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                                       SS LEVIATHAN

Leviathan was originally built as Vaterland, the largest ship at her completion and the second of three sister ships built for Germany's Hamburg America Line.  Less than a year after her maiden voyage in 1914, World War I forced Vaterland to stay immobile in New York for three years due to the British dominance of the seas.  When the U.S. entered the war in 1917, Vaterland was seized by the U.S. government and renamed USS Leviathan. 

The USS Leviathan began regular passages between the U.S. and Brest, France, delivering up to 14,000 persons on each trip. She could embarked 11,000 troops in just two hours. Before the armistice 11 November 1918 she transported a total of over 119,000 fighting men!

In December 1919 the International Mercantile Marine signed an agreement to maintain their intended acquisition of the Leviathan. Gibbs & Cox was hired to survey the vessel and her economic potential from every aspect.  The first big task was the creation of a new set of blueprints of which none had been received from Germany under the Versailles Treaty. An army of workers measured every part of the ship to create the blueprints.

Having languished in political limbo at her Hoboken pier until April 1922, a decision was finally made and the $8,000,000 in funds allocated to sail Leviathan to Newport News Shipbuilding & Dry Dock Company in Newport News, Virginia, for her 14-month refurbishment.  War duty and age meant that all wiring, plumbing, and interior layouts were stripped and redesigned while her hull was strengthened and her engines converted from coal to oil.  Virtually a new ship emerged.

The decorations and fittings, designed by New York architects Walker & Gillette, retained much of her prewar splendor of Edwardian, Georgian, Louis XVI styles now merged with modern 1920s touches. The biggest deviation was an art deco night club supplanting the original Verandah Cafe. 

Leviathan immediately proved popular with the American public in the 20s, starting her career fully booked for her maiden voyage 4 July 1923.  Her passenger average reached a strong 1,300 by 1926, making her the #1 traveled ship on the Atlantic.

Then the National Prohibition Act of 1924 hit.  From 1920 all US registered ships counted as an extension of US territory, making them “dry ships” according to the National Prohibition Act.  Alcohol-seeking passengers readily chose other liners instead. 

Leviathan was an American symbol of power and prestige.  Despite her economic failings, she remained a popular ship with many loyal travelers.  She attracted attention as the largest and fastest ship in the American merchant marine and featured in countless advertisements. 

Leviathan was tough.  In one crossing in the winter of 1924, out of Cherbourg, she cruised through a fierce storm with 90 ft waves and winds up to 100 mph, at times forcing her into 20 degree rolls.  Eleven portholes were smashed. 

The ship's orchestra, the S.S. Leviathan Orchestra under the direction of Nelson Maples, was also well regarded.  Gramophone records were produced in 1923 and 1924 for Victor Records by the band, which would later become inspiration for the New Leviathan Oriental Fox-Trot Orchestra decades later.

In 1929 Leviathan was finally allowed to serve “medicinal alcohol” outside US territorial waters to make her more competitive with foreign lines and was quickly sent on Booze Cruises to make money.  Bottom line was improved but then the Great Depression came as a death blow: SS Leviathan was laid up at her pier in Hoboken, New Jersey, in June 1933.

Leviathan ran a couple more round trips  before its owner paid the U.S. government $500,000 for permission to retire her while keeping her in running order until 1936.

In 1937 she was finally sold to the British Metal Industries Ltd. On 26 January 1938 Leviathan set out on her 301st and last voyage under the command of Captain John Binks, retired master of the RMS Olympic, and a crew of 125 officers and men who had been hired to deliver her to the breakers.  She arrived at Rosyth, Scotland, on 14 February. 

SS Leviathan was an transatlantic ocean liner from 1914 to 1934.  

Like all of our ocean liner models, this SS Leviathan ocean liner model ship has the following qualities:

Superior hollow hull construction (very important), weighing less than 8 lbs  (A solid hull of this model would be over 30 lbs
- Windows are cutouts, not black decals
- 95% wood and metal

36" L x 12" T x 7" W (including base's width)   $3,500     SOLD OUT

Add lighting feature: $200  

For display case, please click here: Model Ship Display Case


Also be sure to check out our other beautiful, authentic Italian liners RMS Majestic model and RMS Berengaria model.