Cruise Ship History: When going by ship from San Francisco to Portland was faster than the train and cost $38.40 round-trip first class.


The Great Northern Pacific Steamship Company was formed by James Hill on September 30, 1914.

dva9866greatnor.jpgThe line was to compliment the passenger train service on the Astoria Line and compete with the Southern Pacific trains to San Francisco.

The company operated two ships, the S.S. Great Northern and S.S. Northern Pacific.


The ships proved faster than the Southern Pacific’s express trains until bridges replaced much slower ferries in the northern area of San Francisco Bay. 

During the winter season of 1915-6, the ships also ran to Hawaii.

Eventually the service was not a success and the line was for sale when World War I intervened.

The U.S. government commandeered the ships on September 17, 1917, ending the line.  Both ships survived the war, but the Northern Pacific burned and sank on while being towed to be refit.


Dining Salon aboard the H. F. Alexander.

The Great Northern returned to coast wise liner service for many years with the (Admiral Line) Pacific Steamship Co. as their H.F. Alexander.

bunche.jpgNoble Peace Price recipient — African-American Ralph Johnson Bunche, worked aboard the H. F. Alexander as a waiter.

He did this during summers while studying at the University of California in the 1920s.

African-Americans were employed as bellman, waiters and stewards.  This was similar work as the Pullman Porters.  There were no unions at that time.  Hours were long but pay, including tips, was good enough to put your way through school.  From the photos, it is obvious America was very segregated – even on the West Coast of the USA.




Scenes aboard the H. F. Alexander.



S.S. Great Northern (American Passenger Liner, 1915). Later renamed H.F. Alexander.

S.S. Great Northern, an 8255 gross ton passenger liner, was built in 1915 at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She maintained a fast (23 knot) passenger service along the Pacific Coast during the next two years and, in 1917-1922, was in U.S. Government service as the Navy transport Great Northern, Army transport Great Northern and Navy fleet flagship Columbia. Returned to merchant service following her March 1922 decommissioning, the ship was the Admiral Steamship Lines’ H.F. Alexander over the following two decades.


During World War I, as the USS Columbia officers are seen in the ward room.  A former public room.


During World War II. 

During World War II she was briefly under British ownership before rejoining the U.S. Army in July 1942. Renamed George S. Simonds later in that year, she was in Army service until March 1946. Regaining the name H.F. Alexander, she was laid up in the Maritime Commission’s reserve fleet facility at Lee Hall, Virginia, from then until sold for scrapping in February 1948.


S.S. H. F. Alexander (former Great Northern)


cardf.jpg gnpmenu1.jpg


About Michael L. Grace

MICHAEL L. GRACE is part of the award winning team that created the internationally performed award winning musical SNOOPY, based on PEANUTS by Charles M. Schultz. SNOOPY continues to be one of the most produced shows (amateur & stock) in America/Worldwide and has had long running productions in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and in London's West End. There are over 100 individual productions every year. He has written movies for TV, including the award-winning thriller LADY KILLER, various pilots and developed screenplays for Kevin Costner and John Travolta. Besides co-writing and co-producing SNOOPY, he wrote and produced the one-man play KENNEDY. He produced P.S. YOUR CAT IS DEAD by pulitzer prize winning author James Kirkwood. He wrote the stage thriller FINAL CUT which had productions in the UK, South Africa and Australia. His one-man play, KENNEDY - THE MAN BEHIND THE MYTH, was developed for HBO and has starred Andrew Stevens, Gregory Harrison and Joseph Bottoms. He has recently been involved in European productions with CLT-UFA, Europe's leading commercial television and radio broadcaster. He wrote MOWs THE DOLL COLLECTION, THE BOTTOM LINE and LAST WITNESS for German television. While in college and graduate school he worked as a foreign correspondent for COMBAT, the famous leftwing Paris daily, and as a travel writer. He visited more than 50 countries. He struggled as an actor, then joined the enemy and entered the training program at William Morris. He became a publicist and worked for Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Presley's manager, at Paramount and MGM. He followed with a brief stint as a story executive, working in the frantic horror genre period of the early 80s and wrote THE UNSEEN. He went onto write for episodic television and develop series pilots. He was a continuing writer on such series such as LOVE BOAT, PAPER DOLLS, and KNOTS LANDING. He developed screenplays for such major award winning directors as Nicolas Meyers, Tony Richardson and J. Lee Thompson. He has written for all the major networks and studios. He has been hired numerous times as a script doctor, doing many uncredited rewrites on TV movies and features. He is currently writing A PERSON OF INTEREST, a thriller novel, and, IT'S THE LOVE BOAT... AND HOW IT CHANGED CRUISING BY SHIP a non-fiction book dealing with how the hit TV series as a major cultural phenomenon and altered the style of cruising by ship. He was raised in Los Angeles. He attended St. Paul's, USC and the Pasadena Playhouse. He received a B.A from San Francisco State University where he majored in theatre arts and minored in creative writing. He is listed as a SFSU leading alumni. He also apprenticed at ACT - The American Conservatory Theatre. For a brief period he had intentions of becoming an Episcopal(Anglican) priest and attended seminary at Kelham Theological College in the UK. When "the calling" wasn't there, he left seminary and did graduate work at the American University of Beirut. He has guest lectured at USC, UC San Diego, McGill, Univ. of London and the Univ. of Texas on the business aspects of making a living and surviving as a writer, focusing on development hell, in the Hollywood entertainment industry. Grace is a lifetime member of the Writers Guild of America, the Dramatist Guild and former regional chairman of the Steamship Historical Society of America. He resides in Palm Springs.