Thursday, July 19, 2012


This is it.  The last of my nautically themed least for awhile.

No, this postcard was not mailed from Nagasaki by a happy passenger making a first visit to Japan.  It was mailed from the New York offices of The Hamburg-Amerika Linie to the Reading Eagle in Reading, Pennsylvania.  It's a press release.  Pre-printed on the back of the card....

"New York, April 12, 1930

The "Resolute" arrived on time this morning at Nagasaki, as reported by radio-gram.  On the way there were Travel Lectures and a Bridge Tournament.

At Nagasaki, on the Island of Kyushu, Western Japan, the "Resolute" was greeted by the mayor and all other city Authorities, who gave our passengers a Luncheon with an address of welcome and Geisha Dances under the Cherry Blossoms.  This delightful reception was in Suwa Park, where is the Bronze Horse Temple, overlooking beautiful Nagasaki Harbor.

This is the place where resided if fictionally Puccini's Madame Butterfly and Pierre Loti's Madame Chrysantheme and their creators could not have chosen a more charming spot as the locale of their tragic romances.

Here every lover of the romantic and beautiful has felt a responsive thrill.


Printed in Germany."

I'm sure it would be possible to find out if the Resolute actually docked when this card said it did, and whether or not the entire city leadership showed up to celebrate it's arrival or not, but it is a pre-printed card, so I have my doubts.

Hamburg Amerikanische Paketfahrt Actien-Gesellschaft, (I'm glad I won't by typing that again) or in English, Hamburg American Packet Shipping Joint Stock Company,  was founded in 1847 to do one thing...make money from European emigrants headed to the United States.  As it's profits grew, the Hamburg-America Line expanded service to all  continents, excluding Antarctica. It became  the largest shipping company in Europe, and at times, the largest in the world.  In both World War 1 and World War 2, most of it's fleet was wiped out, but the company managed to survive both times.  In 1970, Hamburg-America  merged with Bremen based North German Lloyd to form HAPAG-Lloyd, still one of the world's largest shipping companies.  

Hamburg-America had a number of famous ships in it's fleet.  In 1939, The St. Louis, named for the French saint, not the city,   had a passenger list made up almost entirely of Jewish refugees.  After being denied entry into Cuba, the United States and finally Canada, it's captain refused to return the ship to German ports until he had found nations willing to accept his passengers.  Eventually he manged to get entry visas in a number of  European countries.   All except  England would be over run by the Nazis just a few years latter.

A far less famous ship, but one with an interesting history was The Amerika.  It first saw headlines in 1912.  While making a crossing from Hamburg to New York, it encountered heavy pack ice.  Its captain ordered his ship to come to a full stop, and also ordered a general advisory broadcast on the new Marconi wireless system.  With one exception, the Titanic, ship captains in the area either ordered a halt or slowed their ships to a crawl until daybreak. In 1914, The Amerka was at company docks in Boston when war was declared between Germany and Great Britain.  Realizing that it would be almost impossible for the ship to get back to its home port without being either captured or sunk, The Hamburg-America Line ordered the ship to stay in port.  When the United States entered the war, The Amerika was still in Boston and was immediately seized by the United States Shipping Board for use as a troop transport.  During the war, with its name Anglicised to The America, it carried troops to Europe as part of the navy.  After the war it brought them home as part of the army.  Returned to the U.S. Shipping board, in 1920, it was assigned to The United States Mail Steamship Company and after that companies demise, it was transferred to the United States Lines.  The America was a passenger liner on the north Atlantic run until 1931, when it was decommissioned and placed in mothballs.  With American entry into World War 2, it returned to service as a troop transport for the army with a new name,  The Edmund B. Alexander.  The ship survived the war undamaged, and continued in service ferrying troops,  and their dependents home, until 1949.  Returned to mothballs, it was scrapped in 1957.  I'm sure that the ship's designer saw his handiwork as an elegant and comfortable  way for passengers with a certain amount of money to get from Europe to the United States and back  Instead, his ship spent a large part of its life as a troop transport, dodging torpedoes in the north Atlantic.

Now, take one last look at this postcard.  In 1945, Nagasaki became the second city  (so far) to be destroyed be an atomic weapon.  Old photographs and postcards are a way of seeing a world that has disappeared or, sadly, been destroyed by one of the many wars of the past 100 years.  I don't think we're an admirable species.

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