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Isthmian Lines material from the US Steel News courtesy of C.F. Kozel and Jamie Ryan.
1903 Top
  • September 17: U.S. Steel Products Export Co. organized with James A. Farrell, currently General Sales Agent for American Steel & Wire Co., named General Manager of Sales.
  • Through Farrell's friendship with J.T. Lilly, the senior Manager in the New York office of Norton & Co., one of the foremost Shipping Agents of the day, Farrell began to place his steel cargos and charter salt water which eventually led to the organization of his own British flag shipping company. The Norton Agency worked symbiotically with the British Bucknall Brothers and Federal Steam Navigation Co., managed by Allan Hughes. The first major orders were for railway equipment.
  • Upon receipt of a contract with the government of Chile for railway equipment, working through Lilly, U.S. Steel Products Export Co.bought controlling interest in Charles G. Dunn & Co., Ltd., 12 Africa House, Water St., Liverpool which immediately placed two of it's ships, the Foxton Hall and Newton Hall, under "time charter" on Farrell's new New York - South American service as the "New York & South American Line".
  • As trade to South America continued to expand, C.G. Dunn & Co. built four more ships, the Charlton Hall, Craster Hall, Howick Hall and Crofton Hall, especially for "time-chartering" to U.S. Steel Export Co. on the "New York & South American Line".
1910 Top
  • Farrell, having developed steel sales in Vancouver, BC, established the "New York & Vancouver Line" via the Straits of Magellan, primarily to guarantee return cargos from South America.
  • All of the "Lines", were in name only, just trade names as none owned any vessels.
  • August 10: James A. Farrell named President of U.S. Steel Corporation. From that position which he occupied for decades, he continued to support the activities of the Isthmian Line. The opening of the Canal had fueled plans of many companies to enter shipping, Isthmian being a prime example.
  • Isthmian Steamship Co., Ltd., 2 Fenchurch Ave., London, England, organized by U.S. Steel Corporation with a capital of 100,000 pounds to operate under the British flag, it's own vessels and others it chartered as needed. Isthmian was a wholly owned British subsidiary of U.S. Steel Products Export Co.
  • Federal Steam Navigation Co., whose history went back to 1782, was also located at 2 Fenchurch and managed Isthmian's one ship. The Isthmian flag, a white cross of St. George on a field of blue with a red diamond in the center of the cross, was taken from the Federal flag. On the American side, the company was managed by the Norton Lilly Agency, Lilly having been made a partner of the firm. Actually Isthmian was six extra accountants at Norton Lilly who ran the fleet.
  • The name was chosen in honor of the Panama Canal, whose opening scheduled for 1914 was expected to provide new opportunities. The line was a creation of James A. Farrell, Sr., the chief of the export subsidiary of U.S. Steel, who ahead of anyone else, realized the key to steel exports lay in providing cheap and reliable ocean transportation. Between 1902 and 1904 the Corporation's exports quadrupled, soon to represent 10% of its total sales. Farrell used ships of any status for the transport of his steel cargos. It was the need for reliable and low cost shipping that moved Farrell to establish Isthmian and other lines such as New York and South American, American and Cuban, United States and Brazil. Farrell said the first Isthmian ships were purchased to carry out contracts overseas, principally for railway materials, and for economic distribution of supplies to distant warehouses.
  • The Line loaded the parent company's steel cargoes for India, returning profitable jute and burlap on the return voyage. Isthmian closely associated with the Ellerman Line, which secured the return cargoes from India in exchange for a portion of the steel freight. During its first years Isthmian operated more like a collection of "tramp" vessels, because as a proprietary company, the ships sailed to one port or another anywhere in the world where steel had to be carried.
  • Bantu, 1901, 4230 tons, acquired from Bucknall SS Lines, Ltd., London, England for 24,000 pounds.
  • A subsidiary line, the New York and South American Line, was also formed by James A. Farrell, Sr. of U.S. Steel to transport iron and steel for the development of the Chilean railroad system. As a private carrier, a large portion of the southbound cargo was for the owner's account. Remaining cargo space was sold to the public. Northbound shipments were rarely a problem, as space for nitrate and ores was at a premium.
1911 Top
  • Kentra, 1907, 4683 tons, acquired from Kentra SS Co., Ltd., (Japp & Kirby), Liverpool, England.




S.S. Buenaventura

Built by:
Northumberland S.B. Co., Ltd.
Newcastle, England
1913

Isthmian service: 1913-1918

Sunk by a torpedo from U-129.
Fifteen lives lost.
16 September 1918

more.....
1913 Top
  • Buenaventura, 1912, 4881 tons, acquired new from New Northumberland SB. Co., Ltd., Newcastle, N. Ireland.
  • Santa Rosalia, 1913, 5482 tons, acquired new from W. Hamilton & Co., Ltd., Pt. Glasgow, Scotland.
  • Aside from the three owned vessels, some 20 to 40 tramps were also normally used in 1913.
1914 Top
  • San Francisco, 1914, 5102 tons, acquired new from N. of Ireland Shipbuilding Co., Ltd., Londonderry, Ireland.
  • During the first years, Isthmian operated more like a collection of tramp vessels, which sailed wherever and whenever steel had to be carried.
  • The "Maple Leaf Line" ran from New York around Cape Horn, up the west coast of South America to Vancouver then to Avonmouth or Swansea, England.
  • The following vessels were acquired from C.G. Dunn & Co., Ltd., Liverpool, England:
    • Charlton Hall, 1907, 4853 tons, acquired.
    • Craster Hall, 1909, 4319 tons, acquired.
    • Crofton Hall, 1913, 5378 tons, acquired.
    • Howick Hall, 1910, 5096 tons, acquired.
    • Foxton Hall, 1902, 4,247 tons acquired.
  • With the outbreak of World War I, all British flagged ships are requisitioned by England. This brings about the end of the London based company. A new company is formed, United States Steel Products Co., 30 Church Street,New York, New York and all vessels transferred to U.S. flag due to the relaxation of Congress' "Free Ship" policy, the "Ship Registry Bill of 1914". These were subsequently requisitioned by the U.S. Government.
  • August 7: Craster Hall aground in the Straits of Magellan with both forward hatches flooded. She was refloated, arriving at Punta Arenas on August 12th. Damage repaired and ship subsequently U.S. flagged.
  • September 12: Bantu is first ship placed under U.S. flag in New York. On same date Buenaventura U.S. flagged in Valparaiso, Chile. By the end of December, 10 vessels were flying the U.S. flag.
  • September 13: Foxton Hall U.S. flagged at Cristobal was first Isthmian vessel to transit the Panama Canal from west to east, headed to New York with a cargo of nitrites. First foreign build vessel to transfer to U.S. flag at one of the Canal ports.
  • September 23: Foxton Hall caught fire and abandoned off San Salvador in the Bahamas with no loss of life; the first Isthmian vessel to be lost at sea.
  • October 21: Howick Hall U.S. flagged in New York.
  • October 27: Santa Rosalia is second Isthmian vessel to transit the Panama Canal.
  • October 31: Howick Hall is first Isthmian vessel to make the Atlantic to Pacific Panama Canal transit.
  • December 1: Craster Hall transits Panama Canal, reducing steaming time from 25 to less than 1 day, saving 900 tons of coal worth $4,860.
1915 Top
  • January 18: Howick Hall is the first Isthmian vessel to make the complete full round trip voyage using the Canal both ways, a 50 day reduction worth almost $10,000 in coal alone.
1917 Top
  • From September 13, 1914 to April 2, 1917, when record keeping was stopped for security reasons, Isthmian vessels made 40 transits of the Panama Canal.
  • May 24: U.S. Steel enters the shipbuilding industry, buying 60 acres on Newark Bay through its subsidiary the American Bridge Co. who had proven, in collaboration with Chester Shipbuilding, the viability of prefabricated parts.
  • July 24: Federal Shipbuilding chartered in Trenton, NJ with a capital of $3,000,000 to develop the shipyard.
  • August 17: U.S. Steel announces it will build a second shipyard at Mobile, AL, supplied with prefabricated steel from the Fairfield plant of Tennessee Coal and Iron Co., a U.S. Steel southern subsidiary, to be called the Chickasaw yard, expecting to cost $30,000,000.
  • September 12: Howick Hall requistioned by the Shipping Board.
  • September 14: Howick Hall delivered at 3 PM to War Department Service in Baltimore.
  • October: Craster Hall requisitioned by the Shipping Board in Norfolk.
  • October 4: Buenaventura requisitioned by the Shipping Board.
  • October 11: Bantu requisitioned by the War Department in New York.
  • October 12: Buenaventura delivered to War Department Service in New York.
  • October 12: Isthmian's seven ships requisitioned by the U.S. Government.
  • October 15: Crofton Hall requisitioned by the War Department.
  • November 14: First keel laid at the Federal yard.
  • November 17: San Francisco requisitioned by the War Department in New York.
  • December 17: Kentra requistioned by the War Department in New York.
  • December 31: Charlton Hall assigned to the U.S. Army, later taken over by the Navy.




