On the Water

Ship model, RMS Mauretania

The RMS Mauretania was a British ocean liner owned by the Cunard Steamship Company. Designed to be fast and luxurious, the vessel was launched in 1907, and began its first transatlantic voyage on November 16. Carrying a total of 2,165 passengers and 812 crew members, the Mauretania set a world record in 1907, arriving in New York from Europe in five days, five hours, and ten minutes.

The Mauretania burned 850 to 1000 tons of coal per day depending upon its traveling speed. When running at full speed, the liner boasted the equivalent of 70,000 horsepower. In June 1909 it made the Atlantic crossing in four days, 17 hours, and 21 minutes. This was the fastest time ever recorded, and the Mauretania was awarded the Blue Riband prize. This record stood for 20 years.

British architect and landscaper Harold A. Peto designed the Mauretania’s interior spaces. Peto created elaborate and luxurious rooms, drawing inspiration from French chateaux and the Italian Renaissance style. It took 300 woodworkers two years to carve the Mauretania’s interior decorations.

Like other ocean liners, the Mauretania could be converted for military use during times of war. During World War I, the British Admiralty called on the Mauretania to serve as an armed cruiser and hospital ship. The liner was re-painted in dazzle paint, a quilted camouflage technique used to distort the ship’s silhouette and confuse enemy U-boats. The Mauretania carried 33,610 American soldiers across the Atlantic on seven separate voyages. In May 1919 the liner retired from government services.

That same year, the Mauretania was converted to run on oil. It continued work as a passenger liner until 1934, steaming back and forth across the Atlantic. During its tenure, the Mauretania sailed enough miles to circle the globe sixty times. In April 1935, the Mauretania was sold and broken apart.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt had a special fondness for the Mauretania and donated this model of the ship to the Smithsonian in 1935.

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crate: 68 in x 216 in x 36 in; 172.72 cm x 548.64 cm x 91.44 cm
Gift of Hon. Franklin D. Roosevelt