Eastern Steamship Lines was one of the last American flag coastal passenger services.

The steamship Calvin Austin pulls away from the Eastern Steamship Company wharf in Lubec. Pope’s Folly island appears in the immediate background. Austin was President of the Eastern Steamship Company, formed in 1901 by a merger of the Eastern Steam Ship Co. with other lines.

In 1901, Charles Wyman Morse merged together the Boston &. Bangor Steamship Company, the Portland Steam Packet Company, the International Steamship Company, and several local lines on the Maine coast to form the Eastern Steamship Company.

1910 Postcard photograph of passengers arriving/departing from the Eastern Steamship Landing where steamships bound for Boston docked. Message on back of the card reads: “This is where we land when we get off the large steamers. Mabelle”

Because of the financial dealings of Mr Morse. and the competition Eastern gave the Fall River Line which was owned by the New Haven Railroad and backed by JP Morgan, a “bankers war” ensued between the two empire builders. Morse was eventually indicted in 1907 for conspiracy and the New Haven Railroad temporarily gained a controlling interest in Eastern, increasing its strength Eastern merged in 1911 with the Metropolitan Steamship Company and the Maine Steamship Company, but was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1914.

SS Evangeline at Pier 18 New York – This ship was built in Philadelphia in 1927 for the Eastern Steamship Company services along the U.S. East Coast. She could carry 751 passengers at 18 knots speed and was of 5043 grt and 378 feet in length. She ended her days as SS Yarmouth Castle by burning near Florida with the loss of 89 lives in 1965.

SS Evangeline at sea.

Three years later it re-emerged, re- organized as Eastern Steamship Lines, with the Yarmouth Line included. in 1925, Eastern acquired the Old Dominion Line (with services from New York to Norfolk) and the New York and Richmond Steam- ship Company. Between 1925 and 1941 Eastern had services from as far south as Norfolk, Virginia, to its northernmost point, St Johns, New Brunswick, with intermediate stops enroute to embark and disembark both freight and passengers.

SS Yarmouth schedule during the late 1930s.  Boston and Yarmouth.

Images from various Eastern Steamship Line brochures.

The Depression, and the intense competition from the railroads and the motor car, led Eastern to introduce ‘cruises’ to entice passengers to its ships.

(Images: Left) Cover of 1936 Schedule; Map of 1930s services; Two Boy Scouts sailing on an Eastern Steamship Line vessel to 1939 New York World’s Fair.

At the outbreak of the Second World War; Eastern had a fleet of eight sea-going ships, together with dozens of smaller vessels on trips lasting from a few minutes to a couple of hours. The only survivors to be returned to Eastern were Yarmouth and Evangeline, both hurricane equipped vessels.

Both were restored and placed on Eastern’s only surviving route. the Boston-Yarmouth line. This service was maintained during the summer months, with the liners being switched to cruising out of Miami during the winter months.  The Eastern Steamship Line was practically profitless, and eager to withdraw the ships, so the Nova Scotia government stepped in and subsidized Yarmouth and Evangeline for the 1954 season until its own vessel, Bluenose, was ready.

Jamaican-born E Leslie Fraser purchased the name Eastern Steamship Company along with S.S Yarmouth for $500,000 in 1954. Under the Panamanian flag, with operators listed as McCormick Shipping Corporation and then Eastern Shipping Corporation, S.S. Yarmouth was renamed S.S Yarmouth Castle and immediately dispatched out of Miami on 28 June 1954 to the Caribbean. Her owners claimed that she was the ‘ex Yarmouth fitted like a castle: On which castle they were basing S.S Yarmouth Castle’s interiors was unknown; all that could be said was that little change took place during ‘refitting’!  Fraser next acquired Evangeline in the autumn of 1954 and sent her to the shipyard for interior work. She was fitted with a small swimming pool aft, and air-conditioning was installed in all her public rooms and in 50 per cent of her cabins. Limited to 350 guests, Evangeline commenced a series of ten-day cruises out of Miami on 22 December 1954.

