 by Robert Moses, so he could build expensive high-rise apartments? (5) In order to get his way with Mayor LaGuardia, Moses first proposed a move to the Bronx Zoo for the... (6) The mayor got furious and vetoed this move, so Moses proposed another site, which was the real place he wanted. (6) The Mayor thought he got the best of Moses at the time by issuing his objection and veto, without realizing that Moses was playing him, to get what he wanted, as well as a new park in...(7) But I will tell you that Moses destroyed this area as well! Did you remember yet? The crowds shown came to the Battery to see the new ocean liner and visit the... (6), or buy a ticket at the two steamer docks for a trip to Atlantic City, the Rockaways, or Coney Island.

In the old days, arrivals of steamships, or the great ocean liners I should say, were advertised in advance, to get crowds to the point areas of Coney Island and the Rockaways to view the giants coming in. The giant airships like the Graf Zeppelin and the Hindenburg were also viewed while coming up to Lakehurst, New Jersey to their mooring masts. There were almost as long as the Empire State Building is high.

Oh! Yes! Before I forget! The brick building was saved from Moses’ destructive ways, and is a national monument, and has been since then. The old piers are also landmarks, and are listed as Pier “A” on most maps of the Battery. The Statue of Liberty and Governors Island are to the south or left. Jersey City is in the background or west. In our more modern times we see large container ships, or a large high-rise cruise ship, and many giant airliners passing by or flying over the Rockaways. An aircraft carrier was stationed near Ambrose Light Tower after 9/11…

Answers to the Numbered Clues:

1. Sunk by a German U-Boat, American lives were lost, and later the U.S. entered World War I.

2. Olympic (sunk by a German U-Boat while a hospital ship during World War I.

Britannic- used during World War I as a troop transport, and it survived and resumed liner service.

3. Castle Clinton, named after Governor George Clinton.

4. The New York Aquarium.

5. Coney Islands old Dreamland site.

6. The Aquarium.

7. Coney Island.

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