On the Water

Skylight and Plaster Panels from RMS Majestic

Built in 1890 by Belfast shipbuilders Harland & Wolff, the RMS Majestic was designed for luxury ocean travel. Like its sister ship, the RMS Teutonic, which was launched the previous year, the Majestic was built for the White Star Line’s service between Liverpool and New York.

The interior of the Majestic was opulent. Staterooms featured colored glass screens over the ports, while the smoking room walls were embossed with gilded leather and mahogany panels. Skylights, or lanterns, were installed in the ship’s dining rooms and other common areas. The lantern domes were designed to allow natural light to filter into the Majestic’s interior spaces.

The lantern in the Majestic's first class dining saloon was designed by British architect George Thomas Robinson. It was made up of 56 individual pieces, including eight plaster friezes, leaded stained glass and wood paneling. The plaster friezes depicted the “shipbuilder’s art from the early days of the Spanish Armada to the Battle of Trafalgar.”

When the Majestic was broken up in 1914, parts of the first class dining saloon lantern were sold to a ship salvage company, including the plaster panels. Several of these were paired with a smaller lantern from the ship and installed in the executive board room of Thomas W. Ward Ltd., in Sheffield, England. In the early 1970s, the director of the company donated this lantern and the plaster panels from the Majestic to the Smithsonian. He pointed out that the lantern had been saved three times, once when the ship was broken up and twice during the world wars of the twentieth century. He thought it fitting to donate this survivor to the United States “in memory of the many very gallant merchant seamen . . . who served in the Atlantic during the two World Wars.”

ID Number:
Robinson, George Thomas
15 1/2 ft x 6 1/2 ft x 4 ft; 4.7244 m x 1.9812 m x 1.2192 m; glass dome: 18 in; x 45.72 cm; four panels: 24 1/2 in x 39 1/2 in; 62.23 cm x 100.33 cm; four panels: 24 1/2 in x 34 1/2 in; 62.23 cm x 87.63 cm
Gift of Thos. W. Ward Limited thru G. W. Page, Director.