News from 1875: Maiden Voyage of Germanic

Mark Baber

Dec 29, 2000
On 30 May 1875---the "next Sunday" mentioned in the first
line---Germanic made her maiden arrival in New York. This
story---perhaps the longest single paragraph you'll ever read---was
published the day before.

The New-York Times, 29 May 1875

The new steam-ship Germanic, of the White Star Line, which is expected
to arrive at this port next Sunday, on her first trip across the
Atlantic, is a sister ship to the Britannic, which was launched about
twelve months ago. The length of the Germanic overall is 470 feet, with
a keel 455 feet long. The breadth of her beam is 45 feet, and the depth
of her hold is 34 feet. The gross registered tonnage of the vessel is
5,000 tons, and the net tonnage is 3,150 tons. She can accommodate 180
saloon and 1,100 steerage passengers. She has three decks, the main,
upper, and lower. There is a promenade or spar deck, 163 feet long, and
48 feet wide. The steering is done by steam, and is worked from the
wheel-house, situated under the Captain’s bridge amid-ships. A system
of telegraphy has been introduced for working the ship when going in and
out of dock, thereby obviating shouting and delay in executing orders.
The vessel is divided into nine water-tight compartments the bulk-heads
of five of them reaching to main deck , thus giving great stability to
the vessel as well as securing her safety. The engine and boiler space
is 107 feet long, and this, considering the vast power required to
propel a ship of the size of the Germanic, is economical, and leaves
ample room for passengers and cargo. There are four cylinders, two high
and two low pressure, the diameter of the former being 48 inches and the
latter 83 inches. The stroke of piston is five feet. The nominal
horse-power is 760, capable of working up to 5,400. The steam is
supplied by eight oval-shaped boilers each fed by four furnaces. The
boilers are placed in sets of four, and each set is in a water-tight
compartment. By an ingenious arrangement the doors of the water-tight
bulk-heads may be closed in the event of water entering the adjoining
compartments. In the case of the set of boilers farthest from the
engines, these can be shut off from the bunkers beyond by a slip door,
which may be closed instantly by a turn of the handle through the agency
of compressed air. A door on either side of the bulk-head will rise in
the event of water coming into the hold below, and by these means the
contingency of the fires being extinguished is amply and ingeniously
provided against. To every compartment in the vessel there is run a
steam pipe, which in case of fire could at once be used for
extinguishing purposes. In addition there is a fire hose the full
length of the first-class saloon, which is attached to the plug every
night, so as to be ready for use at a moment’s notice. There are also
connections in every part of the ship to which the hose could be applied
in case of necessity, so that the appliances for meeting the emergency
of fire are of the most complete description. The Germanic is specially
suited for the passenger traffic. The roomy, well-fitted berths in the
steerage of the vessel are placed in compartments thoroughly ventilated,
as they are in all the boats of the White Star Line. It is well known
that bad ventilation has much influence in producing seasickness, and in
the construction of the steerage accommodations in the Germanic this
fact has been kept fully in view. Special means are employed for the
purpose of securing a thorough ventilation in compartments devoted to
the use of passengers. Shafts communicate with the state-rooms, the
saloons, and the steerage berths through which warm or cold air can be
conveyed by means of a fan, so as to keep up an agreeable temperature at
all times. This is a vast improvement upon the old plan of opening and
closing the hatchways and ports. The main saloon for first-class
passengers is amidships in the middle deck. This situation, which has
only recently been adopted in ocean steam-ships, secures greater
immunity from the motion of the vessel. The saloon of the Germanic is a
magnificent apartment, 52 feet 9 inches in length, 42 feet 6 inches in
width, with a height of nearly eight feet. The tables are arranged
lengthwise, and as many as 200 persons can dine together. The new
revolving chairs which have been introduced largely promote the comfort
and convenience of the passengers, which admit of their leaving the
table without disturbing those beside them. All of the furniture of the
saloon is of teak, and the upholstery is in red velvet. The paneling is
of beautifully-polished birds-eye maple, with fluted teak columns, and
the walls are covered with neatly embossed papier mache, which is
rendered water-proof. The flooring is of oak teak and walnut and is
handsomely carpeted. A gay and cheerful aspect is derived from the
decoration of the walls and the varieties of glasses of various shapes
and colors standing in the racks which are suspended from the ceiling.
A well-appointed fireplace, a handsome piano, and attractive library are
features of the saloon. In addition to the side lights, which are
numerous, there are about the same number of oval-shaped openings in the
ceiling, which serve the purpose of lighting and ventilating the saloon.
At the head of the spacious staircase leading from the saloon is a
comfortable smoking-room, abundantly furnished with elegant lounges and
tables. The ladies’ saloon is on the promenade deck, and is luxuriantly
furnished. Forward and left of the chief saloon there are seventy-five
state rooms of various dimensions, all sumptuously furnished, some of
them being large enough to accommodate a family. Two of the state-rooms
have swinging berths, which are intended to counteract the
unpleasantness experienced from the rolling or pitching of the vessel.
This is to some extent an imitation of the Bessemer principle. There is
a barber’s shop and a nursery; and in the steerage a hospital is
provided for emigrant passengers who may be ill during the voyage. The
cooking for the whole ship is done by steam. The preliminary trial of
the Germanic was made on April 21 under command of Capt. W. H. Thompson,
R. N. R., Commodore of the White Star fleet, and by a series of cruises
outside of Belfast Lough her engines were tested. The sailing qualities
of the vessel were pronounced to be such as would render her one of the
fastest and safest ocean steamers afloat.


Jason D. Tiller

Dec 3, 2000
Niagara Falls, Ontario

That was very interesting. Thanks for posting it.

Best regards,


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