S.S. Charlton Hall

Circa 1918

Built by:
W. Hamilton & Co. Ltd.
Pt. Glasgow, Scotland
1907

Isthmian service: 1914-1929

Scrapped: 1934

more.....
1918 Top
  • January 27: Bantu refloated following removal of most of her cargo having been aground for 2 weeks in the Delaware Bay just below Marcus Hook. Vessel towed to Philadelphia for repairs which took 2 1/2 months to complete.
  • February 14: Craster Hall assigned to the U.S. Army in Baltimore.
  • February 17: San Francisco rechristened St. Francis.
  • February 22: Kentra, stranded at Cullin Point, Chile, 20 miles north of Talcahuano; 43 on board, 0 lives lost.
  • June 19: First vessel, the Liberty, launched at Federal Shipbuilding.
  • September 16: Buenaventura, torpedoed a 44.36 N, 13.10 W in the Atlantic, West of France; 93 on board, 15 lives lost.
  • October 5: Liberty delivered to the Shipping Board.
  • September 22: Three officers and 27 crew from Buenaventura arrive in Corunna, Spain.
  • December 28: St. Francis returned to Isthmian by the Shipping Board in New York.
1919 Top
  • January: St. Francis rechristened San Francisco.
  • January 27: Charlton Hall returned to Isthmian by the U.S. Government.
  • February 7: Craster Hall returned to Isthmian by the U.S. Government.
  • March 16: Howick Hall returned to Isthmian by the Shipping Board in New York.
  • July 7: Bantu return to Isthmian by the Shipping Board in New York.
  • July 29: Crofton Hall return to Isthmian by the Shipping Board.
  • December 1: Chickasaw yard begins production of its first vessel, the Chickasaw City, the first of its order from U.S. Steel. This yard never received the orders expected from the government, as the war had ended before they were able to begin production.
1920 Top
  • The following vessels, named for southern cities, were acquired new from Chickasaw SB. & Car Co., Chickasaw, Alabama:
    • Birmingham City, 1920, 6194 tons, acquired
    • Chickasaw City, 1920, 6196 tons, acquired.
    • Ensley City, 1920, 6157 tons, acquired.
    • Mobile City, 1920, 6157 tons, acquired.
    • Montgomery City, 1920, 5686 tons, acquired.
    • Tuscaloosa City, 1920, 5687 tons, acquired.
    • These vessels, based on U.S. Shipping Board Design 1037, were constructed to a special design primarily for the carrying of odd shaped steel products, with heavy booms capable of lifting 30 tons. Provisions were also made for the carrying of liquid cargo in bulk.
  • The following vessels, named for phases of activity in steel, were acquired new from Federal Shipbuilding Co., Kearny, New Jersey:
    • Steel Age, 1920, 6188 tons, acquired.
    • Steel Engineer, 1920, 5687 tons, acquired.
    • Steel Exporter, 1920, 5687 tons, acquired.
    • Steel Inventor, 1920, 5687 tons, acquired.
    • Steel Mariner, 1920, 5687 tons, acquired.
    • Steel Ranger, 1920, 5687 tons, acquired.
    • Steel Trader, 1920, 5687 tons, acquired.
    • Steel Voyager, 1920, 6198 tons, acquired.
    • Steel Worker, 1920, 5687 tons, acquired.
    • Steelmaker, 1920, 6176 tons, acquired.
  • Benjamin Watson Greer of the Canadian Pacific Railway met U.S. Steel and their subsidiary Isthmian SS Co. who were initiating an inter-coastal service. Greer subsequently left CPR to establish his own Steamship Agency, Greer Shipping Ltd., on behalf of the Isthmian Line.
  • January 31: Brand new Steelmaker departs on maiden voyage for Vancouver with cargo of steel; Capt. George Wright, Master, John Van Sneiden, Jr., Chief Mate.
  • March 1: Steel Age departs on maiden voyage from New York under Capt. Longbottom, loaded with steel for Callao, Cinca, Iqueque and Valparaiso.
  • During the 1920's Isthmian active in "intercoastal" trade from Atlantic and Gulf ports to Hawaii. Initially this alarmed Matson but soon when Isthmian did not try to ship for the West Coast, in the late 1920s the two companies made a joint agreement to share Hawaii-mainland freight traffic.
  • Early in the 1920's Farrell organized the Seas Shipping Co., first chartering then buying Shipping Board freighters at rock bottom prices. This "Robin Line" was organized because Farrell still needed more ships to satisfy U.S. Steel's requirements.
1921 Top
  • The following vessels were acquired new from Chickasaw SB. & Car Co., Chickasaw, Alabama:
    • Anniston City, 1921, 5687 tons, acquired.
    • Atlanta City, 1921, 5687 tons, acquired.
    • Bessemer City, 1921, 5686 tons, acquired.
    • Chattanooga City, 1921, 5687 tons, acquired.
    • Fairfield City, 1921, 5686 tons, acquired.
    • Knoxville City, 1921, 5686 tons, acquired.
    • Memphis City, 1921, 5686 tons, acquired.
    • Selma City, 1921, 5686 tons, acquired.
  • The following vessels were acquired new from Federal Shipbuilding Co., Kearny, New Jersey:
    • Steel Navigator, 1921, 5719 tons, acquired.
    • Steel Scientist, 1921, 5688 tons, acquired.
    • Steel Seafarer, 1921, 5719 tons, acquired.
  • Luckenbach Steamship Co. brings complaint to the Interstate Commerce Commission against Isthmian, citing the law which denies use of the Panana Canal to ships owned by railroad operators.




