RMS Teutonic

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United Kingdom
Name: Teutonic
Namesake: Teutonic
Owner: White Star flaga.svg White Star Line
Operator: White Star Line
Port of registry: Liverpool, United Kingdom United Kingdom
Builder: Harland and Wolff, Belfast
Yard number: 208
Launched: January 19, 1889
Completed: July 25, 1889
Maiden voyage: August 7, 1889
Fate: Scrapped in Emden in 1921
General characteristics
Class and type: Teutonic class ocean liner
Tonnage: 9,984 gross tons
Length: 582 feet (177.7 m)
Beam: 57.7 feet (17.6 m)
Propulsion: Two triple expansion engines powering two propellers.
Speed: 20.5 knots (38.0 km/h)
Capacity: 1,490 passengers

The RMS Teutonic was a steamship built for the White Star Line in Belfast and was the first armed merchant cruiser.



In the late 1880s competition for the Blue Riband, the award for the fastest Atlantic crossing, was fierce amongst the top steamship lines, and White Star decided to order two ships from Harland and Wolff that would be capable of an average Atlantic crossing speed of 20 knots (37 km/h). Construction of Teutonic and Majestic began in 1887. When Teutonic was launched on January 19, 1889, she was the first White Star ship without square rigged sails. The ship was completed on July 25, 1889 and participated in the Spithead Naval Review on August 5 and 6, in conjunction with the state visit of Kaiser Wilhelm II.[1]

On August 21, 1890, the big steamship liner Teutonic and liner City of New York raced from the New York pier to the Sandy Hook bar out to the bay. Hundreds of people were present to observe the famous liners as they departed. The pilot on the Teutonic was Captain Joseph Henderson, the pilot on the City of New York was Peter McEnneny. After seeing the vessels safely outside the bay, the pilots were taken off by Pilot boat Lillie, No. 8. Pilot Henderson said the Teutonic crossed the bar at 9:42 AM. Pilot Peter McEnenerny said the City of New York crossed at 10:20 AM. The Teutonic went at the rate of 17 knots an hour. It was expected that the vessels would be in sight of each other for 2-3 days. The best eastern record was held by the New York's twin sister, the City of Paris, which made the passage in 1889 in less than 6 days. [2]

Although Queen Victoria remained aboard the Royal Yacht, the Kaiser was given a two-hour tour of the new ship hosted by his "Uncle Bertie," (the Prince of Wales and future Edward VII). During the tour, Wilhelm is reputed to have turned to a subaltern and remarked: "We must have some of these ..." The Kaiser's reaction is generally credited as the impetus for the creation of Germany's four funnel liners known as the Kaiser Class.

Eight years later, Teutonic also participated in the 1897 Spithead Naval Review honoring Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee.

Teutonic was built under the British Auxiliary Armed Cruiser Agreement, and was Britain's first armed merchant cruiser, sporting eight 4.7" guns. These were removed after the military reviews, and on August 7, 1889, she left on her maiden voyage to New York City, replacing Baltic in White Star's lineup. In 1891, Majestic brought the Blue Riband to White Star, and in 1891, Teutonic took it from her sister with an average crossing speed of 20.25 knots (37.50 km/h). She later bested her own record with a speed of 20.5 knots (38.0 km/h). The following year City of Paris took the honor away, and no White Star ship would ever regain it. Despite this, both Teutonic and her sister were extremely profitable liners, and the two ships made crossings completely filled to passenger capacity several times.


Teutonic and Majestic were both known as the first modern liners because of their modifications to passenger accommodation. Whereas all of White Star's previous liners had only carried two classes of passengers—Cabin and Steerage -- Teutonic and Majestic introduced changes to that paradigm.

The main staircase of Teutonic

Both ships were built with the three-class accommodation system, consisting of First, Second, and Third Classes. First Class, originally known as Cabin Class, was renamed as Saloon Class on specific terms, being meant for upper class travelers.

