American Newcomen, through
the years, has dealt often with the fascinating history of the Sea: of
shipping and navigation; of ocean commerce and trade; of far voyages upon
the Great Deep! We have examined that history as related both to the
United States of America and to Canada. Nothing could be more
appropriate than that this 15th Newcomen Lecture before the
United States Coast Guard Academy in New London should deal with the
life-story of Moore-McCormack Lines and with the lives and work of their two
This Newcomen Address, being
the 15th Newcomen Lecture before the United States Coast Guard
Academy, deals with the history of
Moore-McCormack Lines. It was delivered at New London,
Connecticut, U.S.A., on October 16, 1956.
Admiral Lee [Member of the
Newcomen Society, Vice-Chairman
of the Board, Moore-McCormack Lines, Inc., New York], the
Lecturer, was introduced by the
Senior Vice-President for North America, who, in 1942, was the
first Newcomen Lecturer before the Academy. The dinner and meeting
were presided over by Rear Admiral
Raymond J. Mauerman, U.S.C.G., Superintendent, U.S. Coast Guard
Academy; Vice-Chairman of the Connecticut Committee, in this international
Rear Admiral Raymond J. Mauerman,
States Coast Guard Academy
Newcomen Society in North America
My fellow members of
Newcomen lectureship at the United States Coast Guard Academy was
inaugurated some fifteen years ago, its primary purpose was to stimulate
interest in the history of ocean commerce, maritime trade, and the best
traditions of navigation upon the Seven Seas.
had Newcomen lecturers of distinction, all of them, yet the present lecture
by Admiral Lee is typical of exactly the purposes of this well-known annual
congratulate Admiral Lee and we congratulate Moore-McCormack upon the part
each has played in upbuilding America's prestige in marine operations.
Gentlemen of the Coast Guard Academy and My
Fellow Members of Newcomen:
Last June I had the honor
of cutting the ceremonial ribbon in connection with the laying of the keel
of a great new ship.
Many of you here, I am sure,
have performed similar symbolic acts in your own fields of endeavor, whether
it was breaking ground for a new factory, cutting the blue ribbon across a
bridge or highway, or throwing the switch that set important, new wheels in
You know then that to
those responsible for the policies and the material future of a great
enterprise, there is much more to such a ceremony than just bands and
bunting. It is the culmination of past experience and planning.
Above all, however, it is faith in the future, and commitment to a definite
line of action.
To us of the
Moore-McCormack Lines this ceremony had a double meaning. It was the
beginning of a $313,000,000 newships program, the largest ever
undertaken by an American-flag steamship company. And it meant the
reaffirmation of the belief of the company's founders that our trade with
South America is bound to expand immeasurably.
That ceremony in which I
participated was for the keel-laying of the first of two ultra-luxurious,
$25,000,000 passenger ships designed for our South American run. It
was the visionary faith of "Mooremack's" founders in the future of South
America that built our company from the smallest of beginnings to what it is
That faith led to the
development of the Moore-McCormack Lines, Incorporated into one of the
largest single units of the American Merchant Marine. And we are
convinced that is as valid today as it was back in 1913.
Naturally, I was pleased
and honored that our founder and chairman, Emmet J. McCormack, and our
President, William T. Moore, the son of our late co-founder Albert V. Moore,
picked me to inaugurate our new ships construction program for South
Nowadays it takes a good
deal less vision to realize the importance of hemispheric trade than it did
forty-three years ago. There are still plenty of skeptics who feel
that occasional political upheavals in Latin America make investments there
is a risky matter. Yet "Mooremack" is in good and ample company in
taking the view that much of our future belongs to trade within the
Things were different in
1913 when Moore and McCormack risked their rather meager "all" in
inaugurating a run from New York to Rio de Janeiro.
It is hard to believe, but
when Moore-McCormack's Montara
arrived in Rio in 1913, it was the first American ship in 26 years to enter
that harbor. Its presence created a sensation. The United States
Ministerľat the time we had not yet raised the status of our representatives
there to the rank of Ambassadorľhurried down to the pier, accompanied by his
entire staff, to celebrate the occasion.
It is also hard to believe
that then, and for several years to come, passengers traveled from the
United States of America to South America via Europe. For a
time they had to choose this route, as there was no other connection.
And later they continued to travel via Europe because the accommodations on
the ships sailing between North and South America were atrocious beyond
endurance, until Moore and McCormack realized that here was another gap for
them to fill.
But let us go back to the
beginnings, not just of the association of Moore and McCormack, but of the
two gifted and ambitious men themselves. By the time they met and
formed the Moore & McCormack Company, Incorporated on July 9, 1913, both
were 33 years old, and both had a wealth of shipping experience.
