Ships 2

City of New York

Ships 3

City of New York

Inman Line Operated Three Steamers Named City of New York

By James Donahue

Almost from the day it came into reality in 1850 until it was bought in 1893, the British Inman Line owned and operated a steamship called the City of New York. There were three different vessels that bore this name, all operated by the Inman Line, and each added to the fleet after its predecessor was wrecked.

We could find little information about the first City of New York. It was launched in Glasgow in 1861 and at 336 feet, it is believed to have had an iron hull and was the largest ship at that time in the Inman fleet. It made its maiden voyage from Liverpool to Queenstown, Ireland, and New York in September, 1861. The vessel apparently continued on that same run until it wrecked on Daunt Rocks off Queenstown in heavy fog on March 29, 1864. No lives were lost.

The second City of New York was slightly smaller, measuring 321 feet in length. It also was built at Glasgow and launched in 1865 as the Delaware for owners Richardson, Spence & Co. of Liverpool. It was purchased that same year by the Inman Line and renamed City of New York. She made her maiden voyage from Liverpool to Queenstown, Ireland, then on to New York in June of that same year.


City of New York (1)

The City of New York 2 remained on a regular run, mostly between Liverpool and New York until 1873 when it was chartered by the American Line and renamed the City of Bristol. The ship was extensively rebuilt in 1871 when it was lengthened to 375 feet. By then the company boasted the ship offered 150 passenger cabins and accommodations for up to 400 immigrants in third class.

This steamer was purchased by the Allen Line in 1884 and renamed the Norwegian. It operated between Glasgow and New York until 1903 when it was sold for scrap and broken up in Holland.

Inman’s final City of New York was the company’s first venture into the era of the luxury liners. When launched in 1888 at Clydebank, Scotland this 560-foot-long steamship became the first ship apart from the Great Eastern to exceed 10,000 tons. Her triple expansion reciprocating engines drove twin propellers that pushed the vessel along at speeds of up to 23 miles per hour, or 20 knots. She briefly held the Blue Riband award for making the fastest Atlantic crossings until 1892 when the Cunard liner Campania beat her out.


Last City of New York During War Years

The City of New York and her sister ship, City of Paris, were the largest and fastest passenger liners of that time. The City of New York was said to have been not only the largest, but the most luxurious. Her triple stacks and “clipper” bow gave her the appearance of speed. The ship was fitted with running hot and cold water, electric ventilation and electric lighting. She offered first class passengers a library and smoking room, both fitted with walnut panels. Over the dining salon was a massive dome that flooded the room with natural light.

The liner carried 362 officers and crew members and offered accommodations for up to 1,740 passengers.

The Inman Line was hit financially in 1892 when the British government stopped subsidizing the two liners. To resolve the problem the ownership was transferred to the American Line. The City of New York was renamed New York  and she steamed a regular route between New York and Southampton for the next five years.

When the United States declared war on Spain in 1898, the U.S. government requisitioned New York for service as a troop ship and re-named it USS Harvard. It was a short skirmish and the ship was decommissioned in September, 1898, and renamed New York.

The ship went through an extensive refit after one of the engines broke down amid a crossing to Southampton. Her engines were replaced with a newer one and the three funnels were replaced with two taller funnels.

The New York’s one near claim to fame occurred on April 10, 1912, while berthed in Southampton. She was torn from her moorings by the massive new ship Titanic which was leaving port on the first leg of its fateful voyage into destiny. A collision was narrowly avoided when Titanic’s skipper, Capt. Edward Smith ordered the port propeller thrown in reverse. A nearby tugboat operator managed to tow the New York out of harm’s way.

By 1913 the old New York was showing her age. She was reconfigured as a Second and Third Class only liner and a year later was moved to a run between Liverpool and New York. She was still operating when the United States declared war on Germany in 1917 and the steamer was once again commissioned as a troop carrier. This time she was given the name USS Plattsburg. This time the ship actually saw war duty. She was painted with the strange camouflage configuration that was believed to have made it difficult for U-boat skippers to see on an open sea.

The special paint job did not protect the ship from mines. She struck one while approaching Liverpool on April 9, 1917, just before she was commissioned by the U.S. Navy. After repair, the Plattsburg went to work as a troop transport. She made four voyages to France carrying nearly 9,000 servicemen to battle before the 1918 Armistice. She then made seven more trips carrying more than 24,000 troops back to American soil.

After the war, with one of her masts removed, the ship returned to passenger service at the New York in 1920. She still operated with the American Line, within the year she was sold to the Polish Navigation Company. After one voyage the new owner went bankrupt. The old New York was seized by creditors and sold to the Irish American Line in 1922.

As often happens to old ships during their last days, the New York moved from owner to owner until ending up the property of the American Black Sea Line. She made her last Atlantic crossing in June, 1922 from New York to Naples and Constantinople. After that she was sold for scrap.