Maritime Monday for February 18th, 2014: Ship of State; Vessels Named for Presidents of the United States

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February 17, 2014


 The steam ship President (1,536 × 1,116 pixels)


(1,536 × 1,117 pixels)


“The Steam Ship President, The Largest in the World. Lieut. Roberts R.N. commander on her last voyage from New York to Liverpool. As last seen from the Packet Ship ORPHEUS Capt. COLE in the terrific gale of March the 12th 1841 at 5 o’clock P.M. Lat. 39, 46. Long. 71, bearing N.E. by E. by Compass steering East.

In the inquiry before the British Consul, June the 5th 1841, Capt. Cole of the Packet Ship Orpheus, stated that when he last saw the President on the 12th of March she was rising on the top of a tremendous sea pitching heavily and laboring tremendously. She was then situated in that dangerous part of the Atlantic Ocean about midway between the Nantucket Shoal and the St. George’s Bank, just where the Gulf Stream strikes soundings, and where the waves rise almost straight up & down & as high as a four or five story house.

And further that it was his belief that the President did not survive the gale, but foundered with all on board and that all perished before sundown on the 13th or in less than twenty-four hours after he last saw her, most probably in the terrific night of March 12th 1841.” 



American President Lines (see full size)

Singapore based American President Lines (now simply referred to as APL) is the world’s seventh-largest container transportation and shipping company with a fleet including some 153 container vessels.


1924 Life Preserver from SS President Harrison

President Harrison

President Harrison

presilinesSMAfter World War I, Dollar Shipping Company bought seven “502 President Type” liners from the US Shipping Board and launched the SS President Harrison on January 5, 1924.

Dollar Line continued expanding its business in the late 1920s, buying five more “535 President Type” ships in 1926. In that year, Dollar Line carried over 45,000 passengers.

abv rt: American President Lines, New York / California

Dollar Line

A Dollar Line “President 535” Liner, from a 1926 brochure

On October 26, 1929, just as the Wall Street Crash of 1929 was beginning, Dollar ordered two 21,936 gross register tons (GRT) steam turbo-electric ocean liners — the largest yet built for a US shipping company. SS President Hoover was completed in 1930 and SS President Coolidge was completed in 1931.


SS President Hoover (original 1764 x 1114)

In December 1937 President Hoover ran aground off the east coast of Taiwan, and was written off as a constructive total loss. By 1938, the company was $7 million in debt, with interest increasing this by $80,000 per day. In June 1938, President Coolidge was arrested in San Francisco for a £35,000 unpaid debt.

The United States Maritime Commission judged the company unsound and the government promptly took over the management of the Dollar Steamship Co. and transferred their assets to the newly formed American President Lines, who continued their Presidential naming tradition.

President Coolidge

The President Coolidge seen from Matson Line’s Lurline
docked in Los Angeles; late 1930s

SS President Coolidge was a US luxury ocean liner that was completed in 1931. She was operated by Dollar Steamship Lines until 1938, and then by American President Lines until 1941.

Hoover and her sister Coolidge ran between San Francisco and Manila via Kobe and Shanghai, and some Round-the-World voyages that continued to Manila via Singapore, the Suez Canal, the Mediterranean Sea, New York, the Panama Canal and back to San Francisco. Coolidge broke several speed records on her crossings between Japan and San Francisco.  Around The World By Ship – $970 FIRST CLASS Aboard SS  President Coolidge.

 In 1940, Coolidge helped to evacuate US citizens from Hong Kong and other parts of east Asia.  In 1942 she was properly converted into a troopship and her accommodation was reorganised to provide capacity for more than 5,000.  Guns were mounted on her, she was painted haze gray and the War Shipping Administration assigned her to the US Navy.

She served as a troopship from December 1941 until October 1942, when she was sunk by mines in Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides. There were only two casualties.


a beached SS President Coolidge being abandoned after striking a mine

After the war, items such as the propeller blades, bunker oil, brass casings of shells, electric motors, junction boxes and copper tubing were salvaged from the ship. Earthquakes have since collapsed some sections of the wreck, which now rests on her port side with her bow at a depth of 21 metres (69 ft).

Coolidge is perhaps the most accessible shipwreck of her size and type. The wreck is one of the most desirable dives due to relatively shallow site, easy beach access, and visibility.  Recreational divers can explore large parts of the wreck without specialized equipment.

VIDEO: Grave of the President – One of the world’s biggest shipwrecks is now a popular dive destination.

SS President Cleveland

SS President Cleveland

SS President Cleveland (1947) – planned as  transport ship USS Admiral D. W. Taylor (AP-128) but cancelled in 1944; completed in 1947

Laid down on 28 August 1944 at the Bethlehem Steel shipyard in Alameda, California, and cancelled on 16 December 1944 –  launched on 23 June 1946 as President Cleveland – completed in 1947 and bareboat chartered to American President Lines – sold to Oceanic Cruise Development, Inc. (C.Y. Tung Group) on 9 February 1973, renamed Oriental President – scrapped in Taiwan in 1974. +

see also: Menu – Farewell Dinner – SS President Cleveland – 1949

USS Tasker H Bliss (AP-42)