Incidentally, the two partners were only 19 days apart in age, and their
places of birth, Brooklyn for McCormack and Hackensack, New Jersey, for
Moore, were less than 20 miles from each other.
The Sea was young Emmet
McCormack's first love, although his first job, at the age of 14, brought
him no closer to water than watering the animals in Buffalo Bill's Wild West
Show when it made its stand in Brooklyn. This first experience of
making money deeply impressed Emmetľit made school seem dull by comparison.
Then, and in the years to follow, he had little liking for the "Abstract."
What fascinated him, what was his second love, were people. He
liked to deal with them, he enjoyed winning them over, in short, he was a
born salesman. It is remarkable how these two traits, Emmet's love for
ships and for people, combined in his later career, to form the basis of his
Emmet's father, an
immigrant from Ireland, had worked on tugboats. From a deckhand, he
rose to become engineer on the seagoing tug Valiant, on which he
traveled as far as Russia. Emmet was only 14 years old when his father
died, and the boy had to go to work to contribute his share to the
maintenance of the family.
He could have had a job on
one of the many farms in Brooklynľat the time much of Brooklyn was still
open country. Instead, Emmet took the 39th Street Ferry and
headed for the shipping district on South Street, determined to find a job.
As it turned out, he found not just one, but four jobs, winding up, at a
total of one dollar per week, as a sort of "syndicated office boy" working
for four firms in the building at 26 South Street in New York. One was
a ship chandler, the second a stevedore, the third a dunnage dealer, the
fourth, John Van Wee, a towboat owner. In the same building there also
was a sailmaker named David Abercrombie, who later became associated with a
man named Fitch.
From each of his employers
the boy learned something useful, although at the cost of backbreaking work.
To illustrate the low regard employers used to have for human energy, Emmet
McCormack likes to tell about the single telephone in the hall of 26 South
Street. A phone call to Brooklyn cost 10 cents, but a ferry ride was
only 1 cent during commuting hours and 2 cents during the rest of the day.
So instead of using the telephone, the office boy had to carry messages back
and forth between the waterfront sections of Manhattan and Brooklyn.
But Emmet McCormack loved
it on colorful South Street which was truly a street of adventure and which,
to him, became a street of fate. The tall masts, the spars and
riggings of sailing vessels along the East River from the Battery to the
Brooklyn Bridge. And soon Emmet was no longer satisfied to look at
shipsľhe wanted to get out on the water.
His next job was as
deckhand on John Van Wee's towboat, and included not just physical labor but
also selling the boat's services to sailing vessels that waited to be towed
into port. While he was at it, Emmet tried to sell them dunnage.
He was so good a salesman
that he switched and concentrated entirely on dunnage. As steamships
became increasingly important, he took up the sale of bunker coal.
Soon he went into business for himself. By the time he reached 25,
Emmet McCormack was owner of the Commercial Coal Company, picking up coal at
railroad terminal sidings and delivering it to ships at their berths.
MooreľAlbert V. Mooreľgave
McCormack the first coal contract he ever had. The two young men met
in the offices of the Tweedie Trading Company on Broad Street, where Albert
Moore worked, but it was not until years later that they formed their
partnership. In the meantime, Emmet was selling Albert dunnage and
coal, and the two got to be friends.
Young Moore was just as
fascinated by shipping as young McCormack. His grandfather was a
shipmaster, and his uncle was both owner and master of a ship. His
father had an interest in several ships, although he was a manufacturer.
Albert Moore, a tall,
retiring young man, developed into an excellent executive.
Temperamentally, the two future partners were vastly different.
Professionally, they seemed to supplement each other. Albert Moore was
studious, precise, a believer in research. He developed, even as a
young man, into a widely-known specialist in ship chartering, and a
successful chartering agent. After four years with the British
shipowners Bowring & Company, Albert joined the Tweedie Trading Company and
moved up to secretary of the firm, and to first assistant of its owner.
The Commercial Coal
Company was making real headway in the maritime field, and Emmet McCormack
was pleased when Albert Moore decided to leave the Tweedie firm and join him
as an executive. He could use the talents of a man who was accustomed
to solid, careful planning.
Emmet had been part owner
of the 150 ton America when he
was only 25 years old. In 1911, he became head of a company which
started a ferry service between Brooklyn and Staten Island, running two
ferry boats. But he was thirsting to own some "real" substantial
ships, to get into international shipping if he could. And so was
Albert Moore. All day and much of the night the two men talked ships.