S.S. Chattanooga City

Built by:
Chickasaw Shipbuilding & Car Co.
Chickasaw, AL
1921

Isthmian service: 1921-1943

Sunk by a torpedo from U-606.
All hands survived.
22 February 1943

more.....
1922 Top
  • January 17: Interstate Commerce Commission dismisses Luckenbach Steamship's complaint against Isthmian.
  • Steel Traveler, 1922, 7056 tons, acquired new from Federal Shipbuilding Co., Kearny, New Jersey.
  • October 27: Steel Traveler, last vessel out of the Federal yard departs on maiden voyage from New York to Singapore via Philadelphia under the command of Capt. N. G. Turner.
  • Late in the year, James Farrell's two sons, John and James, along with John M. Franklin, organize the Argonaut Line to carry even more U.S. Steel cargo.
  • December 29: In Liverpool, the Master of the Chickasaw City George A. Saunders disappears, never to be seen again.
1923 Top
  • The following vessels were acquired new from Federal Shipbuilding Co., Kearny, New Jersey:
    • Steelmotor, 1923, 1695 tons, acquired.
    • Steelvendor, 1923, 1695 tons, acquired.
    • These motorships were designed primarily for service on the Great Lakes and adapted for use in the coastwise trade during the winter months. These vessels were originally intended for the Pittsburgh Steamship Co. of Cleveland, OH but were taken over by Isthmian who opened an office in Cleveland for their operation.
  • Even with this large fleet, frequently the line chartered vessels, as many as 20, to meet all of the needs of the parent company. Intercoastal trade alone kept 15 ships fully occupied carrying steel westbound to Pacific states, returning with lumber. The remaining vessels were engaged in trade to the east and west coast of South America, the Far East and Phillipine Islands, the Mediterranean, Red Sea, India and the Persian Gulf.
  • Concentration on providing regular sailings on established routes throughout the world, still running tramp voyages when necessary to move a shipload of steel.
  • Until the general trade slump in the early 30's, Isthmian had often chartered vessels during the 20's from Seas Shipping in the intercoastal trade and sometimes on other runs. These were the the Robin Adair, Robin Goodfellow, Robin Gray and Robin Hood, four freighters built during the close of WW I by Skinner & Eddy at Seattle. These vessels became a "reserve fleet" for U.S. Steel, providing the flexibility needed to meet extra demands.
  • Isthmian is the largest intercoastal carrier in terms of cargo tonnage.
  • Crofton Hall converted from coal to fuel oil.
1924 Top
  • Chickasaw City, the last vessel of the new fleet converted from coal to fuel; now all new vessels are oil burners.
1926 Top
  • The following vessels were acquired new from Federal Shipbuilding Co., Kearny, New Jersey:
    • Steel Chemist, 1926, 1694 tons, acquired.
    • Steel Electrician, 1926, 1694 tons, acquired.
1927 Top
  • June 19: Craster Hall, lost after collision with S.S. Reginolite at Talara Point, Peru; 40 on board, 0 lives lost.
  • Since the end of WW I, Isthmian had been making about four sailings annually to India and, with slowly rising cargo volumes, wanted to increase it number of sailings. The Roosevelt Line, claiming Isthmian's close association with the British, protested, claiming this would in effect reduce the previously agreed upon American share of India service below 25%. The British contingent of Cunard and Ellerman refused to reduce its sailings to accomodate Isthmian's request and began to freeze Roosevelt Line out of cargo. In retaliation, in December Roosevelt slashed its rates in half, triggering a rate war.
  • Isthmian SS Co.'s underquoting of steel prices on the West Coast forces Bethlehem Steel to enter the intercoastal trade with the establishment of the Calmar Steamship Co. Bethlehem had been operating ore carriers since before World War I through a subsidiary, the Ore Steamship Co. Unlike Ore Steamship, Calmar was proprietary only on the westbound leg, while on eastbound voyages it was a common or public carrier, soliciting cargo from shippers, generally pacific lumber companies.


Photo credited to Thomas James Anderson. Courtesy of Olive Martin and
the Anderson family © 2008. All rights reserved.



S.S. Craster Hall

Built by:
W. Hamilton & Co. Ltd.
Pt. Glasgow, Scotland
1909

Isthmian service: 1914-1927

Lost after collision with SS Reginolite.
All hands survived.
Talara Point, Peru
19 June 1927

more.....
1928 Top
  • In spite of the India rate war, Isthmian's continued insistence on increasing its sailings forces a prompt settlement in early August. By agreement, the US retains its 25% share of the total, now increased to 72, allowing Isthmian 2 extra, without reducing the sailings of the Roosevelt Line.
  • Farrell, with sons James Jr. and John and Arthur Lewis, bids for Shipping Board ships operated by Ernest M. Bull. With a high bid of $780,019.50, they win and organize the America and South African Line, with the assurance of outbound steel and general cargo through U.S. Steel Products; this is the forerunner of the Farrell Line.
1929 Top
  • With the Roosevelt Line fearing Isthmian would not live up to the agreement and seek additional sailings, a New York - India conference is established on January 1. Before this conference could stabilize to route, the Great Depression intervened, disrupting world shipping.
  • June 25: Bantu leaves New York on final voyage under A.A. Lang. for Valparaiso. After discharge of cargo, sold to P. Hadjilias & Others, Syra, Greece; renamed Orpheus.
  • Charlton Hall sold to M. Kulukundis, Syra, Greece; renamed Atlantis.
  • Howick Hall sold to Exeter Shipping Co., Ltd., London, England; renamed Dovenden.
  • Santa Rosalia sold to Elias G. Culucundis and Stephen C. Costomeni, Athens, Greece; renamed Stefanos Costomenis.
  • It was noteworthy that in this period of massive subsidies from the Shipping Board, Isthmian operated successfully without subsidy, remaining strong enough to engage in rate wars, most noteably New York - India.
  • John McAuliffe, former Traffic Manager of the New York Central Railroad, becomes President of the Isthmian Steamship Co.


Photo courtesy of Lee Eilers © 2010. All rights reserved.


S.S. Steel Electrician

Built by:
Federal Shipbuilding Co.
Kearny, NJ
1926

Isthmian service: 1926-1937

Scrapped: 1970

more.....
1930 Top
  • January 30: After the crash of the stock market in 1929, with the slump in steel orders and the search for cargos, it seemed prudent to separate the cargo allocating subsidiary of the steel corporation from its deep water sea shipping operation. Thus, Isthmian Steamship Co. is organized as a Delaware corporation with capital stock of $10,000,000 divided into 100,000 shares values at $100 each. All except 30 shares are owned by U.S. Steel Corp. The new company, free of any legal connection with the Steel Products Co. could call itself a "common carrier", transporting mail, passengers and any goods.
  • The company splits into two, the existing United States Steel Products Co., 30 Church Street, New York, New York and the new Isthmian Steamship Co., 50 Trinity Place, New York, New York.
  • United States Steel Products Co. retains:
    • Steel Chemist
    • Steel Electrician
    • Steelmotor
    • Steelvendor
  • Isthmian Steamship Co. acquires from United States Steel Products Co.:
    • Anniston City (April)
    • Crofton Hall (April)
    • Mobile City (April)
    • Steel Exporter (April)
    • Atlanta City (May)
    • Chattanooga City (May)
    • Steel Seafarer (May)
    • Steel Traveler (May)
    • Steel Inventor (June)
    • Steel Scientist (June)
    • Steel Trader (June)
    • Steel Voyager (June)
    • Memphis City (July)
    • Montgomery City (July)
    • San Francisco (July)
    • Steel Age (July)
    • Steel Engineer (July)
    • Steel Mariner (July)
    • Tuscaloosa City (July)
    • Bessemer City (August)
    • Birmingham City (August)
    • Ensley City (August)
    • Knoxville City (August)
    • Steelmaker (August)
    • Chickasaw City (September)
    • Fairfield City (September)
    • Steel Ranger (September)
    • Steel Worker (September)
    • Selma City (October)
  • Shipping Board accepts bids for the 52 vessels assigned to the Dixie and Lykes Steamship Lines. On April 18 Lykes submits an offer for these ships. With breakneck speed, the Shipping Board approves the sale on the next day. This sale had not been advertised nor had any bids been solicited or received. The files later revealed that an offer by Isthmian to purchase the ships in the Gulf - Far East service had been ignored, and many other irregularities appeared. This sale attracted the attention of the special Senate investigative committee, although prosecution was not pursued. The succeeding Shipping Board Bureau did retain 9 of these vessels.
  • New York - India conference disolved in December due to the cutthroat competition that had erupted as a result of the Great Depression. The Kerr Line, now under British control, shifted some of its empty ships to the New York - India run, quoting rates one-third lower.
  • James D. Dole of the Hawaiian Pineapple Company, the largest shipper of that product, unhappy over the escalating rates of the Matson Line, attempts to arrange a contract with Isthmian Steamship Company for eastbound cargoes. Isthmian was willing to try. With the arrival of the Depression, Dole lost control of the company to Castle and Cook, a major stockholder in the Matson Line. Obviously, Isthmian was no longer considered as a viable shipper.

