News from 1871: Maiden Voyage of Oceanic I

Mark Baber

Dec 29, 2000
On 29 March 1971, Oceanic I docked in Jersey City, New Jersey, after entering New York Harbor the night before; this was the first New York arrival of a White Star liner in the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company era. This article was published the next day.

The New-York Times, 30 March 1871

Arrival of the Pioneer of the White Star Line---Description of the Vessel
The steam-ship Oceanic, of the White Star line of steamers between this port and Liverpool, arrived here yesterday, beating the time of the City of Washington, sailing the same day, and that of the Cunard steamer Calabria---the latter by some forty hours. The Oceanic elicited the admiration of all who saw her steam up the harbor, as she is the largest steam-ship ever in these waters with the single exception of the Great Eastern. The commander of this steamer is Capt. DIGBY MURRAY, who remains here as Port Captain. The first officer is Capt. THOMPSON, who will hereafter command her, and the second officer is Capt. PERRY, who goes back as first officer, and will return in command of the next ship, the Atlantic. The Pacific, the third vessel, has been successfully launched within a few days. The Oceanic was constructed by Messrs. HARLAND & WOLFF, of Belfast, who also built or are constructing the Baltic, Atlantic, Pacific, Arctic and Adriatic. All these vessels are of 6,000 tons burden, with engines of 3,000 horse-power. The Oceanic is 432 feet in length, 41 feet in breadth, and 33 feet depth of hold; and her lines are as fine and as delicate as those of any first-class yacht. The rig of the ship is in keeping with her great length, three of the masts being ship-rigged. The spread of canvas which the Oceanic can carry is enormous; and this, combined with her extremely fine lines and high-steaming power, will make her one of the fastest vessels afloat. All the internal arrangements of the Oceanic have been carried out with a view to the comfort both of the saloon and steerage passengers, the great desideratum---that of ventilation---being one of the main features on board the ship. The state-rooms, with saloon and smoking-rooms, are situated amidships. The saloon, which will comfortably accommodate 200 passengers, occupies the entire breadth of the steamer’s midships, and is fitted up in the most exquisite manner. The state-rooms are exceedingly lofty and light, and every precaution has been taken against any emergency which may arise at sea. Over head in each room are strapped four patent life-belts, which can be easily and without inconvenience attached to the person. There are also family state rooms, bath-rooms with hot and cold water supplies, as well as a well-selected library and a good piano, for the use of the saloon passengers. The accommodation for the steerage passengers is not to be surpassed on any ocean-going steamer afloat. All the most modern improvements affecting light, warmth and ventilation, have been faithfully and lavishly carried out, and the passengers will have no cause to complain either for want of space between decks or of the other arrangements which have been so considerately provided to alleviate the unpleasantness of an ocean voyage. These steam-ships have been designed to afford the very best accommodation to all classes of passengers, and are expected to accomplish quick and regular passages between this country and Europe. The berths for steerage passengers number about 1,200.

One great feature in connection with the accommodation for the steerage passengers is that there are separate and distinct lavatories below for married men and women, single women and men, and all necessity for coming on deck is done away with.

The Oceanic is now lying at her pier, Pavonia Ferry, Jersey City, which affords unsurpassed accommodation for the handling of freight and the transfer of passengers. She will not sail until the 15th proximo, and the vessel will doubtless be visited by large numbers of our citizens who will be desirous of viewing and inspecting this magnificent vessel.


Mark Baber

Dec 29, 2000
Here's another article describing Oceanic I at the time of her maiden New York arrival in 1871.

The New York Herald, 30 March 1871

Pioneer Vessel of the White Star Line---The Larges Transatlantic
Passenger Steamer Afloat---Magnificent Accommodations, Costly Fittings
and Appointments---Her Arrival at This Port

Tuesday night, at nine o’clock, there arrived in the lower bay from
Liverpool and Queenstown, the new steamship Oceanic, the pioneer vessel
of the White Star line, the latest addition to the grand host of
transatlantic steamship companies. This vessel is a masterpiece of
naval architecture, and in every particular of size and workmanship of
a character that astonishes the most sanguine believer in this age of

Early yesterday morning the Oceanic came up to the city, and for several
hours was anchored opposite the company’s wharves, foot of Pavonia
avenue, Jersey City; but about noon she was successfully docked, in the
presence of several hundred gentlemen and laborers, who, from motives of
curiosity or interest, gathered at the spot. Next to the Great Eastern
this splendid steamship is the largest passenger vessel afloat, and
perhaps one of the first in every particular of safety, comfort and
convenience. She has been in course of construction for a year or more,
along with designed sister ships, and this, her initial voyage, has
demonstrated that she


