News from 1895: Germanic makes her fastest westbound crossing

Mark Baber

Staff member
The Sun, New York, 24 May 1895
Original article digitized by the New York Public Library
Retrieved from the Library of Congress' Chronicling America web site,

Better by Two Days Than She Was as a Beginner Twenty Years Ago, and She's
Likely to Be a Wednesday Boat Yet

The White Star steamship Germanic was greeted by the obstreperous whistles
of many harbor craft as she sailed proudly up from Quarantine yesterday
afternoon, landing her passengers on a Thursday for the first time in her
history, which covers twenty years. Viewed from without, she looks much the
same as she has looked since she was launched in 1875; she is lean and long,
like most of the smooth-water flyers. If she were somewhat longer and were
differently rigged she might be readily mistaken for the twin-screw cracks
of the line, the Teutonic and Majestic. This goes to show that there has not
been a vast improvement in steamship models in the last twenty years; the
slow voyages of our modern sailing vessels indicate that there has been
little or no improvement designed especially for speed in either steel or
wooden clippers.

The Germanic is somewhat of an anomaly in steamships. She did not make her
record, that is, the one preceding that which she created yesterday, until
she had been eighteen years ploughing the main. Her maiden trip, completed
on May 20, 1875, was made in 9 days 15 hours and 1 minute. Two years ago,
over a short northerly course of about 2,780 knots, she surprised her owners
by covering the water between Daunt's Rock and Sandy Hook Lightship in 7
days 10 hour and 17 minutes. She never did any better than that, and
the line decided that she had then reached her possibilities as a speeder,
propelled by her old engines.

The strides in the making of marine engines have been gigantic since 1875.
The line decided to convert the Germanic into a seven-day or perhaps a
six-day vessel by fitting her with new engines of the triple-expansion type
and new boilers with a reputation as economical coal consumers. After her
last trip to Queenstown and Liverpool in November last the Germanic was put
in dry dock at the yard of her builders, Harland & Wolff. Besides receiving
her new machinery, she was entirely remodelled inside. She is now
practically not different, except in the mater of speed, from the Teutonic
and Majestic. Her saloon has been redecorated in white and gold. It is
lighted by a well running through the floor of the library. At the top of
the well is a domed skylight of leaded and cut crystal glass, the side
panels of which represent Greek mythological figures. The walls of the
smoking room are made of embossed leather decorated with bronze figures and
fruit. In the library there is also a frieze illustrating the progress of
shipbuilding and yachting. On the walls of the room are eight line
engravings of Washington, the Duke of York, T. W. Coke, Alexander Adair, the
Marquis of Buckingham, the Duchess of Devonshire, the Duke of Marlborough,
and the Duchess of Rutland.

The Germanic made her trial trip on May 1, after receiving her new boilers
and engines. She arrived at Liverpool on the next day, and sailed thence for
this port on May 15. She reached Queenstown the following day, took on a
large number of Irish immigrants, and sailed for New York at 1:05 o'clock in
the afternoon. On the nautical day ending at noon on Friday last she had put
395 knots astern. On succeeding days up to noon yesterday she logged
respectively 392, 407, 407, 393, 407, and 418 knots. Between noon and 2:15
yesterday afternoon, when she passed the Hook, she covered 32 knots. She
traversed 2,856 knots in all. If she had been able to go over the short
northerly course, which is now obstructed with icebergs, she would have made
the voyage in about seven days. This time her record was 7 days 6 hours and
10 minutes. In May last, over practically the same course that she covered
on this trip, her time was 7 days 22 hours and 44 minutes. To make her one
of the best of the single-screw speeders, the White Star line has spent
about $250,000. Her average dally consumption of coal on this voyage, it is
said, was ninety-five tons, a saving of about thirty tons a day. At this
rate the saving in coal will, in less than two years, pay for the alteration
of the ship.

The Germanic has crossed the Atlantic 425 times, covering abut 1,500,000
miles. This is her 213th trip to the westward. Besides having new engines
and new boilers, she has a new commander, Capt. E. J. Smith, who is an
officer in the Royal Naval Reserve, and succeeded Capt. McKinstry. When the
ice is out of the steamship lane it is not unlikely that the new Germanic
may be reported at Fire Island early enough to come up to her dock on
Wednesday night. That is the hope of her commander and the officials of the
line. Her improvement of two days over her maiden voyage after running
twenty years naturally leads her admirers to expect great things of her in
the next decade. The efficacy and economy of the single screw apparently are
not things of the past.