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White Star Line: 1904

White Star Line: 1904

Circa 1904. "Troy Line piers; RMS Baltic at White Star Line piers, New York." At the time, the Baltic was the world's largest ship. Panorama of three 8x10 inch glass negatives, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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Maiden Voyage?

If the 1904 date is accurate, this photo might record the completion of the Baltic's maiden voyage.

New York Times, July 9, 1904.

White Star Liner Baltic Completes Maiden Voyage.

Made Trip from Liverpool in 7 Days 13 Hours
and 37 Minutes — Brought 906 Passengers.

Amid the tooting of hundreds of whistles and the dipping of flags, the new White Star Line steamship Baltic, the largest ever built, made her way up the bay yesterday, completing her maiden voyage from Liverpool to this port. Thousands of eyes along the shore watched the big vessel as she steamed slowly up the harbor on the breast of the tide, and every floating craft to be seen dwindled into insignificance beside the big liner. When the Baltic appeared in the upper bay ferryboats, steamboats, tugs, and sailing craft went out of their course to give those aboard better views of the steamship, and those vessels which were going down the channel as the Baltic came made way for her.

The lines on which the Baltic is built give her the characteristic look of the Cedric and Celtic, the two other largest ships of the White Star Line, but she exceeds both these by about 3,000 tons. To those who went alongside her the Baltic's freeboard appeared tremendously high, the longest ladders on the revenue cutters, which are long enough for all other vessels, hardly reaching to the main deck. Her sides are painted black, and her two big smokestacks are light brown, except where they are circled near the top by board black bands. She has four pole masts. The great size of the Baltic, however, is minimized by the gracefulness of her lines. The steam yacht Corsair was waiting down the bay for J. Pierpont Morgan, her owner, who was aboard the steamship, and as the Baltic came up the bay the black yacht ran for a time alongside of her, the yacht ran for a time alongside of her, the yacht looking like a little toy beside the big liner.

The length of the Baltic is 726 feet. In this respect she exceeds the length of the Kaiser Wilheim II of the North German Lloyd Line, which formerly was the longest ship, by 18.2 feet. Her width is 75 feet. In all she has eight decks, four of them being above the main deck. She is of 24,000 tons gross register, while her capacity for cargo is 28,000 tons, and her load draught about 40,000. The new steamship has accommodations for about 3,000 passengers besides her crew of 350.

The first-class smoking room and library are on the upper promenade deck. The staterooms in the first-class cabin are so arranged that the passengers occupying them will feel very little of the ship's motion. Just abaft the first-class compartment is that for the second-class passengers, consisting of a large dining room, a smoking room and a library, besides the staterooms. With the exception of a limited space forward, the third-class passengers are provided for abaft the second-class.

The Baltic is fitted with engines of Harlan & Wolff's quadruple expansion type, arranged on the balanced principle, which practically does away with vibration. The liner can attain a speed of about 17 miles an hour. The steamship was built at the yards of Harlan & Wolff at Belfast, and she sailed from Liverpool for this side on June 29, stopping on the next day at Queenstown to pick up mails and passengers. She is in command of Lieut. E.J. Smith, R.N.R., who has become well known to seagoers as Captain of the steamship Majestic, from which he was transferred to take command of the new vessel. The Baltic is the tenth command which Lieut. Smith has held in the service of the White Star Line.

The first trip of the big liner was made in 7 days, 13 hours and 37 minutes, and both Chief Engineer H. Crawford Boyle, formerly of the Celtic, and Consulting Engineer Andrews of Harlan & Wolff, who made the trip for the purpose of watching the Baltic's behavior, declares that there was not the slightest trouble with her machinery, and that she has come up to all expectations. Her best day's run was 417 knots, made on July 4.

She brought a total of 906 passengers, 209 in the first-class cabin, 142 in the second-class, and 555 in the steerage. Every one of the passengers united in saying that the voyage could not have been more pleasant. Capt. Smith was delighted with his ship. "I tried to see how she would work coming around the tail of the Southwest Spit," he said, "and, as the channel was clear, I sent her around at full speed. She behaved admirably. Pilot Johnson, who has brought up almost every one of the big vessels that come into this port, piloted us up."

The officers of the Baltic are Thomas Kidwell, formerly of the Celtic, chief officer; W.E. Graham, surgeon; H. McElroy, purser, and H. Wovenden, chief steward. The ship will be open for public inspection on Monday and an admission fee of 25 cents will be asked from each visitor, the proceeds to go to the seamen's charities

Washington Post, July 2, 1904.

White Star Line,

New York—Queenstown—Liverpool,
Sailing Wednesdays and Fridays,
From Pier 48, N.R., West 11th st. N.Y.

