SS Fürst Bismarck (1890)

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German Empire
Name: Fürst Bismarck
Owner: Hamburg America Line
Builder: AG Vulcan
Launched: 29 November 1890
Maiden voyage: 8 May 1891
Fate: Sold to Russia, 1904
Russian Empire
Name: Don
In service: 1904
Renamed: 1906, Moskva
Fate: Sold to Austria; later seized by Italy
Name: San Guisto
In service: c. 1917
Status: Scrapped, 1924
General characteristics
Type: Ocean liner
Tonnage: 8430
Length: 502 ft
Beam: 57½ ft
Depth: 38 ft
Propulsion: Triple expansion steam, twin screw

The first SS Fürst Bismarck was an ocean liner built in 1890 by AG Vulcan for the Hamburg America Line. A steamship of 8,430 gross register tons, it was assigned to transatlantic crossings between Hamburg Germany and New York City, United States. Fürst Bismarck and the sister ships were part of an express fleet that usually made the trip in five to six days.

HAPAG's Express Fleet[edit]

The fleet of twin-screw express steamships operated between New York to Plymouth, Cherbourg and Hamburg, and from Hamburg, Southampton, and Cherbourg to New York. The fleet consisted of the SS Augusta Victoria and the SS Fürst Bismarck, built by the Vulcan Shipbuilding Company at Stettin, the SS Columbia, built by Laird Brothers, in Birkenhead, near Liverpool, and the SS Normannia, built by the Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering Company, in Glasgow. With these vessels the company maintained a weekly Transatlantic express service, offering the public the convenience of safe and comfortable travel between America and the European Continent.[1]


The SS Fürst Bismarck was designed with five decks constructed of steel and teak. The three funnels rose above the hurricane deck. The ship also had two masts, but without yards. Each side of the ship was subdivided into numerous watertight compartments. The hull of the ship had a double bottom, the space between divided into chambers, which could be filled with water or emptied by means of automatic pumps, thus increasing or decreasing the draught at will, and guarding the ship from grounding. The enormous engines [were] of 6000 to 8000 horsepower each. The screws are of manganese bronze, with three or four blades.[2]

First class deck state rooms, located mid-ship, were 7 to 9 feet in width, with elaborate furnishings. Separate saloons for men and women allowed for privacy, smoking (gentlemen only), and conversation. The Second class rooms were on the same level as first class, but with most rooms located fore and aft, with smaller rooms and their own saloons. The steerage was directly below the Second Cabin; separate compartments housed single men, women, and families.[3]


The ship was 502.6 feet long, and 57.6 feet in breadth, and measured 8,430 gross tons.[4]


The vessels's machinery was duplicated, with two distinct sets of boilers, engines, shafts and screws, both sets working independently of each other. A longitudinal bulkhead divided the vessel into two non-communicating halves, each of which was fully equipped to propel the ship. Contemporary advertising promoted this design as safer than a single boiler compartment because of its numerous watertight compartments, and the ability of the ship to propel itself even if one side was disabled.[5]


Launched on November 29, 1890, the ship made its maiden run from Hamburg to New York, via Southampton (England), on May 8, 1891. In the service of Hamburg America line (HAPAG) on September 27, 1894, 5 days, 18 hours, 10 minutes,[6] with Captain Adolph Albers (1843–1902) at the helm. Albers, later Commodore of the Hamburg America fleet, held several speed records for trans Atlantic crossings before his death at the helm of the SS Deutschland in 1902.[7] Between its maiden journey and 1894, the ship made 14 crossings, predominantly as an immigrant ship, and carrying American travelers to Europe on the return journey. On July 4, 1894, in honor of its many crossings and "in memory of Muhlenberg, Herkimer, Steuben and Dekalb," the Daughters of the American Revolution and the Columbia Liberty Bell Company presented the ship, and its Captain, with a replica of the Liberty Bell, requesting that the ship's captain ordered it to be rung when the ship came in sight of the Navesink Highlands (by day) or Navesink Twin Lights (by night).[8] After 1894, it was occasionally in use as a luxury cruise ship.[9] HAPAG commissioned a second SS Fürst Bismarck (1905) in 1905.

In 1904, the ship became the auxiliary cruiser the Don in the Russian Navy. In 1906, she was assigned to the Russian Volunteer Fleet with the name Moskva. In 1913, she became a depot ship in the Austrian Navy, the "Gaea." The vessel was seized by Italy at the end of the First World War, rebuilt, and renamed San Guisto. She was scrapped in Italy in 1924.[10]

Further reading[edit]

  • Matthias Trennheuser: Die innenarchitektonische Ausstattung deutscher Passagierschiffe zwischen 1880 und 1940. Hauschild- Verlag, 2010, ISBN 978-3-89757-305-5.


  1. ^ [1], Hamburg America Line, Norway Heritage website. The Express Fleet.
  2. ^ [2], Hamburg America Line, Norway Heritage website, from a promotional booklet published in 1896.
  3. ^ [3], Hamburg America Line, Norway Heritage website, from a promotional booklet published in 1876.
  4. ^ [4] HAPAG Fleet Information, SS Fürst Bismarck (1890).
  5. ^ [5] Publicity brochure, 1896.
  6. ^ [6] Ships crossings,
  7. ^ [7] Death of Captain A. Albers, New York Times, April 30, 1902, p. 9., Accessed 10.06.2009
  8. ^ [8] A LIBERTY BELL FOR THE BISMARCK.; The Captain of the Steamship Asked to Ring It When Entering This Port. New York Times. August 10, 1894,p 7.
  9. ^ [9], Summer Plans of Society; Fewer Lavish Entertainments This Year than usual. New York Times, April 15, 1894, page 18.
  10. ^ [10], Hamburg America Line, Norway Heritage website.


External links[edit]