Teutonic had accommodations for 300 First Class passengers in spacious cabins situated on her uppermost three decks, and had many interesting features. Many of the cabins were inter-connecting for family travel. A new class began appearing in ships after this time in shipbuilding, and Teutonic was among the first to see it. Second Class, also known as Cabin Class, was meant for travelers of the middle class. Teutonic was built to carry 190 Second Class passengers in comfortable rooms on the second highest deck, further aft towards the stern. Third Class, commonly known as steerage, was primarily for immigrants. Teutonic was built to carry 1,000 Third Class passengers in two areas of accommodation aboard the ship. As was the case aboard all White Star vessels, Third Class spaces were segregated with single men berthed forward, and single women, married couples and families with children berthed aft. In a layout similar to what was seen aboard Britannic and Germanic, steerage passengers were quartered in nine separate compartments on the two lowest decks, with five forward and four aft. All five forward sections and three of the four aft sections consisted of large twenty-berth cabins lining the ship's hull, with interior spaces left open to be used for dining and other purposes. The fourth section in the stern, designated for married couples and families with children, consisted of small but comfortable and private two and four-berth cabins.


Illustration of RMS Teutonic of the White Star Line, the inspiration for the future "Four Flyers" of the Norddeutscher Lloyd.

During the first 18 years of service, both Teutonic and Majestic, along with their older cousins Britannic and Germanic sailed on the route from their home port of Liverpool, England, to New York City. Each ship made on average one sailing per month, and averaged 11–14 sailings each season. The White Star Line had it planned so as they could operate a weekly service across the North Atlantic. Each week a ship sailed from Liverpool on a specific day, commonly Wednesday or Thursday. From there, they would stop at the port of Queenstown (now Cobh), Ireland, to pick up more passengers. Records have shown that Teutonic and her partner ships were known to pick up as many as 800 Irish immigrants in a single stop, as the White Star Line was very popular in Ireland because most of their ships, including Teutonic, were Irish built.

After Queenstown, the ships would then continue on the long voyage to New York, almost 2,500 miles of open sea. Once passengers were disbursed at either the White Star Line pier in New York or the immigration center at Castle Garden, and later on Ellis Island, the ship would be prepared for her return voyage.

In 1897, Teutonic reassumed her military role for a review commemorating Victoria's 60th anniversary. In 1898, she had a minor collision in New York Harbor with the United States Lines' Berlin, but neither ship suffered major damage.

During the Boer War in 1900, she served as a troop transport. In 1901, Teutonic encountered a tsunami, which washed two lookouts out of the crows nest who survived. The tsunami hit at night, so there were no passengers up on deck.

In 1911, the ship was replaced in the White Star lineup by the new Olympic and transferred to sister company Dominion Line for Canadian service. By 1913, Teutonic's age meant that she no longer attracted the top class passengers, and so was refitted to carry only second and third class travellers. In October, 1913,[3] the ship narrowly avoided the same fate as Titanic when, at 172 miles east of Belle Isle off the Newfoundland coast, she ran so close to an iceberg that she avoided collision only by reversing her engines and putting the helm hard aport. According to the October 29, 1913 issue of the Chicago Tribune, "the liner passed within twenty feet of the iceberg. The fog was so thick that even at that small distance the berg could scarcely be distinguished. It was so close that there was danger that the propeller of the ship would strike it as the vessel went around. The passengers were not aware of their peril until it had been averted. They signed a testimonial to the captain and his officers expressing their gratitude and admiration for the care and skill displayed by them."

In 1914, with the start of World War I, Teutonic became a merchant cruiser once again, being commissioned into the 10th Cruiser Squadron. In 1916, she was refitted with 6" guns, and served as a convoy escort ship as well as being used for troop transport.

In 1921, Teutonic was scrapped at Emden.


  1. ^ Fletcher, Henry. History of North Atlantic Steam Navigation, The. (London: Sampson Low, Marston and Company, Ltd., 1896), p.177.
  2. ^ "Neck and Neck On The Ocean" (PDF). The New York Herald. August 21, 1890. Retrieved September 25, 2013 – via The Teutonic and the City Of New York again racing. The pilot on the Teutonic was Joseph Henderson.
  3. ^ NY Times, October 27,1913 edition

External links

  • Osborne, Richard; Spong, Harry & Grover, Tom (2007). Armed Merchant Cruisers 1878–1945. Windsor, UK: World Warship Society. ISBN 978-0-9543310-8-5.

External links

Media related to Teutonic (ship, 1889) at Wikimedia Commons

Preceded by
Holder of the Blue Riband (Westbound)
Succeeded by
City of Paris
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