Île-de-France

On June 22, 1927, the legendary French ocean-liner, the Île-de-France, traveled from Le Havre to New York on its maiden voyage, soon to be greeted by the American media and the thousands who would crowd the docks at New York Harbor to see the great ship.

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June 25, 1927 cover by Ilonka Karasz.

Among those anticipating the visit was the New Yorker, which offered this account in “The Talk of the Town” for the June 25, 1927 issue:

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PRIDE OF FRANCE…Postcard image of the Île-de-France from 1935. During a post-war refurbishment, the three funnels were replaced with a pair of stockier, more stylish funnels. (Wikipedia)

The Île-de-France was unique in that it was the first ocean-liner to have an interior design that didn’t imitate “shore-style” interiors that resembled rooms in manor houses or grand hotels. The trend-setting ship sported a modern, sleek, art deco look that celebrated the present and the future.

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IN WITH THE NEW…The Main Foyer & Grand Staircase of the Île-de-France,(newyorksocialdiary.com)
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LEAVE YOUR FLIP-FLOPS AT HOME…The first-class dining room in the Île-de-France. (newyorksocialdiary.com)

Note that these photos do not contain images of water slides or all-you-can eat buffets. An ocean voyage, if you could afford it, was an elegant affair. The Île-de-France was especially popular among wealthy Americans who liked its stylish, youthful vibe.

The Île-de-France served as a troop ship during World War II, and in 1956 played a major role in rescuing passengers from the sinking Andrea Doria off the coast of Nantucket.

Unfortunately, anything that is youthful soon grows old, and as we all know, style is an ephemeral thing. With the advent of transatlantic jet transport, ships like the Île-de-France fell out of favor, and by 1960 the grand ocean liner was reduced to serving as a floating prop for a disaster movie titled The Last Voyage. The filmmakers partially sunk the poor ship, set fires and detonated explosions in the interior, and in a final act of desecration dropped one for the ship’s smoke stacks onto its deck house.

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NOT A BUFFET IN SIGHT…Still from the 1960 movie, The Last Voyage, shot on board the soon-to-be-scrapped Île-de-France. (Screen shot from movie trailer)
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FIERY END…Fires were set in the interior of the Île-de-France during the filming of The Last Voyage. (Screen shot from movie trailer)
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BROUGHT TO ITS KNEES…The Île-de-France (named the SS Clarion in the movie) is partially sunk with its forward funnel collapsed in a still from the film, The Last Voyage.

 *  *  *

The Ruth Snyder-Judd Gray murder trial and sentencing captivated Americans in 1927, but another trial and sentencing in the 1920s would bring worldwide attention and spark mass protests.

Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti were Italian-born Americans who were convicted of murdering a paymaster and guard during a robbery of a Boston-area shoe company in 1920. Although convicted of murder the following year, many critics of trial believed Sacco and Vanzetti, who held anarchist views, were innocent of the charges, and the case became one of largest causes célèbres in modern history with protests held on their behalf in major cities across the U.S. and around the world.

Ferdinando Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti in handcuffs, circa 1920s. (Photo by Fotosearch/Getty Images).
Cause Célèbre…Ferdinando Nicola Sacco and Bartolomeo Vanzetti handcuffed together at the Dedham, Massachusetts Superior Court, 1923. (Boston Public Library).

Sentenced to death in April 1927, they would be executed the following August. The New Yorker, predisposed to look down on Boston as something of a backwater, had this to say about the trial in an article by Gerald Day for the “Reporter at Large” column:

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The case also rekindled memories of other notorious trials:

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The governor did appoint a commission to review the case, but the final decision was in his hands…

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And so the only option left for Sacco and Vanzetti was clemency from the governor. More on this in another blog entry.

To close, a few illustrations from some of the magazine’s mainstay artists…this one from Johan Bull used to illustrate an article on the U.S. Open:

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…and keeping with the golf theme, this comic panel by Julian de Miskey…

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…and finally, a little fun with Barbara Shermund and her comment on social mores of the day:

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Next Time: Fifteen Minutes is Quite Enough…

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Published by

David O

I read and write about history from the perspective that history is not some artifact from the past but a living, breathing condition we inhabit every moment of our lives, or as William Faulkner once observed, "The past is never dead. It's not even past." I read original source materials, such as every issue of The New Yorker, not only as a way to understand a time from a particular perspective, but to also use the source as an aggregator of various historic events. I welcome comments, criticisms, corrections and insights as I stumble along through the century.

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