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Munson Steamship Line

Posted on Thursday, July 8, 2010 by

Munson Steamship Line ticket. Martin Cox Collection

A brief history of Munson Steamship Line by Martin Cox

Walter D. Munson established Munson Steamship Line in 1899 when he built a freight line Havana-New York service and then extended to include Eastern Cuba, Mexico and the gulf ports. Succeeded by his son Carlos Munson, then son Frank Munson the Line had sixty steamers and became the largest ocean freight company on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States.

In 1915 the first ship to include passenger accommodation for the line was the SS MUNAMAR, built (by Maryland Steel in Baltimore) for the eastern Cuba trade. After World War I, Frank Munson began a passenger and freight service from New York to east coast of South America using foreign built vessels interned in American ports. In her brochure materials the new vessel MUNAMAR is described: ” Most comfortable accommodations are offered for the 50 first-class and 30 second-class passengers.” and the Salon is described as, “finished in white, paneled with brown tapestry, the furniture being oak.”

The MOCCASIN (ex PRINZ JOACHIM of Hamburg America Line) inaugurated the service in December 1919 but sank at her pier in Brooklyn and was sold. A second ship MARTHA WASHINGTON (formerly of Unione Austriaca, Austria) followed by HURON, AEOLUS and CALLAO (formerly GROSSER KURFURST and FRIEDRICH DER GROSSE and SIERRA CORDOBA of Norddeutscher Lloyd).

In July 1921 the first of four “535”class transports converted to passenger ships by the United States Shipping Board were assigned to Munson Line. AMERICAN LEGION, SOUTHERN CROSS, PAN AMERICAN and WESTERN WORLD. Thus the ex German liners were returned to the USSB, and in 1922 MARTHA WASHINGTON was ceded to Italy after an act on Congress recognized her as belonging to Cosulich Line reorganized under the Italian Flag.

The new 295-passenger SS MUNARGO was commissioned for Caribbean service (New York – Nassau – Eastern Cuba) in 1922. The 80-passenger MUMANAR joined the service offering a weekly sailing from New York.

In 1925 Munson Line purchased their previously chartered vessels from the USSB and the service continued with sailing to Bermuda added in 1930.

The WESTERN WORLD ran aground on San Sebastian Island off the coast of Brazil in August 1931 and remain stuck, four months later she arrived in New York for repairs.

The depression resulted in severely reduced traffic and the MUNAMAR was sold and as Munson Line ran into financial troubles its ships were either laid up or scraped. The MUNARGO was transferred to a tourist service Miami, Nassau, Havana in 1937 but sold a year later when the company went bankrupt. The remaining passenger ships were taken over by the Maritime Commission.

Munson Line’s passenger ships:


6 Responses to Munson Steamship Line

  1. Beverly Burton

    January 22, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    Found this ad in a book I am researching, need passenger list for D Ingle Burton probably 1895-1905 Please help me The book was copyright 1901.

  2. alicia perkins

    April 16, 2012 at 8:03 am

    I am searching for the manifest for the Munargo ship that sailed from NY to Nassau in the fall of 1933. My friend worked on that ship and she was inquiring about 2 small boys traveling alone names Herbie and George. We have no last name and she was the aide that was given to them while they were on the trip. The boys were going to go live with their grandmother. Can i get any information on these boys? She would really like to know. Thanks so much.

  3. Kat Hayes

    June 8, 2012 at 7:25 am

    For Alicia Perkins – Check out Ancestry.com – it will allow you to search the year and month of the Mungaro ship manifests into and out of New York. Also, the New York Public Library at Bryant park have the manifest on microfilm.

    My great-grandfather (by marriage) was an executive for Munson Steamship Lines and all the records for the Mungaro are publicly available.

    Best of luck in your search,

    K Hayes (Kellogg)

  4. María Hernández

    October 24, 2013 at 6:26 am

    I want to know if you have the list of passengers that arrived N.York on december 27 or 28 1933 in the ship Champlain from the Cherburgo port/France.

  5. Richard Abbott

    January 8, 2014 at 7:33 pm

    Do you have any information on a Captain Hilton who captained the SS American Legion to Buenos Aires in July of 1934. My father, John Barton Abbott, worked on that particular trip and I trying to determine if he was related to Captain Hilton. I believe Captain Hilton might have been married to my father’s aunt, Bessie Abbott.

    Any biographical information you might have on Captain Hilton or his ancestry would be greatly appreciated.

  6. Allen Updegraff

    June 19, 2015 at 11:20 pm

    My Father, Wm Updegraff, sailed on the good steamship Pan American of the Munson Steamship Lines. I have a document that he kept all his life dated June 6, 1917 as the date the ship crossed the equator. He was 16 years old at the time and probably worked in the mess or the engine room

    The certificate is attested by Neptunus Rex and signed by the Commander H.L. Look that he was.. “duly initiated into the mysteries of the Order of the Trident, instructed as to the sign of the Lobscouse and the Password of the Order of the Salt Horse, and is therefore, hereby constituted a Sea Urchin with all the privileges and emoluments, if any, appertaining thereto.”

    It is a colorful document of the times that I have shared with my children. Where can I find more information of the ship and the manifest of that date.

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