  • Teutonic… July 6, 10 am
  • Celtic… July 8, 1 pm
  • Baltic… July 13, 5 pm
  • Majestic… July 20, 10 am
  • Cedric… July 22, 1 pm
  • Oceanic… July 27, 5 pm

Three survivors

Note the Western Electric bldg near the right edge of the pic-- still there between Bank and Bethune, and still with its flagpole.

Out in the haze just left of the pyramidal cupola at the north end of Pier 49, the Weehawken water tower

Just left of the cupola at the south end of Pier 48, St Michaels

which isn't actually a survivor-- it burned (circa 1932?) and was replaced with a similar (identical?) structure.

Wonder how often New York got a clear day back then.


I have studied this over and over again. The detail is amazing. I love seeing all the varied activities involved in the commerce of the day. Thanks for your work! I truly appreciate it. I enjoy the photographs so much!

Hundreds of tons of coal to load for the steam engines.

Have a look to a special detail on starboard of the "BALTIC": The coal ports. You see three ports in work for stowing coal from the barges alongside into the coal bunkers of the ship. "BALTIC" were propelled by two propellers driven by two steam quadruple expansion engines and reached an average speed of 16 knots (30 km/h).

Those arches

Kvenido: I was just at the same spot the other day, and tried, with equal lack of success, to get a shot of that arch with the White Star lettering. Not so long ago there were large limestone walls that surrounded those steel arches. I think they are a few blocks north of where the picture in question was taken, and are a few years newer.

No Radio - yet.

The one thing I noticed was no radio aerials gracing the masts of any of the ships in this great picture. Yes, it was still a bit early but it was on its way and by the end of 1912 was to be standard equipment on all ships.

Location, Location, Location

Pier 46 in this photo was located at The Hudson (North) River and Charles Street in what is now called the West Village. Pier 48 was at West 11th Street. Somewhere over these past 104 years they must have rearranged the pier numbers. Today Pier 46 is West 46th Street and the Hudson River. Pier 46 is now home to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum a major NYC attraction. The Shuttle "Enterprise" was awarded to the Intrepid by NASA and will, within the next few weeks, grace its flight deck.

I don't remember what I was smoking when I made this comment but the pier numbers weren't changed and The Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum and it's newest acquisition, the Space Orbiter "Enterprise" remain where they've always been, at Pier 86, West 46th St and the Hudson River.

Sunny side up

Amidst all the hustle and bustle, is someone sneaking a break up on the Troy Line roof?

not much left now...

I can't quite figure out where this fits in the 1904 picture but the silent, rusting sign is one of the few things left on that pier 98 years later (look closely and you can still see the White Star written on it)

And captained by

The RMS Baltic was captained by Captain Edward John Smith, RD, RNR at the time of this picture. Actually, he served as captain from its maiden voyage in 1904 until 1907. Captain Smith is primarily remembered for being the captain of the RMS Titanic.

She tried to warn her big sister...

Baltic is one of the ships that sent a subsequently ignored ice warning to Titanic in April 1912. Five years after this photo was made, she rescued passengers of White Star fleetmate Republic, after a collision with the steamship Florida. Republic sank. The French liner's name was "Normandie" with "ie", not "y". I'd sooner NOT see the fire department sink her as I'd have liked for her to have lasted long enough to have gone somewhere on her.

What a DUMMY!

On the right side, note the string of freight cars being pulled or pushed out of the White Star pier. Just above the hotel can be seen what looks like a diesel. It is a dummy locomotive.

A dummy loco is a switch engine with a carbody covering the boiler and drive wheels to make it appear to be a horse car. Some horses would absolutely freak out at a steam engine, and so the RR's thought of this ruse. In later years most of the fake carbodys were removed.

This ought to be New York Central & Hudson River RR. They had the usual collection of small switch engines for this work, but they bought a small group of Shay geared locos to work these street tracks at one point. If the photographer had shot the picture a bit sooner, we could see more of this dummy. [I'm guessing they're pulling these cars out of the pier, as I see no one in position to relay hand signals. The head brakie is likely protecting the rear of the loco, and the rest of the crew are riding the cut out.]

Also note the cars, boxcars and reefers to supply the ocean liners.

On 14 April 1912

"the Baltic sent an ice warning message to the RMS Titanic"

And we all know how that worked out don't we.

What a thrill.

I remember when I was a kid driving down the elevated East Side Drive when the big ‘’liners’’ were at dock. Wow, both Queens, the United States and more. Boy, for me this was fantastic! I wish I could have seen the NYC fire department capsize that famous French luxury liner who’s name a can’t remember due to a senior moment… Normandy?

One of the best pictures ever!

I am amazed at how this picture is saturated with detail. I looked this over for several minutes and cannot believe it was taken almost a hundred years ago. Thanks again for this and so many incredible inspiring photos.

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