Photo courtesy of David Boone - Marine Artist © 2004 - All rights reserved.



S.S. Memphis City

Built by:
Chickasaw Shipbuilding & Car Co.
Chickasaw, AL
1920

Isthmian service: 1920-1947

Scrapped: 1962

more.....
1931 Top
  • July: Isthmian acquires Steel Navigator from U.S. Steel Products.
1932 Top
  • The Kerr Line withdraws from the New York - India run, following Cunard, leaving only the Ellerman and Roosevelt Lines on the New York - India route, except for the less frequent sailings of Isthmian, also hit hard by the Great Depression.
  • The Shipping Board considers consolidating the Roosevelt, now a subsidiary of I.M.M., and Isthmian sailings into a single India service. For a number of factors, I.M.M.'s protests, lack of trade volume, etc., this never occurred.
1933 Top
  • San Francisco sold to International Freighting Co., Wilmington, Delaware, DuPont's shipping company; renamed Lammot DuPont.
  • Crofton Hall sold to the Moore McCormick Co. of New York; renamed Commercial Traveler, then sold in 1934 to the Colombian Government and named Cucuta, becoming the training ship for the Colombian Navy.




S.S. San Francisco

as the S.S. Lammott Dupont

Built by:
The North of Ireland Shipbuilding Co. Ltd.
Londonderry, Ireland
1914

Isthmian service: 1914-1933

Sunk by a torpedo from U-125.
Seventeen lives lost.
23 April 1942

more.....
1934 Top
  • Isthmian Steamship Co. moves to 71 Broadway, New York, New York.
  • When the conference disolved, Isthmian SS listed as member of the United States Intercoastal Conference, 1920 - 1934.
1935 Top
  • Isthmian SS Co. listed as member of the American Steamship Owners' Association (ASOA), 1919 - 1938.
1936 Top
  • June 29: Congress approves the Merchant Marine Act of 1936.
  • Novenber 1: Bessemer City , under the command of Axel Herman, stranded off the coast of Cornwall, near St. Ives, England; 33 on board, 0 lives lost. Capt. Herman never sailed for Isthmian again.

Photo courtesy of Louis L’Amour Enterprises © 2010 - All rights reserved.

Author Louis L'Amour
Crew member of the S.S. Steel Worker
Circa 1930's



From Louis L’Amour Enterprises:

'The voyage started well with the Pacific ocean living up to it’s name, the weather clear, "the ocean like a millpond." It was only after Louis got to know the ship and it’s crew that he realized why he had gotten the job so easily.

The Steel Worker was known as a ”hell ship.” Two entire crews had deserted between New York and the Panama Canal. Conditions were bad and moral terrible. According to Louis, “The Scotch steward on the Steel Worker kept all the money he could save on the food, so we had curry, rice and fried potatoes 3 times a day for 3 weeks; once in a while they'd get some tapioca pudding.” The crew objected and got the menu changed a little but the mate got down on Louis because he was the one who spoke up.

The Chief Mate of the Steel Worker was Leonard Duks. Duks "was a naturalized citizen... a Russian actually...." Nobody on the ship liked him, including the officers. "They were very hesitant, they wouldn't speak about it of course but you could tell by their attitude they didn't. ... He was a tall slim fellow and I believe he was essentially a coward. ... He was a petty man and kept digging at the crew in petty ways." Louis said that if he’d had an argument with the Engineer on the Steel Worker “you could ask him to come off on the dock and he would have gone with you. Not [Duks], he wouldn't have done it in this world."'
1937 Top
  • United States Steel Products Co. sells Steel Electrician to Tennessee Coal & Iron Railroad, Mobile, Alabama.
  • Isthmian Steamship Co. moves to 25 Broadway, New York, New York.
1938 Top
  • November 14 - 16: Isthmian officals go to Washington to present their case for receiving an operating differential subsidy from the Maritime Commission for its round the world trade. With one subsidy available, the application is contested by the new American President Lines, formerly the Dollar Line, the main competition for the subsidy.
  • December 19: Isthmian withdraws its application for the operating subsidy on their round the world service but left its request for a ship building subsidy in place.
1939 Top
  • With an alarmed government and business desparate to stockpile vital imports to meet the emergency of a possible war, Isthmian charters 73 additional ships to assist with the job. During this time Isthmian vessels brought to the US more than 60% of the total amount of crude rubber imported from the Far East, to say nothing of the heavy tonnages of pig tin, jute, tungsten ore, antimony and other vital products.
1940 Top
  • July 26: Faced with its vessels becoming obsolete, Isthmian submits a new application to the Maritime Commission for a construction subsidy only, asking for 12 new C-3s with steam turbine propulsion with certain modifications. Chief Examiner of the Maritime Commission, D.E. Lawrence, recommends approval of the request with the only suggestion being the reduction of the number of ships from 12 to 8, with 4 reserved for later delivery.
  • September 5: Planning Committee of the Maritime Commission accepts the recommendation of the Examiner.
  • October 5: Admiral Land accepts the Planning Committee's recommendation, approving application of construction differential subsidys for 8 new C-3s to be built by Ingalls Shipbuilding, Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Corp. and Western Pipe and Steel Corp., each to be sold to Isthmian for $1,614,000, 54% of the contract price of $2,945,000 to the Maritime Commission.
  • October: A Contract for four ships, originally designated as C3-S-A1s, awarded to Western Pipe and Steel Co., San Francisco. First vessel laid down as Steel Artisan, all completed as naval vessels, two becoming Escort Carriers and two modified for other naval uses, C-3 Special type and C3-S-A1 type. Yard Hull #62, MC Hull #171, laid down for Isthmian SS. Co.. Launched 9/27/41 as Steel Artisan. Taken over for completion by the U.S. Navy as Escort Carrier Barnes (CVE 7). Transferred 9/30/42 on Lend/Lease to Britain. Commissioned in the Royal Navy as Attacker (D 02).
  • October: A Contract for four ships, designated as C3-S-A1s, awarded to Seattle-Tacoma Shipbuilding Corp., a subsidiary of Todd Drydock & Construction. Two vessels were ordered in September and two more in October; all become U.S.N. Auxiliaries.
    • Yard Hull #8, MC Hull #169, laid down for Isthmian SS. Co. Launched 10/21/41 as Steel Architect. Completed June 1942 as Escort Carrier Copahee (CVE 12) for U.S. Navy.
    • Yard Hull #9, MC Hull #170, laid down for Isthmian SS. Co. Launched 1/15/42 as Steel Advocate. Completed September 1942 as Escort Carrier Bogue (CVE 9) for U.S. Navy.
    • Yard Hull #10, MC Hull #178, laid down for Isthmian SS. Co. Launched 11/42. Completed for the U.S. Navy as Escort Carrier Card (CVE 11).
    • Yard Hull #11, MC Hull #179, laid down for Isthmian SS. Co. Launched 12/42. Completed for the U.S. Navy as Escort Carrier Core (CVE 13).
  • United States Steel Products Co. sells Steelmotor to Tennessee Coal & Iron Railroad, Mobile, Alabama.


