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SS Normandie History, Background, & - History, Accommodations, & Ephemera Collection

The S.S. Normandie Departing for New York, 29 May 1935.

The SS Normandie Departing for New York, 29 May 1935. GGA Image ID # 1ba94f0455

History of the SS Normandie

The great French liner, Normandie, has had a genuinely eventful career. Her keel was laid down in June 1931 at St. Nazaire, and she was launched on 29 October 1932, but it was not until 29 May 1935 that she commenced her maiden voyage from Le Havre to New York. She broke all existing speed records on this trip, making it in 4 days, 3 hours, and 14 minutes with an average speed of 31.37 knots.

The homeward passage took 14 minutes longer, being made in 4 days, 3 hours, and 28 minutes. This noble French ship was indeed a superliner. Her building cost amounted to $60,000,000; as to her exterior appearance, she possessed many outstanding features.

Her overall length was 1,029 feet, and after alterations, her tonnage was set at 82,799 tons gross. The tops of her masts were 202 feet above the waterline, and her mammoth funnels measured 160 feet in circumference, with the foremost one towering at the height of 145 feet.

Her main dining room measured 300 feet by 43 feet and was three decks high with a seating capacity for 1,000 people. The designer installed a small theater, two decks high, to accommodate 380 people. The swimming pool was 80 feet long with a graduated bottom made of tiling. The garage onboard the ship could furnish storage for 100 automobiles.

The Normandie took care of facilities for passenger and freight movements by installing numerous elevators operating between the various decks. In short, the great liner was a small city in herself with accommodations for no less than 1,972 passengers and a crew of 1,350 members.

The Normandie was a very popular and successful ship, as might be imagined. The outbreak of hostilities found her at her New York pier, where she remained until the United States took possession of her intending to convert the great ship into a troop carrier. She continued in the regular Atlantic service up to the commencement of World War II.

She was renamed Lafayette in honor of the great French patriot who helped the American cause in the Revolution. While preparing her to play her new role in the war, a fire of mysterious origin started aboard one day in the early months of 1942. The title to her possession had passed from the hands of the French Line into those of America.

The blaze soon spread throughout the ship despite the strenuous attempts to quell it on the part of New York's firefighters. After battling the conflagration for many hours, their efforts to save the great ship proved futile and listing over to one side, and she slowly settled down into the muddy floor of the harbor.

Work soon started to raise her, and after months of painstaking effort, the ship was once again afloat, and for a while, it was thought possible to rebuild her. This project, however, was never carried out, and in September 1946, the United States put the hulk up for auction.

She was finally knocked down to a New York scrap dealer for approximately $161,000, a ludicrously small sum compared to the vast amount it had cost to build her. Early in December 1946, the fallen monarch of the seas was towed by a small army of tugs to Port Newark, where she awaited her dismantling. So passes one of the most mighty and impressive ships that ever sailed the seas.

Interior Views of the SS Normandie

First Class Dining Saloon on the SS Normandie.

First Class Dining Saloon on the SS Normandie. GGA Image ID # 1ba9797fc3

View of the Gallery Lounge and Superior Hall on the SS Normandie.

View of the Gallery Lounge and Superior Hall on the SS Normandie. GGA Image ID # 1ba9c90fed

View of the Grand Lounge Before the Staircase to Grillroom on the SS Normandie.

View of the Grand Lounge Before the Staircase to Grillroom on the SS Normandie. GGA Image ID # 1ba9f6c846

Corner of the First Class Smoking Lounge Showing Entry to the Grand Lounge on the SS Normandie.

Corner of the First Class Smoking Lounge Showing Entry to the Grand Lounge on the SS Normandie. GGA Image ID # 1baa3eea31

The Grill Room Restaurant on the SS Normandie.

The Grill Room Restaurant on the SS Normandie. GGA Image ID # 1baa443b92

The Private Bar on the SS Normandie.

The Private Bar on the SS Normandie. GGA Image ID # 1baa788528

First Class Swimming Pool on the SS Normandie.

First Class Swimming Pool on the SS Normandie. GGA Image ID # 1bab71d5e5

Luxury Suite "Jumieges" Bedroom on the SS Normandie.

