In photos: Secrets and techniques of the Nice Ocean Liners
D.In the 1930s, factories around the globe were closed, many people were unemployed, public confidence was undermined, and every government was looking for sparks to raise public morale.
There were indeed some signs of hope: in the UK, middle class salaries rose due to the expansion of the second wave light industry, allowing more disposable income as the cost of living did not rise in relative terms. The modern design styles introduced at the 1925 Paris Exhibition became the trend as Art Deco, and in Europe national design and pride were embodied in a new line of stylish ocean liners.
Everything was cheap to the very rich, and everyone was fighting for the business of this discerning elite – including the shipping companies. This was a very European phenomenon.
The European powers had a strong tradition of passenger ships. While Germany focused much of its shipbuilding plans and efforts on naval vessels like the Bismarck, Britain and France focused on the incentive of passenger shipbuilding with dramatic 80,000-tonne giants to encourage employment in their shipyards. The bigger the ship, the more jobs it has created.
In May 1936, the legendary ocean liner Queen Mary made her maiden voyage across the Atlantic at the beginning of more than 30 years of legendary service. She was under construction for many years and only known as “Hull 534” at the John Brown Shipyard in Scotland. Construction, which began in late 1930, was interrupted a year later due to financial difficulties on the Cunard Line. When construction resumed in early 1934, it epitomized Britain’s rise from the depths of the Great Depression, thanks to an infusion of government funds and a forced merger between Cunard and his rival White Star.
A press photo from that time speaks for the immensity of the construction project and the number of jobs associated with it at the shipyard. Not shown are all the supporting work of the external suppliers who built the engines, propellers, equipment and furnishings of the Queen Mary. Its launch on September 26, 1934 was marked by great fanfare, including a commemorative medallion distributed by the Daily Record.
After her baptism by Queen Mary on September 26, 1934, excitement mounted as her opulent interiors were completed and furnished and the time of her maiden voyage approached. Magazines were preparing special editions, such as the 276-page souvenir Number of The Shipbuilder dated June 1936, which praised their technical achievements.
The Queen Mary’s maiden voyage, which began on May 27, 1936, had an impact then like the astronauts who reached the moon decades later. The clothes that were supposedly worn on board were a stepping stone for fashion magazines, which, in association with the Queen Mary, positioned themselves as the pinnacle of style and elegance. Advertisers got involved, including the National Hotel Management Co, which ran a chain of top US hotels and used the maiden voyage to send advertising messages to Americans.
Imagine coming on board for this exciting journey. All your neighbors and friends know that you are traveling with the new “Superliner” RMS Queen Mary – because you gave them a copy of a widely distributed Cunard magazine of the same name. As a special souvenir, you will receive a detailed certificate upon boarding which exceeds the quality of diplomas from many of the better colleges and confirms the fact that you were on your maiden voyage.
Accompanying the certificate is a large, richly illustrated booklet with images of the art and sculpture that adorn the Queen Mary: another trophy to take back to show the neighbors.
During your first full day on board, stroll the decks and visit the shops in the impressive mall. Maybe buy some souvenirs: a painted porcelain brooch; an enamel pin; and a souvenir spoon for your favorite aunt’s collection. A dramatic postcard showing the Queen Mary stretching beyond the boundaries of London’s Trafalgar Square at around 80,000 tons would be a nice sign to send to one of the postcard collectors in your office. And instead of taking your own amateur photos, you can purchase an envelope with 12 glossy black and white views of the ship and its main rooms.
The next morning you would read the ship’s Ocean Times newspaper, read the report on the first full day, and then ponder your luck in being on that voyage.
If you’ve been a celebrity in one of the better first class cabins, you may be offered the privilege of signing the ship’s autograph book. Her signature will be accompanied by many famous passengers over the next few years, including celebrities such as Noël Coward, American film star Gary Cooper, silent film darling Mary Pickford, publisher William Randolph Hearst and his companion, actress Marion Davies, boxing champion Henry Armstrong, and names on numerous other pages that would warm the heart of any serious autograph collector.
The Cunard booklet “A Book of Comparisons” states that the 2,075 passengers would consume an estimated 10 tons of meat, five tons of ham and bacon, 600 pounds of coffee, 25,000 pounds of potatoes, 30,000 eggs, and 125 boxes of oranges per trip. There are no estimates of alcohol consumption.
After World War II it was business as usual and the renovated Queen Mary was paired with her sister ship, the Queen Elizabeth, to provide a regular, reliable five-day flight across the Atlantic between New York and Southampton. This pattern continued until ocean liner travel declined and air travel became increasingly popular in the 1960s.
On October 31, 1967, the Queen Mary made her last voyage from Southampton to Long Beach, California after being acquired by the City of Long Beach as a tourist attraction, which now includes restaurants and a museum in addition to a three-star hotel .
Secrets of the Great Ocean Liner by John G Sayers will be released on Friday November 20th at a price of £ 25.