S.S. Bahama Star and S.S. Ariadne

In 1957, a cruise to Port Antonio, Kingston, Ciudad Trujillo and St Thomas cost from $190 (£68). During the autumn of 1954, the government of Nassau and Eastern Shipping concluded negotiations which made S.S Yarmouth Castle Nassau’s contract ship, one of the provisions being that she be renamed Queen of Nassau. This was done and during 1955 and 1956 the Queen sailed from Miami on three-day and four-day cruises.

Deck Plan of the S.S. Evangeline, S.S. Yarmouth (prior to WW 2) and S.S. Yarmouth Castle (after refitting).

(Left: Menu Cover from Eastern Steamship) When the contract expired, her name reverted to S.S. Yarmouth Castle and she reported to the shipyard for some modernization.

A swimming pool was fitted, air-conditioning was installed in her public rooms and she was refurbished.

She then saw service out of New Orleans and Washington, DC, on cruises to the West Indies.

(Left:  Menus from Eastern Steamship.   Certain menus included prices.  Meals were not included on overnight services between New York and Boston, etc.)

In 1958 Eastern returned to New England with cruises out of Boston to Yarmouth on S.S. Yarmouth Castle, now renamed S.S. Yarmouth.

That year Eastern made S.S.Yarmouth on a par with Evangeline by making her completely air- conditioned and reducing her capacity to 365.

S.S. Bahama Star (S.S. Arosa Star)

In 1959, Eastern acquired Arosa Star (Arosa Line) through the McCormick Shipping Corporation for approximately $510,000.

She was renamed Bahama Star and after a refit was placed on the Miami-Nassau run.

Two years later, the company purchased the tiny Ariadne from Hamburg-America. She was placed on luxury cruises to the Caribbean, and to enhance the ship’s appeal she was completely redecorated, refurnished and air-conditioned in 1963.

Ownership of Eastern changed hands again in 1962 when W.R Lovett of Jacksonvilie, Florida, purchased the company.  This accounted for the white ‘L’ on the blue diamond which appeared on the funnels during Lovett’s ownership.

S.S. Ariadne in Nassau.

Gone were S.S. Yarmouth and S.S. Evangeline. The S.S. Ariadne was put on three-day, four-day and seven-day cruises, and Bahama Star remained on the Nassau service. A seven-day cruise aboard the Ariadne during the summer of 1965 ranged from $160 (£57) for inside accommodation without facilities to $425 (£152) for the owner’s suite. A four- day cruise in Bahama Star ranged from $95 to $160 (£34 to (37), and a three-day cruise from $80 to $130 (£29 to (46).

For the next seven years the itinerary of the ships did not alter With the acquisition of Zim line’s S.S. Jerusalem, renamed New Bahama Star, in 1969, S.S. Bahama Star was sold to Pacific interests and finally lost in a hurricane.

The SS Yarmouth operated on 10 day cruises between San Francisco and Seattle, with a stop in Victoria B.C., during the 1962 World’s Fair. She was eventually broken up and scrapped in 1979.

The end of American ownership of Eastern Steamship came in 1970 when the Norwegian shipping firm of Gotass-Larsen purchased the line. In 1981 the company was restyled Eastern Cruises, and later in 1983 amalgamated with Western Cruise Lines and Sundance Cruises to form Admiral Cruises.


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.


  1. Michael L. Grace

    Eastern Steamship doesn’t exist anymore… sorry

  2. I am trying to contact eastern steamship lines in Florida, its proving more difficult than I could imagine. See I worked on the SS Emerald Seas some years ago and would like to ask a question to someone in the personnel department or the main office.


  3. My father worked about a small coastal freighter named the Norfolk from approx. 1931 – 1935. It ran from New York to Richmond, Va. on a regular route. He said the ship was owned by the Eastern Steamship Company, but I can find no reference.
    My father also told me the ship was sunk while in convoy in WWII.
    I have a photo of the ship obtained from the Mariner’s Museum some years ago by a relative.
    I would love to know more about the Norwalk.

  4. Anyone who may have a photo of the steamship new york which was built 1924 and was sunk in convoy rb1 in 1942 or if anyone has information about the ship at all.
    My uncle sailed on her and was sunk on his first voyage there are several photos around but seem to come from different ships

  5. Hello,
    I have a photo of what may be the Evangeline from early 1965. I’m wondering if there is any way to find the ship’s schedule from that time, or possibly its passengers list. Would anyone happen to know?

Leave a Reply