Ocean liner décor was calculated to recreate the charms of an upper-class home—or at least one’s club—and to ignore the sea entirely. The Aquitania’s first-class drawing room [68] featured an oval dome with lunettes and lead mouldings and ornaments, Cuban mahogany doors and bookcases, a marble chimney piece, and walls “hung with blue tabourette silk, and . . . adorned with a collection of mezzotints of 18th Century beauties.” In season, the garden lounge [69] brimmed with flowers.

The Canadian Pacific’s Montrose [70] cabin-class dining room seems more Hogwarts than high seas, while the Majestic’s swimming pool is positively Pompeian [71]. Decorators were not afraid to mix and match, hence the juxtaposition of North African and Louis XIV flavoring aboard the Paris [72-73], and the Wild West influence of the Washington’s smoking lounge alongside the strangely unexotic “Chinese Room” [74-75].

The difference between the ritzy splendors of first- and second-class accommodations and those of the third class [76-78] would have been readily apparent to any of the wealthier passengers who ventured below for an evening of “slumming it” with the masses.


The art deco styling of the Ile de France set a new standard for passenger ship design world-wide. With its clean lines and emphasis on functionality, the “ocean liner style” helped popularize and disseminate the concepts of modernism. At the same time, the “Isodeckplan” was introduced to render ships’ accommodations in an elevated, three-dimensional view [86].

The modernist design and decoration of the Nieuw Amsterdam, which would not have been out of place at Rockefeller Center, was the subject of a lengthy article in the influential fine art magazine, The Studio [79].

“Hotelism is a modern disease that arrived with the steam-engine, a sort of artistic hydrophobia in that those responsible for the internal decoration of a modern liner are mortally afraid to leave any indication that the scenes of their efforts belong to an ocean-going vessel. Thus afflicted, they run amok with a rainbow and a few acres of gold leaf, trailing behind them a devastation that would have made Solomon in all his glory appear mean and dingy.” —C. R. Benstead, Atlantic Ferry, 1926

68. Cunard Line

First Class Drawing Room, R.M.S. Aquitania (1914-50), Britain’s Largest Liner.
Postcard, circa 1914. 9 × 14 cm.
“These rooms,” claimed a Cunard brochure, “give new meaning to the freedom of the seas.”
Morse Collection, 2797

69. Cunard Line

Garden Lounge, R.M.S. Aquitania (1914-50), Britain’s Largest Liner.
Postcard, circa 1914. 9 × 14 cm.
Morse Collection, 2800.

70. Canadian Paciic Line

Canadian Pacific S/S Montrose (1922-40) Cabin Dining Saloon.
Postcard, n.d. 9 × 14 cm.
Morse Collection, 1665

71. Canadian Pacific Line

White Star Line R.M.S. Majestic (1922-36) Swimming Pool.
Postcard, 1928. 8.5 × 14 cm.
The Majestic was built as Hamburg-America Line’s Bismarck (1914-20) but was not finished before World War I.
Morse Collection, 666

72. French Line

Le Transatlantique France (1912-34) Le Salon Mauresque (Moorish salon).
Postcard, n.d. 9 × 14 cm.
Morse Collection, 965

73. French Line

Le Havre Aménagements Intérieurs du Paquebot France (1912-34) de la CGT (Interior ameni-ties of the liner France of the French Line).
Grand Salon Louis XIV, 1re Classe. Postcard. n.d. 9 × 14.
Morse Collection, 963

74. United States Lines

S.S. Washington (1933-51), Smoking Room.
Postcard, n.d. 9 × 14 cm.
Morse Collection, 880

75. United States Lines

S.S. Washington (1933-51), Chinese Room.
Postcard, n.d. 9 × 14 cm.
Morse Collection, 877

76. Red Star Line

Red Star Line: Antwerpen-New York. Views of the Kroonland (1902-14), Finland (1902-14), and Vaderland (1900-15).
Booklet, 1903. 14 × 19 cm.
Morse Collection, 1425

77. Cunard Line

Cunard Third Class Accommodation U.S.A. & Canada.
Brochure, circa 1925. 25 × 20.5 cm.
Morse Collection, 427

78. Hamburg-American Line

Imperator (1913-19)—views of the Ritz-Carlton Restaurant and Palm Garden, and of the Grill Room.
Booklet, circa 1913. After World War I, the Imperator had a distinguished career as Cunard Line’s Berengaria (1919-38). 27 × 21 cm.
Morse Collection, 2397

79. Holland-America Line

The Nieuw Amsterdam (1938-74).
Offprint from The Studio: An Illustrated Magazine of Fine and Applied Art, July 1938. 28 × 20.5 cm.
Morse Collection, 1816

80. White Star Line

To Europe Cabin on the Albertic (1927-34).
Plan, 1929. 23 × 39.5 cm.
Morse Collection, 723

81. French Line

S.S. Champlain (1931-40) Cabin Class Deck Plans.
Brochure, 1934. 57 × 21.5 cm.
Morse Collection, 943

82. Cunard-White Star Line

Tourist Class to Europe.
Brochure, 1935. 23 × 20 cm.
Morse Collection, 434

83. United States Lines

To Europe Third Class on the Manhattan (1932-41)—Deck Plan.
Brochure, 1936. 23 × 79 cm.
Morse Collection, 843

84. Cunard-White Star Line

Cunard-White Star First Class.
Brochure, 1949. 18 × 27 cm.
Morse Collection, 582

85. French Line

Ile de France (1927-58) Cabin Class Deck Plans.
Brochure, 1936. 21 × 57.5 cm.
The Ile de France introduced “ocean liner style,” or art deco, to the world.
The colorful deck plan employs a new perspective called the Isodeckplan.
Morse Collection, 1006