USS Copahee (CVE-12)
Puget Sound Navy Yard, 17 August 1942
One World War II Battle Star
Scrapped: 1961



From Wikipedia (emphasis ours):

"The USS Copahee (CVE-12) was a Bogue-class escort carrier that served in the United States Navy during World War II. Originally classified AVG-12, was changed to ACV-12, 20 August 1942; CVE-12, 15 July 1943; and CVHE-12, 12 June 1955.

She was laid down on 18 June 1941, as Steel Architect, under Maritime Commission contract (hull 169) in Tacoma, Washington by Todd Pacific Shipyards, launched 21 October 1941; sponsored by Mrs. W. M. Wells; acquired by the United States Navy on 8 February 1942; and commissioned 15 June 1942, Commander J. G. Farrell in command."

more photos.....
1941 Top
  • September 5: Steel Seafarer sunk by enemy aerial bomb in the Red Sea; 36 on board, 0 lives lost.
  • December 7: At the time of Pearl Harbor, Isthmian operating a fleet of more than 70 wholly owned and chartered dry cargo ships.
  • United States Steel Products Co. company name changed to U.S. Steel Export Co., 30 Church Street, New York, New York
  • Steelvendor sold to American Steel & Wire of N.J., Cleveland, Ohio.
  • Steel Chemist sold to American Steel & Wire of N.J., Cleveland, Ohio.
1942 Top
  • War Shipping Administration requistions all ships.
  • March 6: Steel Age sunk by torpedo from U-129, 600 miles SE of Trinidad; 35 on board, 34 lives lost.
  • April 6: Selma City sunk by Japanese bombers, in the Bay of Bengal; 29 on board, 0 lives lost.
  • April 19: Steelmaker sunk by torpedo from U-654, off Frying Pan Shoals; 47 on board, 1 life lost.
  • May 4: Tuscaloosa City sunk by torpedo from U-125, off the East Coast of South America; 34 on board, 0 lives lost.
  • June 1: Knoxville City sunk by torpedo from U-158, off the coast of Cuba; 55 on board, 0 lives lost.
  • June 3: Steel Worker sunk by mine in Kola Inlet, Murmansk Harbor; 38 on board, 0 lives lost.
  • July 5: Fairfield City sunk by German bombers, en route Iceland to Murmansk; 42 on board, 8 lives lost.
  • October 7: Chickasaw City sunk by torpedo from U-172, 85 miles SW Cape Town; 49 on board, 7 lives lost.
  • October 11: Steel Scientist sunk by torpedo from U-514, off the coast of British Guiana; 47 on board, 1 life lost.
  • October 19: Steel Navigator sunk by torpedo from U-610, in North Atlantic; 52 on board, 36 lives lost.
  • War Casualties operated by Isthmian SS Co:
    • February 22: West Zeda, sunk by torpedo from U-129, near British Guiana; 35 on board, 0 lives lost.
    • June 1: Illinois, sunk by torpedo from U-172, in South Atlantic; 38 on board, 32 lives lost.
    • June 15: West Hardaway,sunk by torpedo from U-502, in South Atlantic; 50 on board, 0 lives lost.
    • June 15: Kahuku, sunk by torpedo from U-126, near Trinidad; 109 on board, 63 survivors from the Scottsburg and Cold Harbor, 18 lives lost.
    • June 20: West Ira, sunk by torpedo from U-128, near Barbados; 49 on board, 0 lives lost.
    • June 28: Raphal Semmes, sunk by torpedo from U-332, in South Atlantic; 37 on board, 19 lives lost.
    • June 28: Ruth, sunk by torpedo from U-153, in South Atlantic; 38 on board, 34 lives lost.
    • June 29: Thomas McKean,sunk by torpedo from U-505, in South Atlantic; 59 on board, 4 lives lost.
    • July 1: Warrior, sunk by torpedo from U-126, near Trinidad; 56 on board, 7 lives lost.
    • July 23: Onondaga, rescued Master of Thomas McKean on board this vessel, owned by Ford Motor Co., operated by U.S. Maritime Commission, perished when this vessel sunk by torpedo from U-129, near Cuba; 34 on board, 20 lives lost.
    • November 3: East Indian, sunk by torpedo from U-181, near South Africa; 74 on board, 55 lives lost.
    • November 4: William Clark, sunk by torpedo from U-354, en route Iceland to Murmansk; 71 on board, 31 lives lost.
    • November 27: Jeremiah Wadsworth, sunk by torpedo from U-178, 270 miles south South Africa; 57 on board, 0 lives lost.
    • As operator, Isthmian loses 33 ships, over 250 officers and men and more than 300,000 tons of cargo in 1942.




S.S. Steel Navigator

Built by:
Federal Shipbuilding Co.
Kearny, NJ
1921

Isthmian service: 1921-1942

Sunk by a torpedo from U-610.
Thirty-six lives lost.
19 October 1942

more.....
1943 Top
  • January 9: Birmingham City sunk by torpedo from U-124, near Surinam; 66 on board, 10 lives lost.
  • February 22: Chattanooga City sunk by torpedo from U-606, in North Atlantic; 58 on board, 0 lives lost.
  • March 28: James A. Farrell dies in his bed at 1060 5th Ave. in New York.
  • September 23: Steel Voyager sunk by torpedo from U-952 in North Atlantic; 66 on board, 0 lives lost.
  • Steel Exporter, sold to U.S.S.R., renamed Fabritzius. Returned in 1945 to U.S. War Shipping Administration for eventual disposal.
  • War Casualties operated by Isthmian SS Co:
    • May 2: William Williams, hit by torpedo from I-19, near Fiji; 56 on board, 0 lives lost. Vessel salvaged by the U.S. Navy, renamed USS Venus.
    • May 17: William K. Vanderbilt, sunk by torpedo from I-19, near Fiji; 41 on board, 1 life lost.
    • July 11: Robert Rowan, sunk by aerial attack, in Mediterranean; 421 on board, 0 lives lost.
    • December 5: William Whipple, sunk by aerial attack, Kiddercor Dock, Calcutta; 70 on board, 0 lives lost.

Photo courtesy of Dave Mountain © 2010 - All rights reserved.


S.S. Steel Recorder

as the U.S.S. Knox (APA-46)
Five World War II Battle Stars

Built by:
Ingalls Shipbuilding Corp.
Pascagoula, MS
1943

Isthmian service: 1947-1969

States Marine service: 1969-1971
as the S.S. Constitution State

Scrapped: 1971

more.....
1944 Top
  • December 18: Steel Traveler sunk by mine in Schelde River; 72 on board, 2 lives lost.
  • War Casualties operated by Isthmian SS Co:
    • January 2: Albert Gallatin, sunk by torpedo from I-26 in Arabian Sea; 71 on board, 0 lives lost.
    • January 31: Stephen Crane, damaged by aerial bomb, dock in New Guinea; 102 on board, 1 life lost.
    • March 17: Maiden Creek, sunk by torpedo from U-371, in Mediterranean; 78 on board, 8 lives lost.
    • October 24: David Dudley Field, extensively damaged by aerial attack, anchored in San Pedro Bay, Phillipines; 130 on board, 0 lives lost.
    • November 12: Alexander Majors, damaged by kamikaze attack, anchored at Dulag Harbor, Leyte; 80 on board, 2 lives lost.
    • December 29: Francisco Morozan, damaged by aerial attack, near Phillipines; 68 on board, 0 lives lost.
  • Victory Ships Operated by Isthmian SS Co:
    • Claremont Victory
    • Grange Victory
    • Mandan Victory
    • Nicaragua Victory
    • Poland Victory


Embarking elements of the 5th Marine Division in San Diego, for transport to Camp Tarawa, Hawaii, August 1944.


