Today in Transportation History – 1901: Briefly the Largest Ship in the Red Star Line

About five months after being launched, the Red Star Line steamship SS Zeeland completed her maiden voyage. The British-flagged ocean liner had departed the Belgian city of Antwerp on April 13, 1901. After being delayed by a thick fog, Zeeland made her way into New York City’s harbor on April 23.

Clement Acton Griscom by Fedor Encke painted in 1899.

Zeeland was built specifically for the Red Star Line’s transatlantic service. The major force behind the creation of Zeeland was Clement Griscom, the Red Star Line’s president. The Philadelphia-born Griscom, seeking to modernize the company’s fleet of liners, used five-percent mortgage bonds to finance construction of Zeeland and her sister ship SS Vaderland by John Brown & Company in Scotland. (The funds were also used to pay for construction of SS Kroonland and SS Finland by William Cramp & Sons in Philadelphia for the American Line; Griscom was president of that shipping company as well.)

For a time, Zeeland – measuring approximately 562 feet (171 meters) in length – was the largest ship in the Red Star Line’s fleet. After completing her maiden trip, Zeeland continued serving the Antwerp-New York City route for several years. In 1910, she was chartered to the White Star Line for service between Liverpool and Boston. She was returned to the Red Star Line for service between Antwerp and New York City the following year.

After World War I broke out in 1914, Zeeland was returned to the White Star Line. She was used for service between Liverpool and New York City before being placed in service with the White Star-Dominion Line for various transatlantic routes. The ship’s name eventually became a casualty of anti-German sentiment during the war. Even though “Zeeland” is actually Dutch in origin, the vessel was given the less German-sounding name SS Northland in 1915.

Approximately three months after the armistice ending the war went into effect, the renamed ship was chartered to the American Line for its route between Liverpool and Philadelphia. She soon not only resumed her initial Antwerp-New York City route with the Red Star Line but was given back her original name. Zeeland remained in service with the Red Star Line until 1926, being transferred to the Atlantic Transport Line the following year for its London-New York City route. As an Atlantic Transport Line ship, she was renamed SS Minnesota. The ship made her final voyage in 1929 and was sold for scrap the following year.

For more information on SS Zeeland, please check out http://redstarline.eu/zeeland.html.

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