Monday, June 16, 2014

Quaint 16th Century Islands

Summer vacation season has arrived again, bringing with it warm tropical breezes, long lazy days, and the urge to wander. Since I spend a lot of time looking at the past, I figured this would be a good time to peruse the exotic travel offerings our grandparents and great grandparents might have considered when planning their summer holiday.

I'm kicking things off with a 1920 ad from Travel Magazine. Bermuda had been a British colony since 1609 and in 1920 celebrated the tercentenary of Bermudan parliamentary government. That year also marked the first royal visit to the island when Albert Edwards, Prince of Wales and soon to become King Edward VIII arrived aboard the HMS Renown where he was a serving Royal Navy officer. Prince Edward's official duties during the trip included opening the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, visiting St. Geroge's Island where he was principle guest in celebrations marking the 300th anniversary of the Bermudan State House as well as the completion of St. Peter's Church, and officially opening Somers Gardens.

That same year the UK-based Furness Withy shipping company began investing in Bermuda by taking over the Quebec Steamship Company and renaming it the Furness Bermuda Line. Furness Bermuda ran a three week service, bringing mail, freight, and passengers to the island from New York. Bermuda had a major attraction for American tourists - alcohol. The drought that was prohibition settled over American on January 29, 1920 and would remain in place until December 5, 1933 and during this thirteen-year period American tourists sought the warm waters and cool drinks of the Caribbean as a remedy to their moralistic problem. Furness Withy made the best of the prohibition era, investing in Bermudian holiday facilities such as the Mid Ocean Golf Club, the St. George, Bermudian and Castle Harbor hotels, and two tenders to ferry passengers from ship to hotel.

During the 20's Furness's Bermuda Line consisted of three ships: the Victoria, the St. George, and the Forts Hamilton and the ad featured here focuses on this last ship. It took some digging to unravel the fate of the Forts Hamilton and this is largely due to Furness' poor advertising. In 1923 the Hamilton still appeared on the covers of Furness' sailings brochures, but she no longer was a part of the line's fleet. In 1921 Furness sold her to the Bermuda and West Indies Steamship Company and this began her slow decline. She was sold again in 1926, 1930, 1931, and finally in 1932. In 1933 she was laid up in Trieste Italy where she was was eventually sold for scrap and broke up. Strange to think that the steel which went into building a pleasure vessel for British and American tourists probably went into the war effort which would kill so many of their children.

Let's not leave on that somber note, though. After all, this is a post about vacationing not the cruel ironies of history. So, I'll close with a couple home movies of Bermuda gleaned from the YouTube archives. Note the guy holding up the bottle of booze in the first clip. Spitting in the eye of prohibition, I like his style!

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