Exhibitions

Norman H. Morse (1921-2011) began collecting ocean liner ephemera at the age of fourteen when he made his first transatlantic passage to visit family in the Netherlands. The trip was made in second class aboard the Holland-America Line’s Veendam, as we can see from the ship’s passenger list. (These were a standard feature of first and second class, both as keepsakes and to facilitate interaction among passengers on long passages.)

"That was when I became really interested in liners. I had been aboard a few to see my relatives off when they had been here for a visit and they usually traveled on the Holland-America Line. . . . [T]he best way for me to find out what the other ships of the line were like was to ask for deck plans which were given out to travel agents and to prospective travelers or to travelers at the time they booked passage—and also illustrated brochures, as you will see. The publications were very elaborate and costly, but they were always given out free.

The early years of my collection was when I went around to steamship company offices in Europe and America and acquired these elaborate publications for no cost. Then I also started buying books, but not many books were published on the subject until the last thirty-five years, forty years. And then my relatives and friends would give me deck plans and brochures when I was fourteen, when they knew I was interested in it, and they continued to do so all of my life. And I continued whenever a new liner came out up until 1970 or ’71 to go to a steamship company office and acquire that plan or brochures because I wanted to know what they were like. I had the same curiosity as I did as a boy wanting to know what they were like."

After studying architecture at the College of William and Mary, Morse joined the real estate offices of the Astor and Whitney families, for which he made occasional transatlantic passages to Great Britain and Europe. With Southport, Conn., as his home base and a New York City apartment that housed the bulk of his collection for the convenience of researchers, he summered in Christmas Cove, Maine. In 1988, he retired to Portland, where he generously supported non-profit cultural institutions in the area, including the Maine Historical Society, Portland Museum of Art, and Greater Portland Landmarks.

In 2009, Morse donated his collection of ocean liner memorabilia, nearly three thousand documents in all, to the University of Southern Maine’s Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education. The Morse Collection offers a comprehensive overview of the development of the oceangoing passenger ship from the 1870s until its demise about a century later. The collection includes ships’ plans, brochures, pamphlets, postcards, rate cards, menus, passenger lists, snapshots and postcards, and a selection of reference books. Maritime historian Lincoln Paine inventoried and cataloged the documents and interviewed Morse in preparation for this exhibition, planning for which began shortly before his death last summer.

Morse wished for his collection to remain accessible to students, historians, and others inter-ested in travel and passenger shipping, and he was particularly delighted that the collection would be digitized in its entirety and made freely available on the internet. We regret that he did not live to see the launch of his collection before the public, but we know that he was con-fident it was well prepared for the long voyage ahead.

1. Holland-America Line

List of Passengers on Board Twin-Screw Turbine Steamer Veendam (1923-53) from New York to Rotterdam via Plymouth and Boulogne-sur-Mer, June 23, 1934.
21 × 13 cm.
Morse Collection, 2110

2002110.0001
2. Holland-America Line

Norman Morse on the rail of Holland-America Line’s Statendam (1957-82).
Photograph, circa 1957. 13 × 9 cm.
Morse Collection, 2067

2002067.0001
3. Cunard Line

Norman Morse and Mrs Steever aboard Cunard Line’s Britannic (1930-60).
Photograph, 1951. 9 × 14.5 cm.
Morse Collection, 467

2000467.0001
4. Unsigned Postcard

To Norman Morse “probably from John Maxtone-Graham.”
1976. 15 × 10.5 cm.
Morse Collection, 972

2000972.0001
5. Letter

From Norman Morse to Sir Brian Morton, Harland & Wolff, June 23, 1978.
28 × 22 cm.
Morse Collection, 2873

2002873.0001
6. Letter

Letter from Alan Hedgely, Public Affairs Manager, Harland & Wolff, Ltd., to Norman Morse, July 21, 1978.
30 × 21 cm.
Morse Collection, 2874

2002874.0001
7. Swedish American Line

“New York State, 1970.”
Photograph of the Swedish American Line’s Gripsholm (1957-74).
Postcard, 1970. 15 × 11 cm. Morse Collection, 1552

2001552.0001
8. Cunard Line

Printed dinner invitation from Captain Christopher Rynd of the Queen Mary 2 (2004- ).
May 30, 2006. 28 × 22 cm.
Morse Collection, 211

2000211.0001