S.S. Steel Chemist

as the U.S.S. Leon (APA-48)
Four World War II Battle Stars

Built by:
Ingalls Shipbuilding Corp.
Pascagoula, MS
1943

Isthmian service: 1947-1971

Scrapped: 1971

more.....

1945 Top
  • Steel Trader, sold to U.S.S.R; renamed Kuzma Ninin. Returned in 1947 to U.S. Maritime Commission for eventual disposal.
  • War Casualties operated by Isthmian SS Co:
    • January 12: David Dudley Field, damaged by kamikaze attack, near Phillipines; 130 on board, 0 lives lost.
    • May 28: Mary A. Livermore, damaged by kamikaze attack, anchored in Buckner Bay, Okinawa; 150 on board, 11 lives lost.
  • Victory Ships Operated by Isthmian SS Co:
    • Alamo Victory
    • Baton Rouge Victory
    • Beaver Victory
    • Carleton Victory
    • Claremont Victory
    • East Point Victory
    • Grange Victory
    • Kelso Victory
    • Kenyon Victory
    • Lynn Victory
    • Mandan Victory
    • Nicaragua Victory
  • During WW II Isthmian acted as general agent for 132 WSA vessels which made 872 voyages, carrying 50% of all supplies to the Red Sea and Persian Gulf. These ships were instrumental in setting the stage for the turning point of the European theater at El Alemain in 1942. By the end of the war 15 of the original 27 vessels were lost to enemy action while 2, loaned to the Russians and returned, were found badly used and unfit for further service.
  • Isthmian SS Co. is appointed General Agent for the U.S. Government for transportation of all goods for the reconstruction of Europe, known as the "Marshall Plan". As a sub-agent for Isthmian, Greer Shipping Ltd. was responsible for all ships loading in British Columbia for the Marshall Plan.


Hoisting out an LVT(A)-4, off Iwo Jima, February 1945.

S.S. Steel Apprentice

as the U.S.S. Hansford (APA-106)
Two World War II Battle Stars

Built by:
Western Pipe & Steel Co.
San Francisco, CA
1944

Isthmian service: 1947-1973

Scrapped: 1973

more.....

As part of Task Force 51, the U.S.S. Hansford disembarked 5th Division Marines who stormed the beaches during the initial assault on Iwo Jima, 19 Feb 1945. Took part in the invasion of Okinawa. She was in Tokyo Bay for the Surrender Ceremony, 2 Sept 1945.
1946 Top
  • March 22: National Labor Relations Board, responding to a request from the SIU, orders elections aboard Isthmian ships.
  • March 29: The Mobile City,in New Orleans, is the first ship to vote. With 28 crewmen voting, 85% for the SIU and 15% for the NMU.
  • Ensley City sold to The De La Rama SS Co. Ltd., New York (Phillipine); renamed Escalante.
  • August 15: Vice Admiral Smith, Chairman of the U.S. Maritime Commission, presents Isthmian's request for 25 C-3's, an increase of 7 more than the Maritime Commission initially offered.
  • September 4: The Executive Committee of the Large Vessel Sales Committee awards Isthmian 24 vessels out of the "Ready Vessels" at once available; the largest number awarded to any of the 8 applicant companies.
  • November 26: Isthmian takes title to the first of the 24 ships, the Sea Phoenix, built by Ingalls and renamed Steel Artisan, 1945, 7948 tons, from U.S. War Shipping Administration, already loading for Persian Gulf and India ports. At this point, Isthmian owns 9 vessels and is operating a fleet of 64 government owned ships under charter. The charters are to be released as the new ships come online. Each C-3 costs $1,280,730.
  • The total amount paid by the U.S. Government to Isthmian for vessel chartering from 2/1/42 - 9/2/45 is $37,000,000.


S.S. Steel Admiral

as the U.S.S. Cecil (APA-96)
Two World War II Battle Stars

Built by:
Western Pipe & Steel Co.
San Francisco, CA
1944

Isthmian service: 1947-1973

Scrapped: 1973

more.....

As part of Task Force 51, the command post of the 5th Division Marines was aboard the U.S.S. Cecil during the initial assault on Iwo Jima, 19 Feb 1945. Also took part in the largest invasion of the Pacific War at Okinawa. She was in Tokyo Bay for the Surrender Ceremony, 2 Sept 1945.
1947 Top
  • May 13: It is announced that John McAuliffe would retire, to be replaced by Vice President Walter M. Wells who had started in 1914 with the U.S. Steel Products Co.
  • June 12: NLRB hands down a ruling certifying the SIU as the official bargaining agent for Isthmian. Isthmian does not accept this ruling eagerly and stalls.
  • August 14: SIU strikes Isthmian.
  • August 15: 34 Isthmian ships tied up in U.S. due to the SIU strike.
  • August 21: Isthmian relents and signs contract with the SIU.
  • Mobile City sold to Pax SS Co. SA, Panama; renamed Dioni.
  • Steel Engineer sold to Pax SS Co. SA, Panama; renamed Rena.
  • Memphis City sold to North Pacific Maritime Co., S.A.; renamed Maria.
  • Contracts were signed for the purchase of 24 converted C-3s at a cost of $1,280,000 each. Together, with the fitting of additional equipment, the total expenditure was $36 million, all paid in cash. Of the 88 C-3 hulls disposed of by the Merchant Ship Sales Act of 1946, Isthmian's acquisition of 24 ships of the A-2 type was the largest single group. Matson took 15, Luckenbach took 11, American Mail Line 6, Pope & Talbot 6, American Export Lines 5, Moore McCormick 4, Pacific Transport Lines 3, Seas Shipping Co. 3, and American President Lines 3. The remaining few went to Shepard SS, American South African Line, Lykes Brothers, Caribbean Land & Shipping Corp. Of the C-3 hulled Escort Carriers, 4 were lost, the rest going to various individual foreign shipping companies.
  • Exisiting Merchant Vessels:
    • Steel Advocate, 1944, 8001 tons, acquired from U.S. Maritime Commission.
    • Steel Age, 1943, 8040 tons, acquired from U.S. Maritime Commission.
    • Steel Architect, 1945, 8004 tons, acquired from U.S. Maritime Commission.
    • Steel Designer, 1945, 7928 tons, acquired from U.S. Maritime Commission.
    • Steel Director, 1944, 8023 tons, acquired from U.S. Maritime Commission.
    • Steel Executive, 1945, 8019 tons, acquired from U.S. Maritime Commission.
    • Steel Flyer, 1944, 8018 tons, acquired from U.S. Maritime Commission.
    • Steel Maker, 1945, 7999 tons, acquired from U.S. Maritime Commission.
    • Steel Navigator, 1945, 8013 tons, acquired from U.S. Maritime Commission.
    • Steel Scientist, 1944, 8027 tons, acquired from U.S. Maritime Commission.
    • Steel Seafarer, 1945, 7948 tons, acquired from U.S. Maritime Commission.
    • Steel Surveyor, 1944, 8040 tons, acquired from U.S. Maritime Commission.
    • Steel Traveler, 1945, 8022 tons, acquired from U.S. Maritime Commission.
    • Steel Vendor, 1944, 8114 tons, acquired from U.S. Maritime Commission.
    • Steel Worker, 1945, 7849 tons, acquired from U.S. Maritime Commission.
  • Existing Naval Vessels:
    • Steel Admiral, 1944, 8071 tons, acquired from U.S. Maritime Commission.
    • Steel Apprentice, 1945, 8062 tons, acquired from U.S. Maritime Commission 5/20/47.
    • Steel Chemist, 1943, 8094 tons, acquired from U.S. Maritime Commission.
    • Steel Fabricator, 1943, 8162 tons, acquired from U.S. Maritime Commission.
    • Steel King, 1944, 8147 tons, acquired from U.S. Maritime Commission 7/47.
    • Steel Recorder, 1943, 8095 tons, acquired from U.S. Maritime Commission.
    • Steel Rover, 1944, 8090 tons, acquired from U.S. Maritime Commission.
    • Steel Voyager, 1944, 8129 tons, acquired from U.S. Maritime Commission.
  • Isthmian, in a joint venture with the Matson Line, serves Gulf and East Coast ports with Hawaiian cargoes, primarily the annual sugar crop. Freight rate increases of 20% in 1947 and 10% in 1948 failed to put the service in the black. These raises left both island importers and sugar shippers unhappy and looking for alternate methods of transport.
  • Isthmian SS listed as a member of the Gulf Associated Freight Conferences, 1932 - 1964.
1948 Top
  • Isthmian Steamship Co. moves to 71 Broadway, New York, New York
  • The company earned high profits until the end of the post-war shipping boom in 1948. With the collapse of rates, profits shrink.
  • In August, Matson Lines cuts almost two weeks from the bi-monthly Hawaii-Gulf-Atlantic service operated in conjunction with Isthmian.
1949 Top
  • The monthly wage bill of the U.S. C-3 type vessel was $21,004.51.
1950 Top
  • February 14: In a momentous decision, Isthmian, for the first time in its history, applies for operating and differential subsidies from the U.S. Maritime Commission. Even with the subsidies, the financial problems do not end.
  • Atlanta City sold to M. Dizengoff & Co. (Shipping) Ltd., Haifa, Israel; renamed Meir Dizengoff.
  • Montgomery City sold to M. Dizengoff & Co. (Shipping) Ltd., Haifa, Israel; renamed Henrietta Szold.
  • December 6: Isthmian, primarily to beat the nefarious "truck loader racket", announces they're setting up a new cargo center at the Erie Basin Terminal.
  • December 18: Anniston City is the last intercoastal vessel to load and sail from the old Pier 17.
  • December 19: Steel Inventor is the first intercoastal vessel to begin loading at Erie Basin.
  • December 31: Steel Scientist is the first vessel in Hawaiian service to depart from Erie Basin.
1951 Top
  • In January, of the 24 C-3s, 8 maintain a round the world service sailing westbound. Seven others serve the Indian trade, 3 the Persian Gulf, 3 more trade eastbound through the Suez Canal to Indonesia and Malaya. The remaining 3 maintain service to the Hawaiian Islands in cooperation with Matson. The 4 older vessels work intercoastwise, shuttling back and forth through the Panama Canal between the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts.
  • January: All Far East and India cargo transferred to Erie Basin by the end of the month.
  • Isthmian refuses terms offered by Marine Engineer's Beneficial Association (MEBA), breaking a strike by manning their ships with members of the Brotherhood of Marine Engineers (BME). Isbrandtsen Steamhip Co. had paved the way for this, rejecting MEBA for BME in 1949.