Finally, the decided to
become partners in what they always wanted to do: charter, and
eventually own ships. Moore & McCormack Company, Incorporated, came
into being, capitalized at $5,000, and for the moment limited to physical
assets consisting of two desks in the Commercial Coal Company offices at 29
Broadway. Twenty-five years later this company was one of the nine
companies to be consolidated in today's Moore-McCormack Lines, Incorporated.
At the time of
consolidation, in 1938, the new company was capitalized at $4,800,000.
Today, Moore-McCormack Lines capital is approximately $75,000,000. It
operates a fleet of 37 ships from the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts of the
United States to the East Coast of South America, and from the United States
to Scandinavia and the Baltic. The names of its operating subsidiaries
are: American Republic Line; American Scantic Line; and Pacific
But back to the original
Moore & McCormack Company the directors of which were keeping an eagle eye
on any business opportunity that might come along.
"When we finally got our
chance, it was a 50-50 proposition," relates Emmet McCormack. "Either
we would be launched in the shipping business on a very profitable charter
or we would be minus a ship. Why? Because our contract called
for hauling dynamite from Wilmington, Delaware, to Rio de Janeiro."
For this historic trip,
the partners chartered the aging
Montara, built in 1881 in Chester, Pennsylvania. She was an
antique but she was a "real" shipľ315 feet long, 39 feet beam, 21.8 feet
draft. She was of 1,695 net tons and 2,562 gross, with two decks, five
bulkheads, and 217 nominal horsepower.
Montara did not explode, not
even when she rocked by the huge welcome of the American colony in Rio.
But even without the effects of dynamite she was ready to fall apart after
just one more trip to Rio, and had to be retired.
Like so many other young
men starting a business of their own, the partners had ideas, energy and
push, but very little working capital. Like many another blue-chip
outfit of the future, they managed to swing their first few deals by the
skin of their teeth.
The next one of these
deals after the Montara came
along in form of the 5,000-ton erstwhile British cargo ship
Dunholm, which burned down to
the water line and was salvaged by Merritt & Chapman, forerunners of today's
Merritt-Chapman & Clark. The owners abandoned the ship. There it
lay peacefully on the beach, until the budding motion picture companies of
the day discovered it, and started using it as an inexpensive backdrop for
their sagas of the Sea.
The wreck was finally
bought by the Clinchfield Navigation Company, for whom Moore & McCormack had
acted as agents. By the time the
Dunholm was rebuilt, the First World War had broken out, and a sudden
demand arose for ships. Thanks to their good connections with
Clinchfield, who wanted to sell the
Dunholm, Moore & McCormack got an option to buy, found a buyer, and
sold the ship at a good profit without having to invest any money.
Using this profit, Moore
&McCormack had to go all the way to the Great Lakes before they could find
two bottoms they could afford to buy. The
Gettysburg, an ancient 1,099
gross ton steamer, was built of white oak and yellow pine. She took
quite a bit of rebuilding before they dared take her out to sea, after
renaming her Barnstable.
Their second purchase, the Jesse E.
Spaulding, was of 1,290 gross tons. It was given, for the first
time, the name Mooremack, a
name well known today to all seafaring men, and to anyone in touch with
While these two ships were
being readied for the South American run, Emmet McCormack swung an important
deal in Europe. In view of the war, the Svenska Lloyd Line stopped its
runs to British ports and was looking for protected waters for its ships.
After long negotiations, the Saga,
with 2,809 gross tons, with electric lights and with refrigeration on board,
was not only by far the biggest ship the company had ever handled, it was
also the first passenger ship they ran. During the war it was the only
passenger ship between the United States and Rio, and among the celebrities
it carried was Enrico Caruso.
In 1917, ships operated by
Moore & McCormack made 15 sailings to South America; in 1918, the number
rose to 18; steadily increasing in the following years. At first, Rio
was the only port of call. But slowly Pernambuco, Bahia, and Santos
were added, then Montevideo and, for the first time in 1919, Buenos Aires.
Mooremack chartered more shipsľthe
Seguranca, Graecia, Anglia, Calabria, Malm, and
Fagerľand operations grew to an
Many of the ships
chartered came from Scandinavian sources, and Mooremack got them thanks to
the contacts which Emmet McCormack had built up in those countries.
All of us who travel
Abroad have had the experience of impressing and flattering people by
speaking to them in their own language. During a crossing to Europe in
1914 on the Norwegian-American Line, Emmet McCormack made it a point to pick
up a number of Norwegian and Swedish phrases. Bandying them around
without inhibitions after his arrival, they helped him "make friends and
influence people," resulting in ship charters, in contracts to supply bunker
coal to ships along the Atlantic Coast, and in a series of sailings to
Scandinavian. Those sailings were the beginning of Mooremack's
extensive Scandinavian and Baltic business.
