The Old Bay Line…

The Old Bay Line…

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The last American overnight boats, from Baltimore (and Washington DC) to Norfolk, ended service in 1963…


A wonderful historical video on the OLD BAY LINE… American history at its best…

SS City of Norfolk -  The Old Bay Line

SS City of Norfolk – The Old Bay Line

  • The famous refuge ship SS EXODUS was originally the “Honeymoon” Night Boat SS PRESIDENT WARFIELD…
  • The President Warfield was named after the Old Bay Line’s president.
  • Warfield’s niece “Mrs Simpson”… Bessie Wallis Warfield shook the British empire to its foundations when she married Edward VIII.

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The famed SS Exodus was originally built in 1911 for Chesapeake Steamship Company, but she became best known as the luxurious night boat, the SS President Warfield for the “Baltimore Steam Packet Co’s (Old Bay Line) that operated an overnight service between Baltimore and Norfolk.

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The President Warfield was named after the Old Bay Line’s president.  Warfield’s niece Bessie Wallis Warfield (Mrs. Wallis) shook the British empire to its foundations when she married Edward VIII.

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PRESIDENT WARFIELD – “Old Baltimore At Twilight” by Paul McGehee. The beautiful inner harbor of Baltimore holds memories for many people … memories of the days when you could go down to the “Long Dock” to buy watermelons brought in by the Chesapeake Bay skipjacks and bugeyes … memories of the downtown smells of roasting coffee and spices coming from McCormick’s.

Corporate letterhead of the Old Bay Line...

Corporate letterhead of the Old Bay Line…

In 1934, the Baltimore Trust building towered over the port, witness to the daily comings and goings of the passenger steamers that would dock along Light Street, close to the end of the steamboat era.har111bor_47_baltimore_oldbaylinepier_pc

 

The OLD BAY LINE Dock in Baltimore.

ms92321-a-264x300The Baltimore Steam Packet Company, also known as the Old Bay Line, was an American steamship line from 1840 to 1962, providing overnight steamboat service on the Chesapeake Bay, primarily between Baltimore, Maryland, and Norfolk, Virginia.

Called a “packet” for the mail packets carried on government mail contracts, the term in the 19th century came to mean a steamer line operating on a regular, fixed daily schedule between two or more cities.

By the time the venerable packet line ceased operation in 1962 after 122 years of existence, it was the last surviving overnight steamship passenger service in the United States.

 

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CITY OF NORFOLK – Chesapeake Bay night boat. She was built at Sparrows Point, MD in 1911 for passenger and freight service between Baltimore and Norfolk. She operated in this service, first for the Chesapeake S.S. Co. and then the Old Bay Line, until 1962 when the company ceased operations. This view shows her backing from her Baltimore wharf at 7:30 AM on Oct. 31, 1949 on her way to dry dock.

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Dancing on the OLD BAY LINE.

  • In addition to regularly calling on Baltimore and Norfolk, the Baltimore Steam Packet Company also provided freight, passenger and vehicle transport to Washington, D.C., Old Point Comfort, and Richmond, Virginia, at various times during its history.

The Old Bay Line, as it came to be known by the 1860s, was acclaimed for its genteel service and fine dining, serving Chesapeake Bay specialties.

Walter Lord, famed author of A Night to Remember and whose grandfather had been the packet line’s president from 1893 to 1899, mused that its reputation for excellent service was attributable to “… some magical blending of the best in the North and the South, made possible by the Company’s unique role in ‘bridging’ the two sections … the North contributed its tradition of mechanical proficiency, making the ships so reliable; while the South contributed its gracious ease.”

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Old Bay Line steamer arriving in the early 1960s. Dock workers handling her arrival. 

One of the Old Bay Line’s steamers, the former President Warfield, later became famous as the Exodus ship of book and movie fame, when Jewish refugees from war-torn Europe sailed aboard her in 1947 in an unsuccessful attempt to emigrate to Palestine.

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THE PRESIDENT WARFIELD as the Exodus in 1947.

The night-boat President Warfield, built in 1928, carried people to Norfolk and back for 14 years under theflag of the Old Bay Line.

She was just one of the many steamboats that sailed the Chesapeake carrying passengers and freight, but she was later to distinguish herself in the pages of history. As one of the “Honeymoon Fleet” of steamboats that the U.S. Navy took overseas during World War II, she was used by the British in the English Channel in preparation for D-Day.

When the war ended, she was acquired by Haganah, the Jewish Underground Organization, and as the “Exodus 1947,” was used in an attempt to ferry 4,554 Jewish refugees from war-torn Europe to British-held Palestine. Even though the vessel was met by the British Navy and all of the refugees were returned to Europe, the story of the “Exodus,” and her journey, echoed around the world. She had become a symbol of the determination of a proud people in the effort to reach their “promised land”, the new state of Israel.