Luxury Suite "Jumieges" Bedroom on the SS Normandie. GGA Image ID # 1baaf128f0

Luxury Suite "Dieppe" Bedroom on the SS Normandie.

Luxury Suite "Dieppe" Bedroom on the SS Normandie. GGA Image ID # 1bab10926b

Stateroom Suite with Terrace on the SS Normandie.

Stateroom Suite with Terrace on the SS Normandie. GGA Image ID # 1bab9a5b27

SS Normandie - History, Accommodations, & Ephemera Collection

All Digitized Ephemera for the SS Normandie available at the GG Archives. Common items of ephemera in our maritime collection include passenger lists, brochures, event and entertainment programs, and other memorabilia produced for a voyage or ship.

Front Cover, SS Normandie Luncheon Bill of Fare - 8 June 1936

1936-06-08 SS Normandie Luncheon Menu

Vintage Luncheon Bill of Fare from 8 June 1936 on board the SS Normandie of the CGT French Line featured Lamb from Pauillac with fresh vegitables, Brill with Normande sauce, and Strawberry souffle for dessert.

Couverture du livret "Normandie" de 1937 de la Compagnie Générale Transatlantique - French Line.

CGT French Line Paquebot Normandie - 1937

Le livret de 72 pages détaille l'incroyable luxe à bord du paquebot Normandie - la fierté et la joie de vivre de la Compagnie Générale Transatlantique - French Line. Imprimé en France en 1937, il est devenu un article très recherché par les collectionneurs.

Front Cover of 1937 Booklet "Normandie" from Compagnie Générale Transatlantique - French Line.

CGT French Line - The Ocean Liner Normandie - 1937

The 72-page booklet details the incredible luxury aboard the Normandie liner - the pride and joy of life of Compagnie Générale Transatlantique - French Line. Printed in France in 1937, it has become an item much sought after by collectors. (Translated from the French)

1938-10-05 SS Normandie

1937-11-03 SS Normandie Passenger List

  • Steamship Line: Compagnie Générale Transatlantique CGT - French Line
  • Class of Passengers: Cabin
  • Date of Departure: 3 November 1937
  • Route: Le Havre to New York via Southampton
  • Commander: Captain Paul AUGARDE
Front Cover, Third Class on the French Line Featuring the Ile de France, Champlain, Lafayette, Paris, and Normanide.

Third Class on the French Line - 1938

The Normandie, Ile de France, Paris, Champlain and Lafayette combine economy and efficiency in fulfilling the most discriminating requirements. Their Third Class accommodations cannot help but bring you all satisfaction.

1938-08-24 SS Normandie

1938-08-24 SS Normandie Passenger List

  • Steamship Line: Compagnie Générale Transatlantique CGT - French Line
  • Class of Passengers: Tourist
  • Date of Departure: 24 August 1938
  • Route: Le Havre to New York via Southampton
  • Commander: Captain Paul AUGARDE
1938-10-05 SS Normandie

1938-10-05 SS Normandie Passenger List

  • Steamship Line: Compagnie Générale Transatlantique CGT - French Line
  • Class of Passengers: Tourist
  • Date of Departure: 5 October 1938
  • Route: Le Havre to New York via Southampton
  • Commander: Captain Pierre THOREUX
Third Class Passage Contract Ticket - SS Normandie - 1939-09-06

1939-09-06 Third Class Passage Contract Ticket - SS Normandie

Passage Ticket for the Compagnie Général Transatlantique, Ltd., - The French Line, Southampton to New York, departing 6 September 1939, issued to Mrs. Agnes de Linia (or de Lina). World War 2 began on 1 September 1939.

 

Ephemera contained in the GG Archives collection represent the souvenirs provided to the passengers of each voyage. Many of these souvenir ephemeral items have disappeared over the years.

Our selection varies considerably by ship, and likely contains only a sampling of what was originally produced and printed by the steamship lines.

Bookmark pages you're researching and check back periodically for additions as we continue to digitize our extensive ephemera materials.

Biobliography

Eugene W. Smith, Trans-Atlantic Passenger Ships Past and Present, Boston: George H. Dean Company, 1947.

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