By the end of the First
World War, the Moore & McCormack Company had developed into a substantial
shipping line, with a promising future ahead. What made the real
difference to the future of Mooremack and several other American lines,
however, was not the profits they realized during the war years, but their
competitive position in the post-war era, when the low-wage, low-cost
competition of other countries would once again be felt.
It benefited not just the
shipping lines but our Nation as a whole when it became apparent that we had
learned a lesson from the ship shortages of the war. Our merchant
marine was totally neglected at the outbreak of the war, in 1914. We
had been persuaded to rely on ships of other nations, but as they themselves
suddenly faced problems created by the war, they abandoned us quickly and
completely, leaving us literally high and dry.
The piers in our harbors
were jammed with cargoes waiting to be loaded on ships and moved out to sea.
Miles and miles of trains backed up behind the railheads, without a chance
to unload. It was a serious and terrifying situation in which we found
ourselves at the outbreak of war in 1914. A situation which caused our
farmers and our industry a loss estimated at four billion dollars.
But, fortunately, it left
an impression on the Nation's leaders. They finally concluded that we
should never again denude ourselves of American-owned shipping. A
program was launched by the United States Government to establish an
adequate American merchant marine which would link our principal ports with
the markets of the world. This was done by offering for operation by
American companies of as many of the 2,311 wartime merchant marine vessels
as seemed suitable to commercial operation.
Several of today's ship
lines owe their coming-of-age to such government aid. Moore &
McCormack were solidly established at war's end, but the new government
policy helped the firm to expand and to acquire added importance. As
an outward sign of progress, in 1919 the company with its greatly increased
office staff moved to the ground floor of the building at 5 Broadway in New
York, the same building which still houses our main offices, except that
nowadays we occupy more floors.
With the Seven Seas
waiting, Moore & McCormack sat down to consider the areas most likely to
need a first-class shipping service. We established a service to
Ireland, with stops in Cork, Dublin and Belfast, but, by 1925, we realized
that there were no adequate cargoes for the westbound run, and we
discontinued the service.
We also started two other
services in 1920 and 1921, to the Levant and India. Mooremack ships
called not only at key ports of the Indian sub-continent and the
Mediterranean. They also visited the Black Sea ports, including such
Russian ports as Odessa, Sevastopol, Novorossick, and Batum. It was
the first time that American-flag ships called at Soviet ports. About
eight years later, Mooremack followed up this pioneer contact with the
Russians. In the Second World War it turned out to be a good thing
that we had worked with them, for the mutual experience in operating methods
helped immeasurably in expediting Lend-Lease.
But Mooremack's principal
targets were the same after the First World War as they are today:
South America and Scandinavia. The line was particularly interested in
developing its Scandinavian business, based on the so-called "M.O.4
Agreement." This, as some of
you may recall, was an arrangement whereby the government furnished
war-built ships to operators and, in return for their establishing services
over essential routes, paid them certain fees and commissions and the
operating cost of the vessels employed.
It all seemed so easy that
in no time Mooremack had nine American competitors on the Scandinavian run.
This, perhaps, is the
proper spot to point out something which to most of you, considering the
background of American Newcomen, must sound as a truism. Yet even at
the danger of being trite, I think it can be repeated over again because it
is a basic fact of "Material History."
circumstances, identical advantages of financing the same kind of operation,
what is it that makes nine out of ten enterprises fail while the tenth one
The only answer I know is:
The People Who Run Them.
Their abilities, foresight, energy, and dedication is what makes the
difference between successful growth in business, and failure.
I do not know of a more
glaring example of this than what happened to the Scandinavian run after the
First World War. Despite the government subsidies, all nine operators
went out of business, caused partly by the revival of the Scandinavian-flag
lines. In 1926, the U.S. Shipping Board seriously considered
eliminating American service entirely.
Then Moore & McCormack
urged and finally persuaded the Board to place the American Scantic Line of
the market. Mooremack bought the line, has successfully operated it
ever since, and has introduced on it a number of "firsts" of which the
company is rather proud.
Four cargo ships were
converted into real passenger carriers, with facilities for 90 passengers
per ship. These were the "Scan" ships which many former
passengers even today remember for the unusually high quality of the service
renderedľthe Scanmail, Scanpenn, Scanstate, and Scanyork.
The average cargo ship on this run was 5,300 gross tons and had a speed of
13 knots. Eastbound from the United States, about 40 percent of the
cargo consisted of automobiles; westbound we brought back mostly woodpulp
Then in 1928, Moore &
McCormack embarked on an expansion involving Scantic Line ships which was to
have far-reaching consequences for the conduct of the Second World War.
