Mark Baber

The Sun, New York, 21 May 1916
Original article digitized by the New York Public Library
Retrieved from the Library of Congress' Chronicling America web site,

Chronicling America « Library of Congress


SEASONED sea travellers like to remember the comfortable smoke rooms aboard
the White Star liners, such as the Majestic, Oceanic, Cedric, Celtic, Baltic
and Adriatic. That is to say, old seagoers of the male persuasion, for,
unlike the situation on the German liners, women were never invited to
frequent the White Star smoke rooms.

Because of the war nearly all of these vessels have disappeared from the
passenger trade, but the memories remain. There have been more elaborate and
ornate smoking rooms perhaps in more modern liners, but for real comfort the
While Star rooms were voted the best.

They were always in the same location on the White Star boats, on the after
part of the upper deck, and generally you would find the same old stewards
there, waiting to bring you a magazine, or almost anything else you happened
to want. These old leather lined retreats were real havens of refuge,
especially to the pipe smoking bachelor, who could always find some one
with like ideas to have a yarn with.

Frequenters of the Baltic, for instance, will not forget the remarkable
stained glass pictures which illuminated each side of the smoke room in lieu
of windows. They represented famous ports both here and abroad. A picture of
Chicago was perhaps the most notable of this collection. It showed a number
of small houses on the beach with a small sailing vessel moored near by. But
the glass pictures of British ports were probably mote accurate than that of
the Windy City.

Most elaborate of White Star smoke rooms was that of the Olympic, with its
mahogany fittings and mother of pearl inlay work, but on the older boats the
rooms were always of the same conservative lines of fitting and decoration.

Veteran voyagers on the Lusitania and Mauretania have pleasant memories of
the handsome smoke rooms on those fine steamers. These were in reality
palatial lounging rooms. Placed on the after part of the upper deck, they
were finished in dark walnut, with a brilliant color relief in the oriental
upholstering of chairs and window seats.

The big open fires burning real coal were a feature of these rooms, with
enormous andirons made apparently of wrought steel. Running the whole width
of the ship, there was plenty of room here apparently for the whole
complement of saloon passengers. The rooms were brilliant at night, with
people in evening dress, and games for big stakes were sometimes played by
wealthy travellers, according, to reports.

A comfortable and interesting smoke room was that of the Hamburg-American
liner Imperator, now possibly the retreat for German officers recovering
from wounds in Hamburg. This was a comparatively small room located on the
upper deck forward, just below the navigating bridge. It was the replica of
a room in an old castle with arms and armor and game heads on the walls.

Much more comfortable and homelike seemed this "rauchzimmer" of the
Imperator than the larger one of the Vaterland, greatest merchant liner
afloat, and now rusting away in her Hoboken berth. This was forward also,
just under the bridge, and from the front windows a fine view of the sea
could be obtained over the ship's tall bows. Twice as big as the Imperator's
smoke room, the Vaterland's seemed rather cold in light oak with no
relieving features of warm decoration.

Aboard French liners the "fumeurs" were of the plainest until the advent of
the France, where more pretentious decorations made a gay apartment for the
tobacco lovers. The same ideas on a smaller scale were carried out on the
Espagne and the Lafayette.

Very popular and well patronized, in antewar times, were the handsome smoke
rooms of the North German Lloyd liners, particularly the double decked
affair on the George Washington. Very merry parties assembled there at
times, before and after dinner, but probably it is deserted now, except for
grim groups of officers, wondering sorrowfully when the war will end.