SS Kronprinzessin Cecilie (1906)

SS Kronprinzessin Cecilie was an ocean liner built in Stettin, Germany (now Szczecin, Poland), in 1906 for North German Lloyd that had the largest steam reciprocating machinery ever fitted to a ship.[2][4] The last of four ships of the Kaiser class, she was also the last German ship to have been built with four funnels. She was engaged in transatlantic service between her homeport of Bremen and New York until the outbreak of World War I.

German Empire
Name: SS Kronprinzessin Cecilie
Namesake: Crown Princess Cecilie
Owner: North German Lloyd
Port of registry: Bremen
Route: Transatlantic
Builder: AG Vulcan, Stettin, Germany
Launched: 1 December 1906
Maiden voyage: 6 August 1907
Fate: Interned, 1914; Seized by U.S., 1917
United States
Name: Mount Vernon
Namesake: Mount Vernon
  • by Navy: 3 February 1917
  • by Army: 17 October 1919
Commissioned: 28 July 1917
Decommissioned: 29 September 1919
Fate: Returned to Shipping Board by Army August 1920; scrapped 13 September 1940
General characteristics
Class and type: Kaiser-class ocean liner
  • 215.29 m (706 ft 4 in) LOA[2][3]
  • 208.89 m (685 ft 4 in) LBP
Beam: 22.00 m (72 ft 2 in)
Draft: 31 ft 1 in (9.47 m)
Propulsion: four quadruple-expansion steam engines, two screw propellers
Speed: 23–24 knots (43–44 km/h)
Capacity: 1,741
Complement: 1,030 (as USS Mount Vernon)
Notes: four funnels, three masts

On 4 August 1914, at sea after departing New York, she turned around and put into Bar Harbor, Maine, where she later was interned by the neutral United States. After that country entered the war in April 1917, the ship was seized and turned over to the United States Navy, and renamed USS Mount Vernon (ID-4508). While serving as a troop transport, Mount Vernon was torpedoed in September 1918. Though damaged, she was able to make port for repairs and returned to service. In October 1919 Mount Vernon was turned over for operation by the Army Transport Service in its Pacific fleet based at Fort Mason in San Francisco. USAT Mount Vernon was sent to Vladivostok, Russia to transport elements of the Czechoslovak Legion to Trieste, Italy and German prisoners of war to Hamburg, Germany. On return from that voyage, lasting from March through July 1920, the ship was turned over to the United States Shipping Board and laid up at Solomons Island, Maryland until September 1940 when she was scrapped at Boston, Massachusetts.



Kronprinzessin Cecilie, built at Stettin, Germany, in 1906 by AG Vulcan Stettin, was the last of a set of four liners built for North German Lloyd, and the last German liner to carry four smokestacks. She was the product of ensuing competition between Germany and the United Kingdom for supremacy in the North Atlantic. Her older sister, Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse had been introduced in 1897 and was a great success.[5] Her popularity prompted North German Lloyd to build three more superliners, namely Kronprinz Wilhelm (1901), Kaiser Wilhelm II (1903) and finally Kronprinzessin Cecilie.[5]

In 1907 Wiegard trusted Eduard Scotland and Alfred Runge with the interior design of the ship. They designed luxury cabins where the beds would convert to sofas and the washstands would convert into tables. All of the metalwork was gilded; the surfaces were generally white while the wooden surfaces of violet amaranth were inlaid with agate, ivory and citron wood.[6]

As designed the ship had 287 first class, 109 second class cabins and 7 compartments for steerage passengers.[3] Passenger capacity was 775 first class, 343 second class and 770 steerage passengers for a total of 1,888 supported by a crew of 679 that included 229 stewards and stewardesses and 42 cooks, pantrymen, barbers, hairdressers and other passenger service people.[3][note 1] Two "Imperial suites" had a parlor, private dining room, bedroom and bath room with toilet while eight other suites had all but the dining room.[3] Twelve deluxe rooms had a large bedroom with bathroom and toilet.[3]

The liner was 19,400 GT and was 215.29 metres (706 ft 4 in) length overall,[2][3] 208.89 metres (685 ft 4 in) length between perpendiculars, by 22.00 metres (72 ft 2 in) abeam. She had four reciprocating, quadruple-expansion steam engines , two per shaft. There were two screw propellers. Kronprinzessin Cecilie sailed at a comfortable 23 knots (43 km/h; 26 mph).

