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Morro Castle: 1901

Morro Castle: 1901

Philadelphia circa 1901. "S.S. Morro Castle, Cramps Shipyards." 8x10 inch dry plate glass negative, Detroit Publishing Company. View full size.


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Cramps Shipyard is long gone

This shipyard closed for the last time shortly after the Second World War and the site is mostly empty scrub between I-95 and the Delaware.

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The open side ports suggest that the ship may be preparing for the backbreaking and filthy job of coaling her bunkers. Cramp was one of the few American yards that actually began to build passenger steamers toward the close of the 19th century. They launched the SS St. Louis and St. Paul in the mid 90's for the American Line. These were the first large American built transatlantic passenger steamers since the demise of the unlucky Collins Line back in the 1850's. Through most of the 19th century the US showed an astonishing disinterest in oceanic transportation, being almost entirely focused on railroads.

Rivet heaters?

The boys in front appear to be heating rivets in a coal forge. I can't see the rivet tosser or catcher. Though the guy hunkered over may have a catching pail on his hip.

BTW This is not the infamous SS Morro Castle that burned off New Jersey in 1934 forcing changes in shipboard safety, it is its predecessor- both ships ran from New York to Havana for the Ward Line.

Scrapped 1926

Part of the Ward Line. She was the fastest in their line. It was chartered by the US Marine Corps to ferry Marines to Vera Cruz during the Mexican Independence 1914. She was sold for scrap in 1924 and scrapped in Italy in 1926.

The Ward Line commissioned another Morro Castle in 1930 which is famous for catching fire and killing 137 crew and passengers before beaching herself in September 1934. Later also sold for scrap.

Coming to America

Built by William Cramp & Sons Shipbuilders, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1900. 6004 gross tons; 400 (bp) feet long; 50 feet wide. Steam triple expansion engines, twin screw. Service speed 18 knots. 208 passengers ( 104 first class, 60 second class, 44 third class ).

The Ellis Island web site includes the names and details of each of the 38,556 passengers that the SS Morro Castle brought to Ellis Island in 351 trips from January 13th, 1903 to January 20th, 1923.

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