Non-Automotive Materials in the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection: Ships Series

As I have already stated in past installments of this blog, Z. Taylor Vinson was interested in many different modes of transportation. I have also already mentioned that Mr. Vinson was an avid traveler and that he took numerous trips throughout the United States and overseas. While pursuing these interests, he availed himself of the opportunity to travel on various modes of transportation and while he was at it, accumulated a fascinating collection of memorabilia regarding the various modes of transportation that he travelled on. This week, I decided to focus on the portion of the collection that pertains to marine transportation: the Ships series.

Ship plan for the ill-fated SS Normandie.

The Ships series is one of the smallest portions of the collection, containing only 1.5 boxes of materials. But as is the case with the other non-automotive series, the depth and significance of its contents more than make up for its small size. The materials found in the Ships series date from 1880 to 2008, but a large majority of them were published in twentieth century. The series’ contents focus mainly on ocean-going passenger ships (ocean liners and cruise ships) and passenger ship lines. A number of ocean liners and cruise ships are represented in this series, including ships of the past such as the SS Atlantic and RMS Queen Elizabeth, and present-day vessels such as the Queen Mary 2. Passenger ship lines represented in this series include defunct companies such as French Line (officially called Compagnie Générale Transatlantique) and Home Lines, and present-day companies such as Cunard.

Although the Ships series focuses mainly on ocean-going passenger ships and the companies that operated them, it also contains a very small amount of materials regarding other types of passenger vessels, including ferries, river boats, and hydrofoils. Also found in this series are a handful of materials regarding pleasure boats, including those manufactured by Horace E. Dodge Boat and Plane Corporation. A few items concerning manufacturers of marine equipment, including Sterling Engine Company, are preserved in the Ships series as well.

Passenger list for the T.S.S. Atlantic. Z. Taylor Vinson is listed as one of the ship’s passengers on this particular voyage.

The contents of the Ships series consist mainly of materials published by ship lines for the various vessels they operated. Many of the publications, including, but not limited to, timetables, fleet catalogs, menus, and passenger information brochures, are strikingly similar to those found in the Airline Companies series and Trains series. Other items, including, but not limited to, ship passenger lists, ship plans, and ship activity programs, are found only in the Ships series. Also found in this series are a handful of magazine and newspaper advertisements through which the ship lines, pleasure boat manufacturers, and marine equipment manufacturers publicized their services and products. A few items not published by any of the represented firms, including magazine clippings, newspaper clippings, and research notes are found in the Ships series as well.

Although the Ships series is very small, it does not lack for fascinating items. One such item is a ship plan for the SS Normandie, a famed French ocean liner that burned and capsized in a spectacular fashion at its moorings in New York Harbor in 1942. Also of particular interest are the ocean liner passenger lists, including several that include the names of Mr. Vinson and other members of his family.


CIE CLE Transatlantique French Line, Longitudinal Section S/S Normandie, Ships: French Line, Z. Taylor Vinson Collection, 1935-1939, n.d., Hagley Museum and Library.

Home Lines, Passenger List, T.S.S. Atlantic, June 28, 1953: Ships: Atlantic: Music Logs, Passenger Lists, and Ship Plan, 1953, Hagley Museum and Library.

Kenton Jaehnig is the Project Archivist for the Z. Taylor Vinson Collection at Hagley Museum and Library.

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