The Ocean Liner Leviathan -- Introduction

Introduction

A model of the Ocean Liner Leviathan

Introduction

The ocean liner Leviathan was one of the largest and most popularly recognizable passenger ships on the Atlantic in the 1920s. Like all ocean liners, the ship was at once a complex and powerful machine as well as a socially stratified hotel catering to different travel budgets and expectations. As such, she required a large crew in order to operate successfully. On her first peacetime crossing after World War I, that crew numbered 1,100 men and women, and they worked to ensure a comfortable, safe, and rapid five-days voyage for the ship’s 1,800 passengers.

Painting of the SS Leviathan from ship's menu

Painting of the SS Leviathan from ship's menu

The Leviathan was built as the Vaterland for Germany’s Hamburg-American Line. The ship had crossed the Atlantic only seven times when war broke out in Europe in 1914. She was laid up for safekeeping at her pier in Hoboken, New Jersey, but when the United States entered World War I in 1917, the American government seized the Vaterland and converted her into a troopship. Renamed Leviathan on the suggestion of President Woodrow Wilson and operated by the navy, she carried 94,000 troops to France, one-sixth the total American deployment in Europe. From 1919 to 1922, she was again laid up in New York Harbor. After a complete reconditioning at Newport News, Virginia, she reentered commercial service as the flagship of the new United States Lines, which operated her for the U.S. Shipping Board until 1929. Subsequently sold into private hands, the ship ran until 1934. High operating costs and low passenger numbers during the Depression led to the Leviathan being laid up in New York Harbor (again) until 1938, when she sailed to Scotland and was scrapped.

The Leviathan approaching New York City

The Leviathan approaching New York City