BLUE RIBBAND - The Quest for Speed Across the North Atlantic
For Immediate Release Contact: Elizabeth Howard
(212) 459-1485
Gregg Swain
(212) 717-6251

President John Maxtone-Graham of the Ocean Liner Museum announces that the Museum will open it latest exhibition, BLUE RIBBAND, in a ground-floor gallery of the Federal Courthouse at 500 Pearl Street in Manhattan on Thursday, May 6th, 1999. BLUE RIBBAND will remain open to the public until mid-September (Monday through Friday, 9:00 am to 5:00 pm). Guest Curator will be Wayne Mazzotta.

Two legal entities are co-sponsoring the exhibition with the Museum: The Maritime Law Association of the United States-which celebrates its centennial this year-and the Federal Bar Council and its Foundation.

The blue ribband is the name of the mythic speed prize awarded to the fastest passenger vessel crossing the Atlantic. No actual "blue ribband" ever existed; the honorific merely acknowledged and recognized meritorious naval architectural and navigational excellence. Over more than a century and a half, the blue ribband was won by a variety of international steamship lines, including Cunard, America's Collins Line of 1850, White Star, North German Lloyd, the Italian Line, the French Line and the U.S. Lines.

The first winner was the little paddle steamer Sirius that in 1839, steamed from Britain to America in 18 days, averaging 6 knots. Over a century later, in the summer of 1952, the United States thundered across in 3 days at the astonishing speed of 35 knots; she still holds the prize to this day. Between these two vessels-each an engineering miracle of its day--a roster of transatlantic immortals fought for the prize in fiercely contested competition, including Teutonic, Campania, Lusitania, Bremen, Rex, Normandie and Queen Mary.

Included within BLUE RIBBAND will be fascinating artifacts, mementos, models, ephemera, a track chart and audio-visual devices that dramatize the transatlantic struggle. Suiting the exhibition's jurisprudential sponsorship, the Southern District's "Silver Oar of the Admiralty," that historic symbol of admiralty law will be on show, as will be a selection of citations and photographs illustrating the impact of decisions on some blue ribband winners. On display will be the wheel of the Normandie, showing the scars of its fiery end; a half-empty bottle of Chartreuse from the ship's bar; carved mahogany paneling from Mauretania's smoking room; a brass Chubb door lock salvaged from the wreck of the Oregon; an empty gun-metal watch case brought up from Lusitania, its crystal clouded by sea water.

A wealth of ephemera will evoke aspects of transatlantic travel from early sailing steamers right up to turbine-driven giants of the mid-20th century. A cablegram sent by Lusitania's Captain William Turner to a mother, promising to look after her son during what proved the vessel's and, tragically, the young man's last crossing; a set of notebooks belonging to Lloyd's Surveyor G. Demarest, scrupulously documenting construction of Mauretania from first rivet through delivery; a rendering of a Queen Mary ballroom that was never executed; a congratulatory letter to Commodore Manning of the United States from vanquished Queen Mary's Captain Donald Sorrell; a note from film star Joan Crawford to Manning requesting that he slow his ship down to help alleviate her seasickness.

BLUE RIBBAND will be open to the public weekdays from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m., until mid-September. The Courthouse is one half block east of Foley Square on Pearl Street.


Two nights before the official opening, there will be a special preview for members and friends of the Ocean Liner Museum, from 5:30 until 7:00 p.m. on the evening of Tuesday, May 4th.

Following the reception at the 500 Pearl Street gallery, buses will take those who have purchased tickets to a special Gala Dinner and Ocean Liner Memorabilia Auction at the nearby 14 Wall Street Restaurant. The restaurant, which boasts a spectacular view of the harbor, was once the bachelor apartment of J. P. Morgan. This makes it a highly appropriate venue for ocean liner buffs because, back at the turn of the century, it was financier Morgan who nearly cornered the transatlantic passenger market by formation of his International Mercantile Marine.

After the dinner, there will be an auction. Among a rich selection of donated ocean liner memorabilia will be: Two original oil paintings, one of Andrea Doria by Stephen Card as well as Neil Egginton's canvas of Lusitania; the prototype model of the North Atlantic track chart featured in the exhibition; a period tin box representing Cunard's Berengaria; a Queen Mary biscuit box, a Normandie chocolate box and a bridge sign from the United States. The foregoing is only a partial list -the tip of the proverbial iceberg--of items to be offered at this exciting auction.

The cost of dinner for members of the Ocean Liner Museum will be $75 per person. A limited number of tickets for non-members, priced at $100 per person, are still available. Those anxious to inquire about tickets for this May 4th evening are urged to telephone and/or fax the Museum's New York office at (212) 717-6251. The Museum's Email address is Don't miss this evocative and festive evening celebrating the first special unveiling of BLUE RIBBAND, a remarkable and memorable exhibition.


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