German career

Named after Crown Princess Cecilie of Prussia, she was launched by her father in law Wilhelm II, German Emperor. In July 1907, the new Kronprinzessin Cecilie was planned to leave Bremerhaven on her maiden voyage. However, before the voyage could take place, the ship sank in Bremerhaven harbour. It was not until the next month on 6 August, had the ship been pumped out and repaired, before finally setting out.[5]

In comparison with a $2,500 first class suite ticket, the immigrant could sail on Kronprinzessin Cecilie for a mere $25 – one hundred times cheaper.[5]

The interiors of the "four flyers",[5] as they were called, were special. The entire ship was fitted with the best of craftsmanship Germany could offer; the salons were full of ornamented wood and gilded mirrors. While her sister, SS Kaiser Wilhelm II was thought by some to be too extravagant, Kronprinzessin Cecilie was a popular ship.[5] Some of her first class suites were fitted with dining rooms so the passengers who booked the suite could dine in private if they did not wish to take their meals in the main restaurant. Also, a fish tank was placed in the kitchen, providing first class passengers with the freshest of fish.[5]

The liner operated on North German Lloyd's transatlantic route travelling from Bremen, with occasional calls at other ports, including Boston and New Orleans. The ship was steaming toward Germany from America with Captain Charles Polack,[7] who had succeeded Dietrich Hogemann in 1913,[8] when she received word of the outbreak of war. In addition to 1,216 passengers, including some British reservist, she was carrying $10,679,000 in gold and $3,000,000 in silver.[9] The ship, bound for Bremen, was nearing Liverpool when directed to head back to the closest port in the neutral United States to avoid capture by the British Navy and French cruisers.[9][10] Captain Polack had her normally all-buff funnels painted with black tops so as to resemble the liner Olympic or another ship of the British White Star Line as a form of disguise.[4][11]

Due to the liner's dwindling fuel Bar Harbor, Maine, though not a large port, was selected with the ship being brought in 4 August 1914 piloted by a local banker and yachtsman as none of the ship's officers were familiar with the port.[9] North German Lloyd representatives met in Washington with officials of the Departments of State, Treasury, Commerce and the United States Revenue Cutter Service (USRCS) with the result USRCS Androscoggin was ordered to Bar Harbor to prevent unauthorized departure of foreign vessels but primarily to protect the transfer of gold and silver, as well as all mail and passengers, from Kronprinzessin Cecilie to shore to be transported by train to New York.[9] Androscoggin, joined by the destroyer USS Warrington, arrived at Bar Harbor on 6 August with wild speculation in the press.[9] On 7 November the ship moved to Boston where she was to remain while civil suits against the ship were resolved in federal court.[12]

American career

Kronprinzessin Cecilie was commandeered by the United States on 3 February 1917 and transferred from the United States Shipping Board (USSB) to the U.S. Navy when America entered the war that April. She was commissioned 28 July 1917 and renamed USS Mount Vernon after George Washington's Virginia home. She was fitted out at Boston to carry troops and materiel to Europe.[2]

Mount Vernon departed New York for Brest on 31 October 1917 for her first U.S. Navy crossing, and during the war made nine successful voyages carrying American troops to fight in Europe. However, early on the morning of 5 September 1918, as the transport steamed homeward in convoy some 200 nautical miles (370 km) from the French coast, her No. 1 gun crew spotted a periscope some 500 yards (460 m) off her starboard bow. Mount Vernon immediately fired one round at German U-boat U-82. The U‑boat simultaneously submerged, but managed to launch a torpedo at the transport. Mount Vernon's officer of the deck promptly ordered right full rudder, but the ship could not turn in time to avoid the missile, which struck her amidships, knocking out half of her boilers, flooding the midsection, and killing 36 sailors and injuring 13. Mount Vernon's guns kept firing ahead of the U‑boat's wake and her crew launched a pattern of depth charges. Damage-control teams worked to save the ship, and their efforts paid off when the transport was able to return to Brest under her own power. Repaired temporarily at Brest, she proceeded to Boston for complete repairs.[2]

Mount Vernon rejoined the Cruiser and Transport Service in February 1919 and sailed on George Washington's birthday for France to begin returning veterans to the United States. Mount Vernon pulled out of port on 3 March 1919 at 11 PM to return to the United States. Some of her notable passengers during her naval service were: Admiral William S. Benson, Chief of Naval Operations; General Tasker H. Bliss, Chief of Staff of the United States Army; Col. Edward M. House, Special Adviser to President Wilson; and Newton D. Baker, Secretary of War.[2]


