The Ward Steamship Line was established in New York in 1841. By the late 1800's the company had become one of the largest steamship companies, connecting New York with port cities in the Bahamas, at Cuba, and elsewhere in the Mexican Gulf.
During the Spanish-American War, the entire Ward Line fleet was requisitioned by the United States for military use. When World War I broke out, the Ward Line was again used in the war effort.
During the Great Depression the Ward Line attempted to survive the economic disaster by appealing to the government. The company was given subsidies which helped to build two new luxury steamboats; one of which was the SS Morro Castle. That boat, completed in 1930, caught fire during a return trip from Havana in 1934. The inferno killed 137 passengers and crewmen, and left the boat adrift until it beached itself off Asbury Park, New Jersey.
The SS Morro Castle disaster instilled new regulations for fire prevention on all steamships.
The other ship built at that time, the SS Oriente, was used by the U.S. Navy during World War II.
This outline map of the eastern United States was published in 1911 by the American Automobile Association. It includes car-carrying steamship routes.
An inset map at the upper right displays the New York City area.
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