Photo courtesy of Dee Bivens © 2010 - All rights reserved.

S.S. Steel Advocate

Built by:
Ingalls Shipbuilding Corp.
Pascagoula, MS
1944

Isthmian service: 1947-1973

Scrapped: 1973

more.....

'I was thrilled to stumble upon this website. The attached picture was taken in June of 1951. My Dad is the man in the plaid shirt, James (Jimmie) Bird. No other names are written on the back, just "SS Steel Advocate crew, June 1951".'
--Dee (Bird) Bivens
1952 Top
  • January 2: Isthmian President Walter Wells accepts at a luncheon two $10,000 government bonds from Frank Nolan, President of Jarka Stevedoring. Wells places this sealed envelope in his desk drawer.
  • Steel Mariner sold to M. DIzengoff & Co. (Shipping) Ltd., Haifa, Israel; renamed Abraham Graetz.
  • December 4: Frank Nolan admits to Crime Commission investigating the waterfront his $20,000 gift to Walter Wells of Isthmian and another $2,400 gift to a Vice President of Waterman Steamship Co.
  • December 5: Walter Wells resigns as President of Isthmian. Archie King assumes Presidency until George Wolf comes over from the Steel Products Co.
1953 Top
  • U.S. Steel begins to have doubts about keeping its own fleet of vessels, partly because steel cargoes were declining as other countries set up their own steel mills and began to supply nearby countries as well.
  • With the embarrassment incurred when it becomes public the New York State Crime Commission found the President of the Isthmian Line had received a $20,000 gift from a mob-ridden stevedoring firm, internal morale is affected and U.S. Steel begins to look for a buyer for its fleet.
1954 Top
  • The following vessels were sold to J.C. Berkwitt & Co., New York:
    • Anniston City, renamed Doris N.
    • Steel Inventor, renamed Sheila K.
    • Steel Ranger, renamed Ann M.





Vice Admiral Glenn B. Davis (USN retired), President of Isthmian Steamship Co., presenting the Fleet Commodore's Flag to Commodore Charles A. Ryan, appointed February 1955.

Aboard the S.S. Steel Fabricator, Erie Basin Terminal, Red Hook, Brooklyn, circa October 1955.
Photos courtesy of Jamie Ryan © 2006 - All rights reserved.
1956 Top
  • Name of company changed to Isthmian Lines, Inc.
  • March 6: Isthmian Lines, Inc. purchased for an estimated $30 million from U.S. Steel by States Marine Corporation. In retrospect, U.S. Steel had made a good business decision in disposing of its obsolete fleet, thereby avoiding altogether the problem of replacing its break-bulk vessels. This acquisition hit shipping circles "like a bombshell" because it was the largest single shipping purchase in memory. Physical transfer of the fleet was expected to be completed by the end of the month. Ralph Blough, Chariman of the Board of U.S. Steel, explained that U.S. Steel's need for these ships was over. The addition of Isthmian's 24 vessels makes States Marine the largest unsubsidized U.S. flag firm and came close to challenging U.S. Lines in size. Henry Mercer, President of States Marine, seeing increasing demand for U.S. flagged tonnage, was acquiring a fast fleet to supplant their heavy use of "time chartered" ships. Plus, they acquired Isthmian's world wide web of agents and contacts with resources and a reputation for service unexcelled in the international shipping business.
  • March 7: Isthmian President, Vice Admiral Glenn B. Davis retires, suceeded by Archibald King who had been with Isthmian since 1938. The sale was simply a change in ownership, not in management.
  • With States Marine's pending application with the U.S. Maritime Commission for an operational differential subsidy for four cargo services, plus plans to build 30 new cargo liners at a cost of $232,000,000 over the next 15 years and ready to begin the first 6 for $42,000,000 contingent upon the award of the subsidy, things looked very bright.
  • At the time of the purchase, Isthmian was exclusively SIU and States Marine exclusively NMU.
1958 Top
  • In June of 1956 Matson Lines, looking for new trade routes, had incorporated a new subsidiary company, Matson Orient Line, applying to the Federal Maritime Board for an operating differential subsidiary to operate between Atlantic Coast ports and the Far East via the Panama Canal. Additionally, approval was sought for purchase of eight 20 knot "Mariner" type vessels to operate the route. In 1958 the application was changed to be a venture operated jointly with Isthmian Lines utilizing six C-3 vessels. At the conclusion of 1959 the application was still pending.


Photo courtesy of Capt. Tom Ellsworth © 2004 - All rights reserved.

S.S. Steel Executive

Built by:
Ingalls Shipbuilding Corp.
Pascagoula, MS
1945

Isthmian service: 1947-1973

Scrapped: 1973

more.....