The former Baltimore steamer ended her days in 1952, burning at Haifa, Israel. The port of Baltimore does indeed hold many memories… and has many tales to tell.

DUKE AND DUCHESS OF WINDSOR – The Duchess of Windsor was the niece of President Warfield – the onetime head of the Old Bay Line.

History of the SS EXODUS…

The famed SS Exodus was originally built in 1911 for Chesapeake Steamship Company, but she became best known as the luxurious night boat, the SS President Warfield for the “Baltimore Steam Packet Co’s (Old Bay Line) that operated an overnight service between Baltimore and Norfolk.

In June 1942 she was acquired by the War Shipping Administration (WSA) and was refitted to become a transport vessel for the British Ministry of War Transport and she was fully manned by a British crew.

After the war, on November 9, 1946 the ship had well and truly come to the end of her days as she was well worn and WSA decided to sell the President Warfield to “Potomac Shipwrecking Co” of Washington, D.C. However, it turned out that they were acting as an agent on behalf of a Jewish organization known as HaHagana, which was associated in assisting with its associated organizations in assisting in bringing European refugees back home to their ancient homeland of Israel, which the Romans had renamed Palestine some 2000 years back. The SS President Warfield was renamed SS Exodus in 1947, using the name from the departure of the great biblical Exodus from Egypt.

She departed the port of Sete in France on July 11, 1947, and she arrived off the shore of Palestine on July 18 with some 4,515 refugees onboard. However, the British had been shadowing the Exodus and awaited its arrival and halted a well-laid plan. I suggest that t=you read the story further and I am sure that it is available online! The ship was eventually sold to be broken up

The ex President Warfield had been taken to Haifa and was laid up there and she was very much a derelict vessel until she finally burned right down to the waterline on August 26, 1952. It was not until 1963 until it was decided to have the hull section towed to Shemen Beach near Haifa, where they raised her hull and an Italian firm scrapped the remains of the now famed SS Exodus, and once luxurious SS President Warfield in 1963.

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 The famed SS Exodus was originally built in 1911 for Chesapeake Steamship Company, but she became best known as the luxurious night boat, the SS President Warfield for the “Baltimore Steam Packet Co’s (Old Bay Line) that operated an overnight service between Baltimore and Norfolk.


The famed SS Exodus was originally built in 1911 for Chesapeake Steamship Company, but she became best known as the luxurious night boat, the SS President Warfield for the “Baltimore Steam Packet Co’s (Old Bay Line) that operated an overnight service between Baltimore and Norfolk.

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 baltimore, Bessie Wallis Warfield, city of norfolk,coastal ships, duchess of windsor, Edward VIII, night boats, nightboat, old bay line, overnight boats, ss exodus, ss president warfield, steamers, 1950s, Athens, cruise expert, Cruise History, CRUISE LINE HISTORY, cruise ship history, cruising the past, cunard, CUNARD LINE, Cunard line history, first class, first class ships, Florence, Liner History, liners, Luxor, Madeira, Michael Grace, michael l. grace, Naples, ocean liner, rms caronia, RMS TITANIC, Rome, SOCIAL HISTORY, steamship history, Steamship Line History, Steamships, suites, Titanic, travelogue Cairo, Venice, Vienna

 

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About Michael L. Grace

During the mid-80s, Michael Grace worked as a writer on the TV Hit Series THE LOVE BOAT. He wrote many of the two hour special featuring great stars of the past, including Lana Turner, Claire Trevor, Anne Baxter, Ethel Merman, Alexis Smith, etc. The public’s access to these stars, in familiar dramas and comedies, made them want to go on a cruise. They could see the stars in an ordinary world as “regular” people. The phenomenally successful series was responsible for creating the cruise industry as we know it today. By the time he was writing for Love Boat, the great steamship companies and their liners were flying hand me down foreign flags, painted like old whores, scrapped or doing three day cruises to the Bahamas. He had sailed on over thirty ships and liners with his parents, aunt and grandmother in late 50s to early 70s. The very successful CRUISING THE PAST website has been an outgrowth of Michael’s strong interest in cruise and social history. Drawing on his own knowledge and a vast maritime and social history collection, he is able to produce a very successful website. Michael is part of the award winning team that created the internationally performed award winning musical SNOOPY, based on PEANUTS by Charles M. Schultz. He has written for television and films. Read more by going to "About" (on the above dashboard) and clicking "Editor"…