I am proud that Emmet McCormack and Albert Moore selected me to conduct the
negotiations in Moscow which led to the signing of a contract making Moore &
McCormack shipping agents for the Russian Government. At the time we
had not yet recognized the Soviet Union diplomatically, but were trading
with that country on a growing scale.
Scantic Line ships made
Leningrad a port of call, and were the only United States ships calling
there. Their manifests reflect history as they outline the economic
growth of the Soviet Union. We transported complete factories
purchased by Amtorg in the United States. Our ships hauled all of the
electrical equipment used in connection with the huge Dnieperstroi Dam,
which was completely demolished by the Germans. On the return run, the
Soviets shipped a little of everything, items ranging from lumber and
chemicals to furs and caviar.
When we became allies of
the Soviets in the Second World War, we were faced with a tremendous supply
problem in trying to assist them. Without the knowledge gained by
Mooremack during the peacetime dealings with the Russians, it would have
been almost impossible to bolster the Soviets in the way we managed to do.
Perhaps it was the best indication of how valuable was such concrete working
experience. Other branches of our Government drew upon the talents of
Mooremack personnel to accomplish the job we set out to do.
Even before Mooremack
entered into a contract with the Soviets, the company started expanding
eastward along the Baltic, participating in one of the most dramatic
adventures in transportation.
I am referring to the
fantastic transformation of a bleak coastal strip into the modern Polish
harbor of Gdynia, a feat which seemed crazy to attempt and impossible to
accomplish. Another paradox about it was that while it seemed to help
avert war with Germany by giving Poland a harbor of her own, it actually
hastened the advent of that war by creating a serious competition for the
big German ports.
Among the grave errors
committed by the Versailles Treaty was to cut off Poland from the sea,
giving her only a narrow "corridor" which ended on a seemingly useless
beach. The Poles had hoped to get Danzig as their port, but that city,
only 15 miles removed from the Polish Corridor, was turned into a "free
port" under League of Nations supervision. By denying Danzig to both
Germany and Poland, the Versailles Treaty was supposed to mete out justice.
Actually, it created a dangerous source of friction.
As to Poland, she was
determined to develop a seaport, even if it had to be done in the only spot
available, at Gdynia. The Poles, familiar with the operation of the
American Scantic Line, advised Moore & McCormack about their plans and
invited the line to participate from the start in planning the port.
I was sent by the company
to talk with government officials in Warsaw, and to inspect the harbor site
I shall never forget
a scene along that beach. I was riding in a motor launch through the
marshy waters, surrounded by Polish officials who were determined to go
ahead with their projects. Every few seconds one of them would jump up
excitedly and full of enthusiasm point to the spot where he would build a
quay, a channel, or some other facility. After a while I guess I got
caught in the spirit. I suddenly found myself jumping up, pointing to
a spot and yelling to drown out the engine:
"And that is where we will
build the Mooremack warehouse."
To my own amazement, as
well as that of many other shipping men, the Poles, with the aid of French
and Danish contractors, managed to construct an excellent harbor. It
was a tremendous job, but it was far from being the solution to all of the
If anyone labors under the
impression that the sole function of a steamship line is to transport
passengers and freight, let me correct him right here and now. Those
functions need to be supplemented by any number of others.
In Gdynia, for instance, it fell
to Moore & McCormack men to teach a new generation of longshoremen how to
handle cargo, and how to use modern equipment. It also became their
job to acquaint Polish banks, which had no previous experience, with the
processing of shipping documents. But this was only a beginning.
Mooremack assisted the
Poles in market research in the United States, advising them what to export.
It turned out that Polish hams became extremely popular in the United States
because of their unique, delicate flavor. With hams suddenly a major
export item, the refrigerated space in the "Scan" ships was filled in
no time. So the Poles tried their hand at canning hamsľand were
unsuccessful. Those cans lookedľfor all the worldľas if the village
blacksmith had turned them out with the sweat of his brow. Finally,
Mooremack persuaded the American Can Company to establish a plant in Poland.
When Hitler came to power
in 1933, many United States importers shunned not only German manufactured
goods but also anything that was transported in German vessels.
Exports from Czechoslovakia, Hungary, and Austria were piling up on German
Mooremack suggested that
some of these exports be routed through Stettin on the Baltic, and in nine
months' time the cargo volume of Scantic ships increased to 1,000 tons per
call at that port, but then the U.S. Post Office Department ruled that Moore
& McCormack was not supposed to touch Stettinľalthough the Scantic Line
ships called there only on the westward trip.
