S.S. La Touraine and R.M.S. Umbria and US Library of Congress

Apr 20, 2004

I have been collecting information on the S.S. Umbria for a few years and noticed recently that on eBay a beautifully detailed photographic print of a ship labelled the R.M.S. Umbria has started appearing from various sellers there. I was excited to see this but on closer inspection, it turned out to be the similar French liner La Torraine, mistakenly identified.

Since several independent eBay sellers were making the same mistake, it occurred to me that the fault must lie with the identification of the original print, which I subsequently traced to the Library of Congress collection, called "American Memory". The plate is from the collection "Photographs from the Detroit Publishing Company, 1880-1920", and the photograph digital ID is 4a15924. You can find it easily by just searching the entire collection for "Umbria", without quotes. Only two ships come up. One is Great Lakes steamer Umbria which can be ignored; the other is the ship in question, entitled "S.S. Umbria".

There are many differences between Umbria and La Touraine, but two clear means of identification that can be used to detemine beyond any doubt that the ship held in the collection is in fact the S.S. La Touraine are as follows: (1) The name on the bow, which clearly states "La Touraine" if you zoom in on it; and (2) La Touraine had two enclosed promenade decks, while R.M.S. Umbria had only one.

I don't know if this problem has been mentioned before, but I thought I'd raise it here in the hope that the historians amongst you all will look into the matter in perhaps contact the US Library of Congress about it, identifying the problem and urging them to correct it. This really this ought to be corrected because this mistake is going to continue replicating itself whenever people less knowledgeable on the Umbria want to use a picture of it in whatever publication they are preparing.


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