'What a shock to see of the ship I rode on as a little girl on a trip from New York to Manila in 1958! That is such a neat photo of the SS Steel Executive. We came close to losing our lives during a typhoon while crossing the Pacific. I've often wondered if anyone has access to the log of that trip. Our captain, who had traveled that route many times, said that he was unsure if we were going to make it. We traveled through the eye and the winds slacked off. The captain attempted to turn around because we'd made no progress for three days, but the winds returned and we were caught again in the grip of the storm.

The Panama Canal was the highlight of the trip-watching the parrots and tropical birds was memorable.

I was asked to give a talk to the children at our church about my trip as a child to be a missionary to the Phillipines, and we googled the "SS Steel Executive" and found your site - voila, it looks like the real thing.

Again, thanks for posting the photos and bringing back my memories.'
--Linda Losey
1959 Top
  • Isthmian and Matson Lines, in an uneasy joint venture, carrying sugar to Gulf and Atlantic ports, moving about 25% of the sugar crop, satisfying no one.
  • Isthmian Lines listed as member of the Pacific Westbound Conference (PWC), 1923 - 1984.
1960 Top
  • Randolph Sevier, President of the Matson Line, seeks acquisitons or mergers with Isthmian, along with U.S. Lines, States Lines, Luckenbach Steamship and others. In the end, nothing was produced from any of these negotiations.
1961 Top
  • Isthmian Lines, Inc. moves to 90 Broad St., New York, New York
  • California & Hawaiian Sugar Co., a cooperative that refined and marketed the island's crop, canceled its contract with the Matson-Isthmian combination for the transport of raw sugar to Gulf and Atlantic ports, handing the business to Reynolds Aluminium Co.
  • In a Matson Line study, total cargo handling costs increased 167% from 1946 - 1961 while vessel operating costs per day went up 115% in same period.
1964 Top
  • For nearly 30 years Matson had run a joint freighter service to Hawaii with Isthmian from the East Coast and Gulf of Mexico. After long arguments with Castle & Cooke, a major Matson stockholder, over pineapple rates to Gulf and Atlantic ports, on April 30th Matson cancelled the arrangement with Isthmian. The cargo would move overland across the U.S. to West Coast ports for loading into Matson containerships, leaving a scorned Isthmian with empty and increasing obsolete freighters. Isthmian decides to carry on alone.
  • Isthmian Lines listed as member of the Far East Conference (FEC), 1920 - 1984.
1965 Top
  • Victory Ships Managed by Isthmian Lines Inc. for the U.S. Government:
    • Belgium Victory
    • Rice Victory
1966 Top
  • Victory Ships Managed by Isthmian Lines Inc. for the U.S. Government:
    • Belgium Victory
    • Bessemer Victory
    • Rice Victory
1967 Top
  • Victory Ships Managed by Isthmian Lines Inc. for the U.S. Government:
    • Belgium Victory
    • Bessemer Victory
    • Rice Victory
  • Isthmian concludes that carrying pineapple to Gulf and Atlantic ports really hadn't been such good business after all. Abruptly they cancel the service, sending Dole pineapple back to Matson ships, at least for a while. The last Isthmian ships depart Hawaiian ports:
    • 9/19/67 Steel Architect Honolulu
    • 12/15/67 Steel Chemist Kahului
    • 3/16/68 Steel Advocate Kawaihae




"Through my father's contacts, Capt. Donnelly, the Marine Superintendent of Isthmian Lines, hired me as a Third Mate in the SS Knoxville City on August 1, 1930. I say 'in' the SS Knoxville City. People say 'on' ships but that's wrong. She was one of a type of good ships built about 1922 by U.S. Steel, owners of Isthmian Lines, at their yards in Anniston and Mobile, Alabama and in liner service from New York to India. They were over 400 feet long, about 8,000 tons, and made twelve knots. Hatch number five was in an uncovered well deck. Two large doors at the after end of hatch number four could be removed, which reduced the cubic capacity of the ship and the tolls paid in the Panama and Suez Canals. These ships were the first to have gyro compasses because of the effects of the steel cargoes on magnetic compasses. In some there was a separate room for the gyro. In others it was in the after end of the saloon, or officer's dining room. We were in liner service to India. I transferred to the SS Fairfield City as Third Mate, then to the SS Steel Engineer as Second Mate. Promotions were slow. Even after getting my Chief Mate's and Master's Licenses, I was still sailing as Second Mate in 1936."
--Commodore Leroy J. Alexanderson (Commodore of U.S. Lines and Master of the SS United States)
1968 Top
  • Victory Ships Managed by Isthmian Lines Inc. for the U.S. Government:
    • Belgium Victory
    • Bessemer Victory
    • Rice Victory
  • Cargo volume in Hawaii freight service received an unexpected surge in March when Isthmian discontinued its Hawaii/Gulf/Atlantic service.
1969 Top
  • July: Steel Engineer, 1964, 8645 tons, acquired from SKIBS A/S Golden West, Oslo, Norway.
  • September: Steel Recorder sold to States Marine Corp; renamed Constitution State.
1971 Top
  • 4/9: Steel Age scrapped Kaohsiung.
  • 5/21: Steel Worker scrapped Kaohsiung.
  • June: Steel Fabricator sold to Reliance Carriers (Panama) SA; renamed Reliance Dynasty.
  • 6/10: Steel Director scrapped Kaohsiung.
  • 6/30: Steel Flyer scrapped Kaohsiung.
  • 7/9: Steel Scientist scrapped Kaohsiung.
  • 7/28: Steel Architect scrapped Kaohsiung.
  • 7/28: Steel Surveyor scrapped Kaohsiung.
  • 8/23: Steel Rover scrapped Kaohsiung.
  • 8/30: Steel Chemist scrapped Bilbao.
  • 10/7: Steel Vendor stranded in the South China Sea following boiler failure; 0 lives lost.
  • December: Steel Engineer sold to Endurance Shipping & Enterprises Co. (Panama) SA, Panama; renamed Ocean Endurance.

Photo courtesy of James Murray © 2010 - All rights reserved.

S.S. Steel Vendor

Boston Harbor, Black Falcon Terminal
Circa 1965

Built by:
Western Pipe & Steel Co.
San Francisco, CA
1944

Isthmian service: 1947-1971

Lost at sea: 1971

more.....

'Enjoyed reading the history, especially the part about the longshoremen being "escorted" off the dock. The brothers will get a kick out of that.'
--Jim Murray (ILA local 805, Port of Boston)
1973 Top
  • 5/4: Steel Apprentice scrapped Kaohsiung.
  • 5/4: Steel Designer scrapped Suao, Taiwan.
  • 6/27: Steel Navigator scrapped Kaohsiung.
  • 7/15: Steel Seafarer scrapped Kaohsiung.
  • 7/25: Steel Artisan scrapped Kaohsiung.
  • 8/16: Steel Voyager scrapped Kaohsiung.
  • 8/24: Steel Maker scrapped Kaohsiung.
  • 8/28: Steel Traveler scrapped Kaohsiung.
  • 9/1: Steel Advocate scrapped Kaohsiung.
  • 10/3: Steel Executive scrapped Kaohsiung.
  • 10/18: Steel Admiral scrapped Kaohsiung.
  • 10/20: Steel King scrapped Kaohsiung.


  • Final listing of company officers as reported by the 1974 Marine Dictionary:
    • President: D. D. Mercer
    • Vice President: E. E. Davis
    • Vice President: Q. V. Ryan
    • Treasurer: J. W. Johnson
    • Purchasing Agent: J. S. Bates

The information on this web site is the kind contribution of our Historian, Skip Lewis, © 2003. Skip, whose dad sailed for Isthmian, is an avid collector and researcher of everything Isthmian and States Marine. In his quest, he has used many sources and publications including Lloyd's of London and Imperial Steel by John Atherton.

If you have any questions about, or information for, this website, please contact us.

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