Great Eastern


Matthew O'Brien

Has anyone ever come across descriptions of Great Eastern's public rooms or staterooms? How luxurious were her interiors? Were the size of these comprable to the size of the ship? I would imagine that the size of the vessel would allow for the Great Eastern to have had some of the most remarkable and spacious interiors of her day.

Thanks for the imput,


Pat Cook

Apr 26, 2000
Here's a bit I found in "The Great Steamers", one in a series of shipping books from the Time-Life series, 1978. The Great Eastern "boasted no fewer than five gilded and mirrored saloons, the grandest encompassing 3,000 square feet. With 800 cabins, some having their own bath tubs and hot and cold running water..." Also, if you can get your hands on a copy of "Lost Liners" by Ballard and Archbold, with glorious paintings by Marschall, there are two photographs of interiors of the Great Eastern on pg 26 (paperback version).

Hope this is of some help.

Best regards,
Aug 29, 2000
You will want to get a copy of James Dugan's The Great Iron Ship-there is a great photo of the grand saloon photographed in 1861 in Quebec as well as an amusing sketch of that same room during a storm in Sept. 1861.There are many excellent photos of her both port and starboard views, some on deck, and some lithographs and sketches. Jules Verne is show sketched in a rocking chair near one of the masts while on a French charter voyage in 1867. There are also written descriptions of the grand saloon, main deck and staterooms. Plenty of copies of this book around on ebay, bibliofind, ABE books in the 12-20 dollar range.

Jason D. Tiller

Aug 20, 2000
Niagara Falls, Ontario
I was watching a video of mine on the Titanic, that I had recently purchased which had also talked a bit about the Great Eastern. It said that the Great Eastern was originally named the Titanic. Is this true or has the video got it's facts totally wrong?

Best regards,


Mark Baber

Jul 4, 2000
>It said that the Great Eastern was originally named the Titanic.

Nope, but GE's original name also later became quite famous. The ship's original owner, Eastern Steam Navigation Co., named her Leviathan. She was laid down as Leviathan in May 1854 and an attempt to launch her was made in November 1857. She stuck on the ways, however, and didn't actually enter the water until an extremely high tide in January 1858, still named Leviathan. The long construction time financially drained Eastern Steam Navigation, so the ship was sold after launching to the Great Ship Co., who renamed her.

Sources: Kludas' Great Passenger Ships of the World; Bonsor's North Atlantic Seaway; Dugan's The Great Iron Ship.
Aug 29, 2000
A Thread Across the Ocean by John Steele Gordon is out- 240 thrilling pages at $26-nice portrait of the ship rigged with sails on the cover. This is a thorough account of Cyrus Field's feverish drive to get the cable down, his alliance with Sam Morse, and Lord Kevin and the failed former cable laying attempts. The chapter about the great summer storm which nearly sank a lesser cablelaying ship is suspenseful. The 1858 cable which was laid stopped working after a month and most people thought it had been a hoax anyway and that the messages were made up. The Great Eastern gets the limelight and a well-deserved starring role recognition in this book. Field did not get to enjoy his monopoly long for in 1869 a French company laid a cable, to be joined by 13 more by 1900. I also did not know Field got some financial help from British and U.S. Navies by taking important deepsea soundings in return for support. Sounds like a Ballard arrangement! It's a good read- Gordon uses the articles written by a London Times correspondent who was onboard one of the early attempts during the horrific storm. This is one for the bookshelf.

Scott Reigel

Jul 26, 2002
Thanks Shelley --

Always nice to see a new book covering the Great Eastern. I've read the portions on the big ship. I'll have to go back and read the rest of it once I'm done with David Shaw's new book on the SS Arctic "The Sea Shall Embrace Them".

Had a thought last night about the Great Eastern while reading it. The book is about the wreck of the Collins liner SS Arctic in 1854 which describes the collision between the paddlewheeler Arctic and a smaller French propeller steamer. They hit nearly head on and the French steamer scraped along the side of the Arctic until she was pushed away by the supports for the paddlebox. It occurred to me that the forward portion of the Great Eastern's paddlewheel sponsoon is much longer than the aft portion and the outside edge is curve as you might expect it to be to help in the deflection of other objects (ships). Perhaps Brunel and Russell took this into account when building the Great Eastern. Just a thought.

Great Eastern History:

Jim Kalafus

Dec 3, 2000
This is addressing the much earlier question about interior photos: Patrick Beaver's THE BIG SHIP (1969, reprinted 1987) is a pictorial history of the Great Eastern and a great source for photos of all aspects of the ship. The picture reproduction is pretty good.

On the subject of "Leviathan." If one can find a copy, and it isn't all that hard to do, the January 16, 1858 Illustrated London News has, as a centerfold, pages 56/7, a lavish colored image of the "Leviathan", surrounded by likenesses of 16 prior ships tracing the development of the English steamship, also in color. Amongst which are the Great Western and the Great Britain. I've seen the centerfold, removed from the paper, priced at about $175 (still about $2500 downstream of what a similar Endicott or Currier litho would sell for) but one can often find the whole paper for a third of that.

Zack Wyatt

I heard in a nonfiction video "Titanic: The Mystery and Legacy" that the Great Eastern was originally going to be named the Titanic. Is that true?

[Moderator's Note: This message, originally a separate thread, has been moved to this thread where the same question has already been addressed. MAB]
Jul 9, 2000
Easley South Carolina

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