Norfolk Navy Yard, 8 October 1942

USS Tasker H. Bliss (AP-42) – built in 1921 as the SS President Cleveland in Newport News, Virginia, by the Newport News Shipbuilding and Drydock Co., and was owned and operated as a passenger liner by the American President Lines.  Acquired from the United States Army by the United States Navy for use in World War II, and was assigned the task of transporting troops to and from battle areas. Operating in dangerous waters on 12 November 1942, she was sunk after being struck by a German submarine’s torpedo at Fedala Bay, Morocco.  more

more on NavSource

operating under US Shipping Board

SS President Cleveland photographed while operating under US Shipping Board ownership between 1922 and 1925

SS President Wilson

SS President Wilson

This ship was laid down as USS Admiral F. B. Upham (AP-129) and was redesigned by the Maritime Commission as a merchant ship in December 1944. The modifications were far more extensive than in the Army conversions of the late 1940s, but both included filling in the break between the bridge and the forecastle with additional accommodations. She and her sister President Cleveland, ex Admiral D. W. Taylor (AP-128), served the American President Lines in the trans-Pacific trade from 1947-48 to 1973.

see also: SS President Wilson (3000 × 1696)

SS President Jackson

SS President Jackson (1953) American President Lines (image source)

President Jackson NY

SS President Jackson in the service of American President Lines, New York Harbor, circa, late 1940, early 1941


SS President Roosevelt;  “Ship and Travel in the Presidential Manner”

Roosevelt, aka USS General W. P. Richardson (AP-118) started life as a troopship that served with the United States Navy in World War II. She was later transferred to the United States Army and served briefly during the Korean War as USAT General W. P. Richardson before entering commercial service.

Laid down under United States Maritime Commission contract 2 February 1944 by the Federal Shipbuilding and Drydock Company of Kearny, New Jersey;  launched 6 August 1944; acquired by the Navy 31 October 1944, and commissioned at Bayonne, New Jersey, 2 November 1944. Decommissioned at New York 14 February 1946 and returned to the Maritime Administration for peacetime operations as an Army transport until 10 March 1948.

On 25 July 1960, she was bought by American President Lines, refitted at Seattle and renamed President Roosevelt. She was scrapped in India in 2005, having had a long career of about 60 years. (wikipedia)

President Polk and President Monroe

President Polk and President Monroe

cargo cruisePresident Monroe built 1940; after serving as a troop ship she was returned to American President Lines after the war for round-the-world service. She was sold in 1965 and ended her days at a scrapper’s yard in 1969. Her sister, the President Polk had a similar career. more

By 1961, the company had begun launching ships capable of container transport, the first two of these being the SS President Tyler and SS President Lincoln

In the 1950s, the company again expanded, building more ships; 11 were built between 1952 and 1954. These included C-4 class cargo ships.


Karachi, 1957 Bangkok, 1958 (available for purchase)

website: APL has been providing professional and innovative shipping services for over 160 years

see also: “Oh Susanna” on American President Lines – The first “Love Boat” TV series.

more about American President Lines on Maritime Timetable Images

SS President Roosevelt liner postcard

The Other President Roosevelt

No, we aren’t talking about Teddy, but the SS President Roosevelt run by United States Lines, AKA USS Joseph T. Dickman (APA-13)

Joseph T Dickmann

USS Joseph T. Dickman in the process of disembarking troops, c. 1943

USS Joseph T. Dickman was a Harris-class attack transport that served with the US Navy during World War II.  Built as Peninsula State for the United States Shipping Board by the New York Shipbuilding Corporation of Camden, New Jersey; she began transatlantic service for United States Lines in 1922, and soon afterward was renamed President Pierce. In August 1922 name changed to President Roosevelt, a name she carried during her many years of passenger service.

In January 1926, President Roosevelt was involved in the rescue of the crew of the British cargo ship ship SS Antinoe that foundered in the Atlantic Ocean in January 1926. George Fried, the Roosevelt’s captain, was given a ticker-tape parade in Manhattan in honor of his heroism.

USS Joseph T Dickman

USS Joseph T Dickman on Naval Historical Center

Taken over by the War Department in October 1940, she was named Joseph T. Dickman and converted to a troopship by Atlantic Basin Iron Works of Brooklyn. The ship then prepared for participation in Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa. As part of the Western Naval Task Force, Joseph T. Dickman got underway from Norfolk 24 October 1942 to take part in the first amphibious invasion ever launched across an entire ocean.

Sailing from England 5 June, she arrived off Utah Beach early the next day and landed her troops without a mishap. On the afternoon of D-Day, she steamed to Portland with casualties, later making a shuttle voyage to the beaches 14 June as troops moved inland to liberate France.  After taking part in every major amphibious operation in the European-African theater. she turned her attention to the Pacific.

At war’s end, Dickman then sailed for the Philippines 24 August; and, upon arrival in Manila 17 September, took on American and Allied soldiers who had been prisoners of the Japanese for transportation to the United States. Coincidentally, four British enlisted men came on board, who after 3½ years in a prison camp were returning to the United States on the same ship which had carried them from Halifax to Bombay in 1941.

Decommissioned and returned to the Maritime Commission 22 January 1947, who transferred her to the National Defense Reserve Fleet, Suisun Bay, California. Sold on 9 January 1948 for scrapping. +


Deck-side luncheon aboard the SS President Cleveland


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