The Oceanic was constructed in hull by Messrs. Harlan [sic] & Wolff, of
Belfast. Her model, although not peculiarly novel, possesses very fine
lines, denoting much speed, which her builders assume that she will show
before she has crossed the ocean half a dozen times. Her stem is
straight and not unlike many of the recent larger English steamships.
The dimensions of this mammoth are: Length on deck, 432 feet; breadth of
beam, 41 feet; depth of hold, 36 feet; load draught, 24 feet; tonnage,
British measurement, 2,349 tons net, and 4,350 tons gross. Her frames
are of angle iron, and double riveting is noticeable throughout the
vessel. There are three decks of iron, the height between which is
eight feet, and these are covered with wood. Plate stringers are upon
each of these. Her rig is somewhat novel, as she is fitted

three of which are ship-rigged. These masts are a single iron cylinder
with a wooden pole above for the colors. The height of truck above
water is 150 feet. There are six water compartments in the vessel, and
this part of her construction is of the most approved character. Her
upper deck presents the opportunity of a grand promenade, and on every
hand there are so many improvements on the old style of ocean steamers
that are suggestive of comfort that the beholder is lost in admiration
and astonishment. The passenger accommodations of this monarch of the
seas are of the

and approved description. From the staterooms to the steerage quarters
there seems to have been an aim to make the guests of this pioneer craft
very comfortable and to give them plenty of room. The staterooms, which
will hide away over 100 first class passengers, are exceedingly large
and furnished in a style which commands words of praise from those
acquainted with matters of the kind. There is

and luxury everywhere. A supply of water, both fresh and salt, in these
rooms is constant, and electric bells, connecting with the steward’s
department, are above every berth. This innovation is worthy of notice.
A patent indicator, like those in hotels, notes the portion of the ship
a waiter is required, and his presence is obtained without the least
trouble. It is but the touch of your finger, and the loud tingling of
the bell beyond summons assistance. The grand saloon is a feature
worthy of extended reference, because of its

excellent locations and handsome finish and fittings. It is on the main
deck, amidships; and such is the comfort of the passengers while seated
therein that its seems like being at home in one’s own parlor. The
dimensions of this saloon are eighty feet in length by forty feet
breadth--the whole width of the ship. It is heated by steam, in
addition to which there are two fireplaces that when necessary may
contain cheerful coal fires. The finish is in teak and gold, with
papier maché panels. Handsome carpets cover the floor, and gigantic
mirrors are put in every available spot. A grand piano and a beautiful
bookcase are also noted, and the sofas and chairs are upholstered


Electric bells are also provided here, as they are in the smoke room.
Then there are the ladies’ private cabin on the starboard side of the
ship, furnished in green and supplied with mirrors and broad sofas; a
gentlemen’s like apartment on the port side, bath rooms, retiring rooms
and all else that experience could suggest and money supply tending to
make an ocean going voyage pleasant. The accommodations for steerage
passengers are on the largest scale. One thousand can find ample room
and the strictest privacy in roomy quarters, while the light and
ventilation they receive is not surpassed in any ocean steamship afloat.
The arrangement is such that the sleeping apartments of these

iron bulkheads dividing the single men, the married people and the
single women from each other. This innovation is of the most
commendable character. Every berth is provided with life belts and ten
huge lifeboats can be got ready in case of emergency at a moment’s
notice. The pantry is very large and convenient. It is provided with
steam tables and dumb waiters.

of the Oceanic was constructed by Messrs. Mandslay, Son & Fields, of
London, and is of the most approved character, with all the modern
improvements that the age of steam has suggested. The engines---four in
number---are of the compressed description, with two cylinders,
seventy-eight inches in diameter, and two of forty-one inches in
diameter, with a stroke of piston of five feet. Her boilers are ten in
number, of the tubular style which are placed athwartships, and in
addition, to these there is an auxiliary boiler of very large size. The
engines, which wake up to a pressure of sixty-five pounds, have an
effective horse power of

3,000 HORSES.

The propeller, which is of steel and has four blades, is the largest
screw ever fitted to a steamer, having a diameter of twenty-three feet
and a pitch of thirty-one feet. Under ordinary running the screw
performs about fifty revolutions per minute. The extreme consumption of
coal per day is sixty-four tons, but during the passage across her
average was but fifty-two tons. The engines alone cost over £30,000,
and the total cost of the ship was about £125,000. There are six steam
winches, a steam windlass, steam steering gear, two main bilge pumps,
donkey pump and everything else of like nature which such a grand and
mammoth vessel requires.


The Oceanic sailed her first voyage under Captain Digby Murray, an old
officer not unknown to American ocean travellers, as he was in the
employ of the Collins line as chief officer of one of the steamships.
He feels proud of his vessel, and well he may. The first officer is Mr.
W. H. Thompson, an old sailor, though still a young man. The second
officer is Mr. Hamilton Perry, formerly of the National line. The third
officer, Mr. Richardson, was lately in the Cunard line, and the fourth
officer, Mr. Mines, was an old China sea captain before entering this
service. Mr. Thomas Sanderson is the purser, John Howson assistant
purser and Dr. J. S. Finnegan the physician. The chief engineer is Mr.
Henry Thomas Read, and his assistants William Fair, John McAllister,
John Matthews, Thomas Collie, James Black and Robert Smith.

A large number of visitors inspected the Oceanic yesterday, and all were
kindly received by Captain Murray and first officer Thompson.

The vessels that will follow the Oceanic are the Atlantic, Arctic,
Baltic, Pacific and Adriatic. They will be of the same enormous size
and elegant appointments.


Kyrila Scully

Apr 15, 2001
South Florida
Mark, I can't thank you enough for this excellent and invaluable source of information. This will help me a great deal.

Except for the chapter(s) on this voyage and the train passage (for which my father has provided me oodles of resources), the second draft is finished and I am very pleased with it. Of course, there's still a matter of editing and polishing, and I'm still 12,000 words shy of submission specs, but I'm a happy camper! Time to celebrate! Maybe I can catch the next show (my seventh time) of that pirate movie?

Avast me hearties, yo ho!


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