The next step for
Mooremack was to encourage the movement of Czech and other European exports
via Gdynia, in competition with German ports. And then it turned out
that no international railroad tariff existed for Gdynia. So the ship
line was instrumental in encouraging a conference between the Polish
Railroads and the Czech Ministry of Transport, which wound up setting a
favorable freight rate to Gdynia. The Germans did not like this one
bit. They were in the process of expanding not of losing business.
Experts say that the "provocative" behavior of Poland and Czechoslovakia,
their joint moves to develop Gdynia at the expense of German ports, had a
decisive bearing on Hitler's decision to speed up the invasion of those two
countries in 1939.
As the war spread, with
the United States still outside the group of belligerents, Mooremack ships
got a foretaste of things to come. The
Mormacsea was in Trondheim when
the Germans invaded Norway. The Nazis, still polite, asked for
permission to cross the Mormacsea
which was tied up alongside of a pier. Instead, Captain William A.
McHale told them that he would move the ship away. The Germans let him
go, and only after McHale arrived in New York did they find out, through
press, radio, and television interviews, that the
Mormacsea had $4,500,000
Norwegian gold on board which she picked up just before the Nazis arrived on
In the steamship business
you have to be flexible and move in and out of business situations the way
outside influences make them occur. Thus, in 1923 Mooremack entered
coastal shipping and did a substantial business throughout most of the
'Thirties. One source of revenue was the Florida real estate boom,
when whole towns were laid out on the drawing boardľand not only there.
In any event, Mooremack delivered an entire shipload of bathtubs to one
Florida port, although we don't know to this day what became of them.
From small beginnings, the
Mooremack Gulf service developed in 1928. Boston, New York,
Philadelphia, Baltimore, Miami, Tampa, New Orleans, Houston, Corpus Christi,
and Brownsville were linked on regular schedules. Other ports were
visited when cargoes were offered, which was often. Then, towards the
end of the 'Thirties, interest seemed to wane in this service, and Mooremack
The only Moore & McCormack
service which showed a continuous, unwavering upward trend ever since its
modest beginning in 1913 was the service to South America. Following
Mooremack's lead, several operators ventured into this service, assisted by
the Shipping Board which was concerned with developing and maintaining
American-flag trade routes. Switching ships from one operator to
another, it formed American Republic Line, which in 1926 was taken over by
Moore & McCormack. When Mooremack wanted to buy the line the year
before, it was awarded to the Munson Steamship Company. A year later,
the line was taken away from Mooremack and given to C. H. Sprague & Company
of Boston for operating.
Continuing its important
South American operation with the ships it had before this interlude, Moore
& McCormack received a great, new boost on that run in 1936, after President
Roosevelt's goodwill trip to Buenos Aires. Seeing the impressive array
of shiny new ships in the harbor belonging to other nations, President
Roosevelt was shocked to note the few, shabby vessels representing the
Immediately after his
return, he directed that priority be given to the creation of a first class
passenger-cargo service linking the East coast of the United States and the
great ports of Brazil, Uruguay, and ArgentinaľRio, Santos, Montevideo, and
A second event in 1936 had
a profound influence on the future of the Company and upon the entire
American shipping industry. A Merchant Marine Act was passed, the
objective of which was to encourage the construction of new tonnage for
American flag operation.
To divert for a moment
from the Company's South American operation, it might be pointed out at this
point that the Merchant Marine Act of 1936 brought great activity in the
nation's shipyards. The building program initiated eventually resulted
in the construction of the ships necessary to the waging of the War.
Moore-McCormack Lines had the first ship to be launched by the Maritime
Commission under the new Merchant Marine Act. It went down the ways at
the Sun Shipbuilding Company's yard at Chester, Pennsylvania. The
Donald McKay was purchased from
the Maritime Commission by Moore-McCormack Lines.
She was a 6,000-ton ship,
459 feet long, and had a beam of 63 feet and a draft of 40 feet. She
was built to make 15Ż knots. She had accommodations for 12 passengers.
Trim and proud, the
Donald McKay commanded the
interest of the whole maritime world and on her maiden voyage to Baltic
ports, quickly demonstrated her unusual capacities.
In the next year, five
more ships of this type were launched.
Mormachawk, Mormacwren, Mormacdove,
Mormacgull, and the Mormaclark. All were assigned to the Scantic run in
line with the Company's program of operating a fleet of modern fast ships
between the United States and the Baltic.
To return to the South
American end of the business, shortly after President Roosevelt's direction
for the creation of a first class passenger cargo service to Brazil,
Uruguay, and Argentina, the Munson Steamship Company and the Panama Pacific
Line discontinued operation. But the Maritime Commission acted
quickly. It purchased the three liners operated by the Panama Pacific
and had them modernized at a cost of $1,000,000 and advertised for bids.
