Scope and Contents
Minimally covers the terminus of the wind-powered (sail) era and more fully documents the peak of the engine (steam) era of commercial cargo and passenger vesselsk, including freight and dockage services, maintenance and provisioning, ferry service, navigation (tug and tow) assistance, plus leisure cruising and touring. There is not a significant amount of material on battle or war ships. Includes both short distance routes such as lakes, rivers, and islets, and longer trans-oceanic crossings.
Documents within the collection consist of handbills, broadsides, leaflets, books, business cards, advertisements, insurance forms, wreck reports, passenger lists, baggage tags, freight manifests, rate cards, correspondence on letterhead stationery, booklets, newspaper clippings, postcards, menus, periodicals, manuals, photographs, engravings, woodcuts, sketches, bills of lading, receipts, catalogues, ledgers, journals, purchase orders, broadsides, brochures, custom forms, schedules, shipping and receiving documents, early steam guides, timetables, lithographs, announcements, etc. There are no navigational nautical maps. There is very little in the way of international import/export records. However, domestic and North American freight services are well-covered through invoices, bills of lading, manifests, and receipts for goods and services.
Some materials cover the history and development of steamships, particularly in the latter half of the nineteenth century with the iron screw replacing the wooden paddle steamer in the 1850s. The late 1860s brought the compound engine, which led to the steamship, previously used for the conveyance of mails and passengers, to compete with the sailing vessel in the carriage of cargo for long voyages. The 1870s brought improvements in accommodation for the passenger, with the midship saloon, conveniences in state-rooms, and covered access to smoke rooms and ladies cabins.
Ownership of specific lines and vessels was very fluid throughout shipping history, including the renaming of vessels. Mergers, dissolution, and absorption of fleets were frequent. Thus, researchers should independently seek out a more detailed history for any entity of particular interest.
The general maritime business series focuses on good and services related to maritime operations such as repair, shipbuilding, parts, ticket agents, chandlers, groceries, coal supply, dockage, wharfs/marinas, etc.
Operation records of named vessels contains primarily bills of lading and similar receipts for the movement of material goods or in-water services such as tow and tug assistance.
The largest series covering shipping lines and conglomerates offers a wide assortment of miscellaneous, nonexhaustive operation records for cargo and passenger lines and corporations, typically those with multiple holdings. These documents may include receipts, bills of lading, correspondence, and financial ledgers, plus promotional material for services and routes offered. Passenger sailings and luxury cruise documentation may contain menus, passenger lists, itineraries, shore excursion information, souveniers such as luggage tags, ticket stubs, and postcards. See also the subject category Menus, for additional examples of passenger and cruise ship menus.
When not associated with any of the above, general examples of materials related to the industry have been by arranged by their material type such as images, reports, and serial publications. More formal documentation, especially legal and reports, can be found here.
Narrative type materials related to lore, history, and building and design specifications have been sorted by subject. A scarce amount of material covers ships used for military service. Likewise, there are a few examples of maritime related material from the art world, mostly in the form of catalogues for exhibits or auction of paintings and scale models.
A note on vessel names: those used as contract carriers of mail and when in service, were entitled to unique prefix designations such as Royal Mail Ship (RMS.), otherwise, the ship name may be preceded by the more generic S.S. for single-screw steamer or steamship, SV for sailing vessel, PS for paddle steamer, RV for research vessel or similar type prefix. USS is the standard for the United States Navy commissioned ships while in commission, with HMS used for His/Her Majesty's Ship of the British Royal Navy.
Some of the major lines/companies represented in the collection include: American Line, American Steamship Company, Anchor Line, Compagnie Générale Transatlantique, Cunard-Anchor Line, Cunard Line, Cunard Steam Ship Company, Limited, Cunard White Star Line, Eastern Steamship Lines, Furness, Withy & Company, Hamburg American Line (HAPAG) / Hamburg Amerika Linie, Holland America Line (N.A.S.M. / HAL), Inman Line, International Mercantile Marine Company (IMM), International Navigation Company, North German Lloyd (Norddeutscher Lloyd Bremen), Panama Pacific Line, Peninsular and Oriental, Red Star Line, Royal Mail Steam Packet, U.S. Mail Steamship Company, United States Lines, White Star Line.