Majestic (I)

1890 – 1914

The famous White Star Line had started business back in 1871 when they commissioned the first Oceanic. This ship was only some 3,700 gross tons, but as time advanced greater and greater White Star liners came into life on the North Atlantic. A few years later, in 1874, the White Star Line commissioned the first Britannic and a year later, her sister Germanic. These two liners were powerful enough to wrestle the Blue Riband into their hands from the Inman Line’s City of Berlin. The Britannic held the eastbound record until 1879 when the Guion Line’s Arizona took it, and the Germanic held the westbound until 1882 when she lost it to another Guion liner – the Alaska. It would take many years before the White Star Line once again would have the Blue Riband in possession.

Still eager to win back the Blue Riband, White Star ordered two new liners – which would be close to 10,000 gross tons each – in 1887. These two would be designed as record-breakers with a service speed above twenty knots. The first of the two was named Teutonic and completed her maiden voyage in 1889. She did not manage to beat the City of Paris’ present record crossings. From then on, all hopes where on the Teutonic’s sister who was to enter service within short.

The second sister was launched and christened Majestic on June 29, 1889. Immediately afterwards the fitting out commenced, and by late March the next year the vessel was completed and handed over to White Star. The Majestic’s maiden voyage occurred on April 2 and it took her six days and ten hours to complete the distance between Liverpool and New York. Unfortunately, this was not enough to gain the Blue Riband and it remained in the City of Paris’ possession. However, the following year – in July – the Majestic finally beat the record and took the Blue Riband. The crossing time was extremely bettered with five days, eighteen hours an eight minutes between Queenstown and Sandy Hook. The average speed had been 20.1 knots.

The Majestic stayed on the Liverpool-New York route until December 1899, when she was called in as a troopship in the Boer War. She made her first trooping voyage between Liverpool and Cape Town the same month, and the second and last one in February the next year.

In 1902 and 1903, Majestic was enlarged to 10,147 gross tons during a refit which included the reduction of one of the masts and a heightening of the two funnels. She also received new boilers. The Majestic continued on her original route with these modifications without any major mishaps – except for a bunker fire damage in 1905 – until 1907. In this year, White Star moved their main terminal from Liverpool to Southampton. On June 26, the Majestic completed her first voyage on the Southampton-New York route.

In 1911, the White Star Line commissioned the world’s largest ship. She was the breathtaking 45,000 gross ton Olympic, and with her arrival on the scene, Majestic was relegated to a reserve ship, and spent much time laid up at Bidston Dock in Birkenhead. By April 1912, she was moved to the innermost corner of the Ocean Dock in Southampton. From there she had a first class seat to view the Titanic’s – second of the Olympic-class – maiden departure on April 10. Most unfortunately, the Titanic sank only five days later with a great loss of life. The wisdom of keeping a reserve ship came into fruition when the Majestic later replaced the Titanic on the distinguished route between Southampton and New York.

The rest of the Majestic career did unfortunately not include much. On October 17, 1913 she picked up the crew of the wrecked French schooner Garonne. 1913 was to be the last full year for the Majestic. On January 14, 1914, she made her last crossing to New York. After 24 years of service she was then sold for £25,000 to Thos. W. Ward for demolition. She arrived at the scrapyard on May 5.

The name Majestic would live on some eight years later when White Star named their largest ship ever after the 1890-built liner. This ship who was the third of the Imperator-class had been intended to be named Bismarck, but fell into the hands of the British as a war-prize after World War I. Majestic was a worthy name to this vessel, who also was the fastest ship ever in White Star service.


  • 582 feet (177.8 m) long
  • 57.7 feet (17.6 m) wide
  • 9,965 gross tons
  • Two triple expansion engines powering two propellers
  • 20 knot service speed
  • Passenger capacity of 1,490 people

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