The ships were extremely
attractive in their new garb. They had tiled swimming pools, air
conditioned dining rooms, and greatly enlarged staterooms, reducing the
number of cabins from 720 to 500. One of the most striking changes in
their appearance was redesigning them from twin stackers to single stackers.
To carry out the President's wishes in the direction of creating good will,
the ships were renamed Brazil, Uruguay, and
The Moore & McCormack bid
for this fleet was accepted. Mooremack got in addition to the three
passenger vessels seven freighters. This latest expansion was such an
important milestone in the company's history that it called for a complete
reorganization, including a change of the company's name to Moore-McCormack
Lines, Incorporated. The day was September 8, 1938. It also was
the day on which Mooremack gave its South American complement the name of
Good Neighbor Fleet.
Contrary to some gloomy
predictions in the shipping world, the new South American passenger service
developed into an obvious success. Passenger bookings rose from 15,000
in 1939 to more than 20,000 in 1941. That was the year in which
Mooremack was to put four additional ships of the C-3 design into
service. These "Rio" class ships were of 17,600 displacement
tons and designed to carry 150 passengers in luxurious comfort. But
they never entered the passenger service. War already had started in
Europe and was looming at our doorstep. The Navy requisitioned
the four new ships and had them converted into baby flattops for the
British, who renamed them into
Avenger, Biter, Charger, and
Dasher. Before we ever actively entered the war Mooremack gave
up a total of ten ships for national defense.
But while we were losing
ships on one side, we were adding them on the other. In 1940, the
Maritime commission offered for sale the three ships operated by the Pacific
Coast-Argentine-Brazil Service, and Mooremack was the successful bidder.
Before we ever got a chance to run these ships on their regular routes,
however, a tremendous movement of war materials got underway to Russia, from
Pacific Coast ports.
Most Americans have
forgotten this phase of our war effort, yet it represented a fabulous
achievement. At the request of the War Shipping Administration,
Mooremack formed a subsidiary, the Commercial Dispatch Company, to forward
all Lend-Lease materials to Russia. Staffed by Moore-McCormack
personnel, all of whom served as dollar-a-year men, we loaded 1,600 ships
for the Russians on the West Coast. Among countless other items, we
shipped several complete diesel trains, and 1,068 steam locomotives.
At one time there were 150 Russians working with us in Portland, Oregon.
Altogether, we handled more than 20 million tons of such cargo.
And then the shooting war
engulfed the United States along with the other combatants. There is a
human and a statistical side of Mooremack's war story. On the
statistical side, the Government took over 42 new cargo vessels we had just
built, or had on the ways. It converted our passenger ships into troop
carriers. At the same time, Mooremack quadrupled its operations,
expanding them to more than 150 ships. Between Pearl Harbor and V-J
Day, we carried one million troops, often right into battle, and more than
34 million tons of cargo. Eleven ships were lost. Three masters
died with their ships.
The human side of the
merchant marine story can be illustrated by the story of one ship, the
Mormacstar which was on her
maiden voyage, one day out of Rio, when the Japs attacked Pearl Harbor.
She raced for Trinidad for a coat of gray paint, was armed by the U.S. Navy
in San Francisco, made several trips in the Pacific, then was converted into
a troop transport in New York.
Christened the U.S.S.
Elizabeth C. Stanton, the
"Lizzie" carried 2,000 troops with full equipmentľand her crew of 600ľinto a
long series of amphibious landing operations. She moved into the beach
at Fedala, North Africa, on November 7, 1942. Next came landings at
Gela, Sicily; the Salerno beachhead; and St. Tropez in France.
With the war in Europe
nearing its end, the "Lizzie" rushed through the Panama Canal to join
Admiral Halsey's Task Force 58. She saw Guadalcanal, Kwajalein,
Eniwetok, the Carolines and Marianas, Guam, Tinian, Saipan, and finally
Okinawa, where the happy news of victory and peace reached her.
It meant no quiet,
however, for the "Lizzie" and the other ships of the merchant marine.
Troops had to be brought home, and the rebuilding of a shattered world
began. Europe in particular needed food, fuel, steelľeverything.
Before the end of 1945,
Mooremack resumed cargo service on all three of its peacetime trade routes.
We made a three million dollar down payment for seven new C-3
cargo-passenger vessels, meanwhile continuing operations on a scale almost
as large as the wartime record figures.
Thus, in 1946,
Mooremack operated 41 ships of its own, and more than 41 others chartered
from the Maritime Commission. The peak was reached in 1947, when we
chartered a total of 76 ships, in addition to running our own.
