Digest>Archives> Sep/Oct 2011

Lost History Revealed in Steamship Pamphlet

By Timothy Harrison


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This beautifully designed 1901 pamphlet from the Maine Steamship Co. provided its potential customers amazing lighthouse views they would see while being a passenger on one of their great passenger ships traversing their various routes along the northeast Atlantic coast.

This brochure was truly from the heyday of steamships when elegant tourist-oriented steamships took people out of the hot summer heat of New York City to grand hotels and vacation destination spots in the cooler areas of Maine and the Canadian Maritime Provinces. In the days before air conditioning, this was the only escape many people had from the oppressive heat of the big city. And for those who could not afford to spend a long vacation in the further reaches of the travel route, the Maine Steamship Company offered overnight round trips to Portland, Maine and back to New York City.

The round trip ticket to Portland was $9.00, which included a cabin berth with a comfortable bed. The company promoted the cool ocean breezes and panoramic scenery onboard a vessel that had all the modern conveniences, including electric lights. Meals on board were 75 cents for a full breakfast and $1.00 for dinner or supper.

As well as viewing such magnificent sights as the Brooklyn Bridge, Blackwell’s Island, and the Insane Asylum, the pamphlet pictured numerous lighthouses and a large number of lightships that have all but vanished from the American scene. For most of the people of this era-in-time, it would be their only opportunity ever to view a remote lighthouse. The lighthouse captured their imagination, which in turned spurred an interest in stories about lighthouses in newspapers and magazines of the time.

The Maine Steamship Company and the others that followed them have long ago disappeared, and we can only imagine what it must have been like to be a passenger during the heyday of those luxurious steamships and the grand hotels that their passengers visited.

Locating and collecting these old pamphlets, which are becoming increasing difficult to find, can be fun and rewarding as you learn about the history of the steamships and the lighthouses and lightships that guided them on their journey.

The Maine Steamship pamphlet was donated to us by

D. Bradford Wetherall, Jr.

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This story appeared in the Sep/Oct 2011 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.

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