Cruise Ship History: Menus by Eugene Savage used on Matson Line’s SS LURLINE during the 1950s are the inspiration for a striking mural located in the new trendy Tropicale Restaurant in Palm Springs, California.

Menus by Eugene Savage used on Matson Line’s SS LURLINE during the 1950s are the inspiration for a striking mural located in the trendy Tropicale Restaurant in Palm Springs, California.


The mural seen over the bar at the Tropicale Restaurant is based on the Savage menu designs for Matson Line’s SS Lurline . 

The SS Lurline sailed from San Francisco and Los Angeles to Hawaii into the early 1960s when it was replaced by her sister-ship the SS Matsonia.  The menus were also discontinued and replaced by a smaller design.


The original Savage menu cover designed for the SS Lurline and used for the mural dominating the bar area of the Tropicale.  “Fesitval of the Sea” was the title for this menu.

You would never think a desert restaurant in Palm Springs would be the place to find something so associated with steamships, cruising and the sea.   Especially such an excellent representation of mid-century modernism.


The modern 1950s Cathay Bar aboard American President Line’s SS President Wilson.  Similar in style to the modern Tropicale design with mid-century influence.

The Tropicale has the feeling of the upbeat supper clubs and lounges of the 1950′s and 60′s.


Another view of the mid-century designed Tropicale.  Bar, lobby and dining room in background.

There is a strong mid-century influence.  What is ironic is that a 1950s nautical feeling, besides the mural, is found in the public rooms.

lobbypresclev.jpgThe decor parallels the design of American passenger liners following World War 2.  Especially those operated by Matson, United States and American President Lines (The lobby of the President Wilson is seen to the left).

The menus were used for dinner service on the SS Lurline.  The ship would take five nights to reach Hawaii from the West Coast.

Eugene Savage (1883-1978) was born in Covington, Indiana. In 1940, Savage completed a two-year mural project for the Matson Co. to be used as menu covers for the passenger ship S.S. Lurline.


The SS Lurline at sea from San Francisco to Honolulu – 1950s.

He produced 4 x 8 foot murals that went right into Matson’s basement, never used in the building or on the ships. The menus were never used before World War Two, because, at the outbreak of the war, Matson ships were requisitioned as U.S. transport ships. The six menu covers were finally used on the maiden voyage of the refurbished “White Ship” Lurline in the year 1948.

eugene-savage.jpgThe original menu set consisted of nine images, three of which are rare and not seen often. In 1950, the Printing for Commerce exhibit of the American Institute of Graphic Arts honored the menu covers with its highest award, and in 1951 the menu designs were included in a display of American lithographs at the Smithsonian Institution.

Due to the increased demand, Matson at that time produced a set of six prints, which were given away to passengers at the end of the voyage.  This was the custom on all steamship lines.  This stopped in the 1980s aboard most ships when menus were standardized.

matson1004.jpgIt is estimated that over a quarter of a million sets of the Matson Savage menus were printed as blanks or as actual menus. Collectors should be aware that copies are being made today of very good quality. Prices will vary according to brightness of each image; fold lines, foxing, etc. From 1948-1956, the Savage menu designs were also produced on Aloha attire.


One comment

  1. Have a friend selling a ” 6 pack” of the Lurline Ship dinner menus, a ship that sailed in and around the Hawaiian Islands, incl to California, back and forth….If your on Oahu and are interested to buy, email me if you like.. or call 808-542-5509 Bob

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