Even back in 1945 we had
great plans for expanding our service, particularly our passenger service,
to South America. The Maritime Commission invited bids for two new,
fast passenger ships, each to carry 550 passengers, and we were in there
pitching, when plans had to be dropped because of the steel shortage.
Instead, we had to be
satisfied with sending our three passenger ships, the
Brazil, Uruguay, and
Argentina to shipyards, for
reconversion from troop carriers into luxury liners. The job took a
long time. It was January 1948 when the first of the ships, the
Argentina, resumed service.
The Good Neighbor Fleet
was once again in full operation. Then, in 1949, Moore-McCormack Lines
reached two important milestones. We refunded to the Maritime
Commission $3,449,250, the full amount of the first ten-year subsidy paid
for operation of the Good Neighbor Fleet. In practice, this meant that
we had serviced this "essential" route at no cost to the Government.
The second milestone was
reported by the late Albert V. Moore "with a sense of accomplishment and
great satisfaction" to our stockholders: Moore-McCormack Lines
eliminated all ships' mortgages from the balance sheet.
During the Korean
conflict, four of Moore-McCormack's ships were chartered to the Military Sea
Transportation Service for operation. The
Mormacsun was among the first
to land military equipment in Korea.
One of our ships and its
Captain were the central figures of what was perhaps the most dramatic and
best-remembered incident of the Korean War. In December 1950, when the
Communists suddenly descended on Hungnam, a panic-stricken mob of South
Koreans reached the coast and was about to be driven into the sea.
Then Captain Leonard P. LaRue of the Moore-McCormack cargo ship
Meredith Victory opened his
vessel to the refugees. The unbelievable number of 15,000 Koreans
rushed aboard the ship which had no accommodations for passengers.
Packed literally as tight as sardines, they spent four anxious days on their
journey to Pusan. And they were saved.
After Korea, business
continued on a high level. Moore-McCormack resumed planning for
expansion of the South American service. We filed an application with
the Federal Maritime Board for construction of the two 23-knot passenger
ships that would be fast enough to cut eight full days off the roundtrip to
Buenos Aires, the southern terminal of our Line.
With plans underway for
these two luxury liners, the company suffered a severe loss in January 1953,
when Albert V. Moore died suddenly. His had been a life-long career in
the shipping industry. He devoted 40 years of undeviating service to
the business. The patterns which have established Mooremack's
continuing growth and progress were established under his leadership as
president of the company.
Mr. Moore identified
himself with American-flag ships operations at a time when the Country's
merchant marine was in a state of grave neglect. He lived to see the
merchant marine firmly established as a vital organ of national policy.
In the reorganization that
followed Mr. Moore's death, Mr. McCormack was elected chairman of the board.
Mr. William T. Moore succeeded his father as president. I became
vice-chairman of the Board.
Almost four years after
our application was filed with the Federal Maritime Board for construction
of the two new ships, the keel of the first of these ships was laid.
This occurred in June of 1956. But great ships of this order are
neither designed in a day, nor is it possible to agree in a flash on
contractual details with the Government. As you know, the law provides
that in the interests of furthering American shipbuilding, the Government
absorbs the differential between the low-cost construction areas Abroad, and
It is no small matter for
the Federal Maritime Board to selectľin our case the Netherlandsľthe
low-cost area and to determine the differential. Just as it was no
small matter for Moore-McCormack to settle on the final plans for the two
ships which will replace the S.S.
Argentina and the S.S. Brazil.
While we are receiving a
subsidy in form of a construction differential, we are particularly proud of
one fact: this is the first time since the Merchant Marine Act of 1936
that American-flag ships for essential trade routes are being privately
financed, not by government loan.
For us at Moore-McCormack
Lines, our $313,000,000 shipbuilding program represents a tremendous
investment. We are undertaking it largely for expansion of our South
American business. Obviously, it reflects our unshakable confidence in
the future of mutual exchange between the United States of America and our
Latin American neighbors. The great countries of South America have
barely begun their economic development. Their wealth is so tremendous
that what they have done so far merely scratched the surface of their
resources. As they develop, so is our trade with them bound to
increase. A great part of our Nation's economic future lies in the
trade with the Americas.
Emmet McCormack expressed
this in the best way I could imagine.
That day last June, while
I was cutting that ceremonial ribbon in Pascagoula, Mississippi, a reporter
approached Mr. McCormack.
"Is that a golden
ribbon?", he wanted to know.
"No, I must confessľbut
it's worth its weight in gold!" said Uncle Emmet.
"Actorum Memores simul affectamus Agenda!"
(Booklet courtesy of Karin Cleary.)
Permission was granted
The Newcomen Society of the United States for this Address to be
uploaded, and once it was typed, it was forwarded to The Newcomen Society for placing on their web site.
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