The First Cruise Around the World


February 13, 2013 Ephemera Society

By John G. Sayers

Ephemera -- written and printed letters, documents, etc. -- is the key to primary source research on many historical events. In this case, it's incontrovertible evidence of the first true Around-the-World cruise. The cruise began in October of 1909 on the Hamburg-American Line ship, the SS Cleveland. This is important documentation because other passenger shipping companies have claimed that they had the first such cruise, although at a later date. Not so.

The documents show that the trip was actually organized by Frank C. Clark tours, and the accompanyingImage 2 illustrations show a map of the planned geographic coverage of the cruise, instructions to those who signed up for the trip, and even a postcard sent during the cruise. Note that the postcard was actually posted from New York. This was standard practice among cruise lines for many years so that the message could get to each of a list of pre-selected American recipients within a relatively short period of time.

The detail of the arrangements is impressive, as is the list of provisions on board. In an era before refrigeration, note that the ship carried 336,000 pounds of 'artificial ice'. That’s 180 tons! Of course, with 6,000 bricks of ice cream to preserve, as well as 80,000 eggs, avoiding spoilage was a real challenge. Students of dietary habits over the years would find this list fascinating in comparison to what might be carried today. For example, in our present low-sodium era, I don’t think that any cruise line would want to disclose the amount of salt carried on board -- particularly if it were 20,000 pounds!

The core of this material was purchased at Ephemera 30, the 2010 version of the Ephemera Society of America's annual conference, held March 19 to 21 in Greenwich, CT. For the nautical enthusiast with an interest in the history of cruising, this trove is about as good as it gets. Next year's Conference will be March 18 to 20, 2011, at the same location, and there may be another such jewel for your own collecting interests. For a more detailed story of the three-day delight, check out the current issue of the Society' s publication, Ephemera News.

If a picture isworth a thousand words, then these six illustrations are worth at least six thousand words!

John G. Sayerscan be reached at


Imge 3 Image 5
Imge 6 Image 4


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