On 17 October 1919 Mount Vernon was transferred to the War Department for operation by the Army Transport Service where the ship was assigned to the Army's Pacific fleet based at Fort Mason in San Francisco.[13] USAT Mount Vernon made one trip between March and July 1920 to Vladivostok, Russia embarking elements of the Czechoslovak Legion to be disembarked at Trieste, Italy and 300 German prisoners of war for Hamburg, Germany.[13] On return the ship was turned over to the United States Shipping Board and laid up at Solomons Island, Maryland.[13]


At the outbreak of World War II in 1939, the Americans offered the former Kronprinzessin Cecilie to the British as a troop transport, who refused on the pretext that she was too old.[5] The ship was scrapped in Boston, Massachusetts on 13 September 1940.[2][13]


  1. The Great Ocean Liners web page on the ship notes "1,970 people" without breakdown of classes or indication of source.


  1. Lloyds. "Lloyd's Register 1930–31" (PDF). Lloyd's Register (through PlimsollShipData). Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  2. Naval History And Heritage Command. "Mount Vernon iii". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Naval History And Heritage Command. Retrieved 24 May 2015.
  3. International Marine Engineering (1907). "The Hamburg-American Steamser Kronprinzessin Cecilie". International Marine Engineering. New York: Marine Engineering Incorporated. 12 (December): 414–417. Retrieved 24 May 2015.
  4. Frank Osborn Braynard and William H. Miller (writer) (1982). Fifty Famous Liners. W. W. Norton and Company. p. 34. ISBN 0-393-01611-0. Retrieved 16 October 2010. ... had the largest steam reciprocating machinery ever fitted to a ship.
  5. "SS Kronprinzessin Cecilie , The Great Ocean Liners". The Great Ocean Liners. Archived from the original on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 26 May 2015.
  6. Studio Magazine, Vol 42, 15 October 1907, retrieved 9 February 2014
  7. "Captain With a Great Record". Boston Evening Transcript. 16 March 1914. Retrieved 16 October 2010. when Captain Charles Polack of the North German Lloyd arrives in New York tomorrow, In command of the Cecilie, from London, Paris and Bremen, ...
  8. "Capt. Hogemann Makes His Last Voyage After 44 Years Spent at Sea" (PDF). New York Times. 7 May 1913. Retrieved 2 December 2010. After the North German Lloyd liner Kronprinzessin Cecilie, arriving from Bremen yesterday, had been made fast to her pier in Hoboken Capt. Dietrich Hogemann, Commodore of the fleet, announced that it was his last voyage, and that Capt. Charles Polack of the George Washington would succeed him.
  9. United States Coast Guard Historian's Office. "Androscoggin, 1908" (PDF). United States Coast Guard. Retrieved 24 May 2015.
  10. "The vagaries of war: A treasure-ship in Bar Harbor". The Independent. 17 August 1914. Retrieved 24 July 2012.
  11. Arnold Kludas, Die Geschichte der deutschen Passagierschiffahrt Volume 4: Vernichtung und Wiedergeburt 1914 bis 1930, Schriften des Deutschen Schiffahrtsmuseums 21, Hamburg: Kabel, 1989, ISBN 978-3-8225-0047-7, p. 36 (in German)
  12. "German Gold Ship To Quit Bar Harbor. Kronprinzessin Cecilie Starts Today for Boston Under Escort to Face Libel Actions". New York Times. 6 November 1914. Retrieved 15 October 2010. The steamer Kronprinzessin Cecilie of the North German Lloyd Line, which has been interned here for three months, will sail at 4 o'clock tomorrow morning for Boston, where she will remain pending the determination of civil suits against her owners in the Federal courts.
  13. Clay, Steven E. (2011). U. S. Army Order Of Battle 1919–1941 (PDF). Volume 4. The Services: Quartermaster, Medical, Military Police, Signal Corps, Chemical Warfare, And Miscellaneous Organizations, 1919–41. 4. Fort Leavenworth, KS 66027: Combat Studies Institute Press. p. 2172. ISBN 9780984190140. LCCN 2010022326. Retrieved 24 May 2015.

Further reading

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