Thursday, July 16, 2015

Vintage luggage tag for Norwegian America Line

Here's a nifty old luggage tag for Norwegian America Line. It was used by my grand-grandmother, Greta, on one of her mid-century travel adventures.

Printed on the reverse side is "Pier 42, North River, New York, N.Y."1

"Seamanship & Service in the Scandinavian Tradition" is the slogan on the front of the tag. No specific cruise ship is indicated anywhere on the tag.

Norwegian America Line operated from 1910 until 1995. Over the decades, its focus shifted from cargo to passenger cruises and then back to cargo after airlines began to dominate the travel industry in the 1960s. Here's an excerpt from the cruise line's detailed history on The Ships List:
"Established in 1910 to operate passenger and cargo services between Norway and the USA. In 1914, cargo ships were chartered to supply grain to Norway, which although a neutral country during the Great War, suffered from a lack of foreign imports and also lost many ships to U-Boats and mines. Before the end of the war, the company had purchased several other cargo steamers and even a sailing ship. The company then expanded and in 1920 owned 12 vessels and by 1923 grew to become one of Norway's largest shipping companies with 19 vessels. The economic collapse of the 1920's and new United States emigration regulations caused the company to diversify into other routes and also into pleasure cruising."
Some passenger lists from NAL cruises in the 1920s and 1930s are available from the Gjenvick-Gjønvik Archives. One Oslo to New York cruise in 1937 was headed by Captain Ole Bull, who should not be confused with violinist Ole Bull.

The website also has some interesting background and details about NAL's cruise ships. A few tidbits: "On the Promenade Deck there was a handsomely appointed Lounge, a Music Room, as well as Reading and Writing Rooms. The smoking saloon on the Upper Promenade Deck was finished in Australian oak, and was arranged in cozy alcoves."

As you might imagine, given the history of the 20th century, some Norwegian America Line ships met ill ends. A sampling, again from The Ships List:

  • Kongsfjord: Seized in 1940 by the German Navy, refitted as a blockade runner and renamed Sperrbrecher 15 and then Gonzenheim. Sunk in 1941 by the HMS Neptune.2
  • Kristianiafjord: Wrecked near Cape Race, Newfoundland, in 1917.3
  • Larviksfjord: Caught fire at sea in 1931. The ship, along with its tugboat, then ran aground and wrecked near Stockholm.
  • Randsfjord: Torpedoed and sunk off Queenstown by German submarine U-30 in 1940. Three men were killed, including Captain Halvor Pedersen. The sinking is documented on
  • Tønsbergfjord: Torpedoed and sunk by the Italian submarine Enrico Tazzoli in 1942. There were no casualties.

1. Pier 42, circa 1951, is shown in this photograph from the Digital Public Library of America. Does anyone remember it?

2. The HMS Neptune was then sunk December 1941, resulting in the deaths of 764 seamen, who are remembered by The Neptune Association.
3. From 1859 to 1866, the Associated Press kept a newsboat at Cape Race to meet ocean liners passing by on their way from Europe so that news could be telegraphed to New York.

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