The Munson Steamship Line, frequently shortened to the Munson Line, was an American steamship company that operated in the Atlantic Ocean primarily between U.S. ports and ports in the Caribbean and South America. The line was founded in 1899 as a freight line, added passenger service in 1919, and went out of business in 1937.
The Munson Steamship Line was founded in 1899 by Walter D. Munson, who built a freight line from New York to Havana into a line that encompassed eastern Cuba, Mexico, and ports on the Gulf of Mexico and operated over 60 freighters, and becoming the largest ocean freight company on the Eastern Seaboard. Walter Munson was succeeded first by his son Carlos, and, later, by his son Frank Munson shortly after the end of World War I. The 3,477 GT (gross tonnage) Munamar, built by Maryland Steel in Baltimore, became the first passenger liner and was employed on the eastern Cuba route.
Frank Munson, after securing former German steamers seized during the war, began New York–South America service with Moccasin (the ex-Prinz Joachim of the Hamburg America Line) in December 1919. Martha Washington, a former Austro-American Line steamer, and Huron, Aeolus and Callao, all former North German Lloyd steamers, were added to the service by the United States Shipping Board (USSB) soon after.
In July 1921, four Type 535 class ships—American Legion, Southern Cross, Pan American, and Western World—were assigned to the Munson Line by the USSB (and the former North German Lloyd ships were returned). In 1922, Martha Washington was returned to Italy after an act of Congress declared that she belonged to the Cosulich Line. Munargo, built at New York Shipbuilding of Camden, New Jersey, was added to Caribbean service in 1921.
In 1925, Munson Line bought outright the USSB ships. In 1931, Western World ran aground off the coast of Brazil, where she would remain for four months before finally arriving in New York for repairs. But the Great Depression dramatically reduced ocean traffic and the company slowly dwindled in size, laying up ships or scrapping them to save the costs of operating them. By 1937, the United States Maritime Commission, a successor to the USSB, had taken over the remaining ships of the troubled line when it declared bankruptcy in 1937.
Passenger ships operated by the Munson Line
This is a list of passenger vessels used by the Munson Line for Caribbean and South American routes:
- SS Aeolus
- SS Callao
- SS Huron
- SS Martha Washington
- SS Moccasin
- SS Munamar
- SS Munargo
- SS Pan American
- SS Southern Cross
- SS Western World
- SS American Legion
- "Munson Steamship Line". Maritime Matters. Retrieved 2010-12-04.
- "Bethlehem Steel Company, Sparrows Point MD". ShipbuildingHistory.com. The Colton Company. Retrieved 2008-07-03.
- The Austro-American Line was based in Trieste, a city in Austria-Hungary before the war; Trieste was made a part of Italy after the war, and the passenger line was reorganized as the Cosulich Line, an Italian company.