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Life Onboard

Hindenburg’s passengers, primarily business professionals and occasionally their families, enjoyed lavish onboard service and comforts. A large lounge, sumptuous meals and superb German wines, promenade decks, a pressurized smoking room and a writing room . . . all contributed to an exceptional experience. The ship’s streamlined décor underscored Germany’s resurrection after World War I.

For some, a voyage on Titanic offered opulence comparable to that of the finest hotels. Upper class passengers enjoyed gourmet meals and aged liquors, a swimming pool and gym, and many other comforts. Those traveling in steerage, however—primarily immigrants hoping for better lives in America—enjoyed no such luxuries. Nonetheless, passage included food, mattresses made sleeping more comfortable, and the tiny cabins boasted electric lights and running water.

Hindenburg Brochure

Hindenburg brochure
Hindenburg brochure, 1937
Courtesy anonymous

Promotional brochures extolled the luxurious life onboard. The romance of flight plus travel in half the time of an ocean voyage by ship appealed to adventurous travelers, business professionals, and famous personalities.

Hindenburg Menu

Hindenburg menu
Hindenburg menu, 1936
Courtesy anonymous

Each lavish lunch and dinner had a specially printed menu. The XIth Olympic Games Berlin, 1936, flight luncheon featured clam soup, beef in Madeira sauce, cauliflower, peas, potatoes, and salad. Diners then enjoyed an ice cream bombe, hot chocolate, coffee or tea, and cake.

Hindenburg Coffee Pot, Cup, Saucer, and Napkin Holder

Hindenburg coffee pot, cup, saucer, and napkin holder
Hindenburg coffee pot, cup, saucer, and napkin holder, 1936
Courtesy anonymous. Image courtesy of Smithsonian National Postal Museum. Photo by Eric Long, National Air and Space Museum

The dining room tables invited passengers to three meals a day with white linens, fresh flowers, sterling silver, and porcelain china service created for the ship. The chief steward and up to six waiters provided superlative service. Passengers placed their linen napkins in holders after the meal so that they could be reused and save precious weight.

Hindenburg First North America Flight Card

Hindenburg first North America flight card
Hindenburg first North America flight card
Hindenburg first North America flight card, 1936

Businessman Joseph Gogan traveled with his 14-year-old nephew William, the youngest transatlantic Hindenburg passenger to that date. The postcard, purchased onboard, received the special on board postmark and a Frankfurt, Germany, receiving cancel after arrival.

Hindenburg Sixth North America Flight Card

Hindenburg sixth North America flight card
Hindenburg first North America flight card
Hindenburg first North America flight card, 1936

German boxer Max Schmeling and movie actor Douglas Fairbanks, both passengers, signed this card for Captain Albert Sammt. In 1937, Sammt survived the Hindenburg disaster by jumping from the gondola and climbing through the burning wreckage crashing down around him.

Olympic Dinner Menu

Olympic dinner menu
Olympic dinner menu, 1911

Dinners in the first class dining saloon of a White Star liner usually consisted of eleven courses. One first class menu survives from Titanic’s last night, and about half of the dishes were the same as shown here.

Etiquette book owned by Margaret “Molly” Brown

Etiquette book owned by Margaret 'Molly' Brown and photo of Margaret 'Molly' Brown
Etiquette book owned by Margaret “Molly” Brown, 1901
Courtesy Brian, Maria, and Alexander Green

Elaborate rules and manners governed the upper-class Edwardian table, and violating them was an embarrassment. Etiquette books guided those who, like Titanic survivor Margaret Brown, were not “to the manner born.”

Olympic’s Squash Court Photo Postcard

Olympic’s squash court photo postcard
Photo postcard, 1911

Fred Wright poses in Olympic’s squash court in this real photo postcard from 1911. On both Olympic and Titanic, the squash court was adjacent to the post office on G Deck.

Olympic Telegram

Olympic telegram
Olympic telegram, 1911

This telegram from J.H. Prosser & Sons of London advises Fred Wright, squash instructor aboard Olympic (and later Titanic), that his shipment of rackets is on its way. First class passengers paid two shillings and two pence for an hour-long squash game against Wright, who did not survive the sinking.

Fred Wright Letter

Fred Wright letter, December 1911
Fred Wright letter, December 1911

Written on board Olympic, Fred Wright’s letter to his sister mentions Captain Edward J. Smith, the hymns sung in the Sunday church service, and Wright’s interactions with passengers.


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