City of New York was a British built passenger liner of the Inman Line that was designed to be the largest and fastest liner on the Atlantic. When she entered service in August 1888, she was the first twin screw express liner and while she did not achieve the westbound Blue Ribbon, she ultimately held the eastbound record from August 1892 to May 1893 at a speed of 20.11 knots. City of New York, and her sister City of Paris are considered especially beautiful ships and throughout their careers were rivals to the White Star Teutonic and Majestic. In February 1893, the Inman Line was merged into the American Line and by act of Congress, the renamed New York was transferred to the US flag. Beginning in the mid 1890s, New York and Paris were paired with St Louis and St Paul to form one of the premier Atlantic services. New York continued with the American Line until 1920 and was broken for scrap in 1923. She served the US Navy as Harvard during the Spanish American War and Plattsburg in World War I. She is also remembered for nearly colliding with the Titanic.
When International Navigation Company purchased the Inman Line in 1886, the fleet needed new units to revive the line’s fortunes against the Cunard Line and White Star. International Navigation’s Vice President, Clement Griscom immediately sailed to Liverpool with a commitment from the Pennsylvania Railroad to provide $2 million in capital towards the building of a new ship. Shipbuilders in Scotland were experiencing a recession at the time and offered to deliver two ships at $1,850,000 per unit. The Pennsylvania Railroad agreed to underwrite the additional capital and the contracts were signed for the City of New York and her sister, the City of Paris.
When designing the new liners, the lessons of the City of Rome fisaco were recalled. The original design called two ships of 8,500 GRT that were only slightly bigger than City of Rome, but with steel hulls and twin screws. Because powerful single screw liners were prone to shaft failure, they carried extensive rigging for sails. Twin screws rendered this extra rigging unnecessary. Starting in 1866, a few twin screw ships sailed the Atlantic, but the new Inman ships were the first twin screw express liners.
While size was increased by almost 25% to 10,500 GRT in the final design, the plan retained City of Rome’s classic clipper bow and three raked funnels. City of New York even had a figurehead of a female figure carved by sculptor James Allan. To address the vibration problems of most liners of the period, the new Inman liners were given a ratio of length to beam of 8.3 to 1 as compared to the then common ratio of 10 to 1. The hull was more extensively subdivided than previously attempted. The ships were equipped with a full double bottom and 15 transverse bulkheads that reached the saloon deck. They also received a fore-aft bulkhead over their entire length. Each ship had two triple expansion engines, of 9,000 indicated horsepower each that were placed in separate compartments. While the engines for the sisters were identical, the City of Paris produced 1,500 more horsepower than City of New York.
City of New York was designed for 540 first, 200 second and 1,000 steerage passengers. Her quarters were fitted with running hot and cold water, electric ventilation, and electric lighting. Her first class public rooms, such as library and smoking room, were fitted with walnut panels and her dining salon came with a massive dome that provided a natural light to the passengers.
The battle of the Blue Ribbon was a reality for more than a hundred years, but the ribbon was not. It may seem strange that the world’s leading ship owners and seafaring nations should fight over a ribbon, even though it was blue. When one knows that this ribbon didn’t even exist the effort put down to win it seems overwhelming. The cup didn’t turn up until 1935. But the ship owners were so caught up in the battle by then, that when Cunard White Star Line who were one of the first to receive the cup were asked where they kept it, they didn’t know. Records were set both on the westbound and the eastbound route.
This was the last of the ships in the “Blue Ribbon Holders” series, not because I don’t know the names of the rest, but because no good pictures or no information could be found – Ted