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Kungsholm 1928 - 1941

Kungsholm #1
The ships were painted white from 1931

There were 3 ships named Kungsholm that were owned by SAL.

Original name: S/S Kungsholm
Shipyard: Blohm & Voss, Hamburg, Germany
Year: 1928
Tons: 21,250
No of passengers: 1544
Delivered to SAL: 1928
Sold: 1941
Sold to: US Government
Renamed: John Ericsson, 1948 Italia
Today: Scrapped in 1965

"The only sound in the night came from the Havana harbor water slucking gently against the sides of the ship. Through the moon mist the Kungsholm could be seen, anchored sleepy and rich, just a few hundred feet aft. Farther shoreward a few small boats corked about."
Quote from A Young Girl in 1941 With No Waist At All (Mademoiselle 25, May, 1947) by J.D. Salinger.

This famous liner was built in Hamburg in 1928. Her gross registered tonnage was 21,256 and her passenger capacity 1,544.

The Kungsholm inaugurated cruises for SAL on January 19, 1929, when she first visited the Caribbean. On January 20, 1940, the Kungsholm made the first South Seas Cruise. The Kungsholm was taken over by the U.S. government on December 12, 1941. On January 2, 1942, the Swedish flag was lowered and the American flag was raised as the vessel was named John Ericsson.

During World War II John Ericsson served with distinction as a troop transport in the Pacific, the Mediterranean, as well as during the invasion of France in 1944.

She was repurchased by SAL in 1947 and operated by the Home Lines as the Italia. While in Swedish American Line service, the Kungsholm carried 82,745 transatlantic passengers and 58,779 cruise passengers.

In 1941, the position of entertainment director for the M.S, Kungsholm of 1928 was held by J. D. Salinger. Mr. Salinger would go on to become a world-renown author with the publication of "The Catcher in the Rye" in 1952. Undoubtedly the Kungsholm's most famous crew member. No doubt he used this experience when writing his short story "Teddy" (republished in his collection Nine Stories) which takes place on an ocean liner.


A Masterpiece of Art Decó Design

Although the Kungsholm of 1928 was a masterpiece of Art Decó design, and the architect Carl Bergsten was a Swede, Art Decó was not a typically Swedish style at that period. The style was primarily chosen to suit the American market. A similar design can be found in the Empire State Building.

At this period there were two different trends in Swedish design. Carl Bergsten had designed the Swedish pavillion at the 1925 Paris Exhibition, and the Swedish participation had been a great success, especially the display of exclusive Orrefors chrystal glassware. At the same time the Swedish welfare state was evolving, favoring a functional, but attractive, design at a price range the workers could afford. The Kungsholm was a combination of both these trends.

The first class smoking room

The Art Decó interior was primarily to be found in the first class sections. The first class public rooms were decorated in black, grey, red and gold, with geometrical patterns and Egyptian details. There was a red grand piano in the first class lounge. Grey seal skin was used in some of the tapestry and carpets. The first class smoking room was inspired by the Orient. In the main embarkation hall, there was a round table with an Orrefors glass top, decorated with astrology symbols. The furniture was mostly manufactured at the NK factories in Nyköping, Sweden.

As a contrast, and a special feature of the first Kungsholm, was the general upgrading of the third class sections. The dining room had bright colors and tables for four or six persons, instead of the long tables that were customary in third class dining rooms at that period. The public rooms were inspired by Swedish rural life, with much influence from Carl Larsson paintings.

When the ship was seized by the US Government in December 1941 (soon to be purchased) and converted into a troup transport ship, furniture was thrown on to the pier in New York. Some objects have been found, such as a mirror that appeared at an auction in New York some years ago.

Updated April 18, 2013

Art Objects from Kungsholm of 1928
to be Sold at Auction

Two art objects from Kungsholm of 1928, by artist Anna Petrus,
are available at Stockholms Auktionsverk on April 24-25, 2013.
Read more about the auction here.

The information is in Swedish. Use Google Translate.

Many thanks to Marie Rehnberg for this information.

M/S Kungsholms inredning
Ett mästerverk i svensk
art deco

Anne Marie Ericsson

Första M/S Kungsholm, Amerikalinjens stora passagerarfartyg, byggdes på 1920-talet. Det gick mellan Göteborg och New York. Arkitekten Carl Bergsten fick uppdraget att hålla i den påkostade inredningen som skulle visa för världen vad svenska konstnärer kunde åstadkomma. Under andra världskriget togs fartyget i beslag av amerikanarna för att användas i trupptransporten till Europa. Inredningen revs då ner och förstördes. Anne-Marie Ericsson har letat i arkiv och museer efter beskrivningar, ritningar och gamla fotografier för att försöka rekonstruera denna makalösa uppvisning i svensk inredningskonst.
Köp boken här: Adlibris


Anna Petrus:
Skulptör och industrikonstnär
Marie Rehnberg

Anna Petrus var verksam under några intensiva år 1910- och 20-talet. Under lång tid har hon därefter varit bortglömd. Först på senare år har Petrus särpräglade konstnärskap med dess kraftfulla stil åter uppmärksammats. Speciellt gäller det hennes pionjärinsatser som industrikonstnär. Hennes formgivning för Svenskt Tenn och Näfveqvarns Bruk väcker idag internationellt intresse och Svenskt Tenn har fortfarande flera av hennes produkter i sitt sortiment.

I många stycken har kunskapen om Petrus liv och gärning varit ofullständig. Det gäller inte minst hennes tid som enskild konsthantverkare liksom samarbete med arkitekter som Uno Åhrén och Carl Bergsten, vilket ledde till fantastiska uppdrag för konstindustriutställningarna i Paris 1925 och i New York 1927 och M/S Kungsholm.
Köp boken här: Adlibris

Updated Feb 11, 2010

Donation to The Maritime Museum of Gothenburg

Photo: Olle Andersson

Christer Bengtsson, crew member on the Gripsholm 1968-69 and the Kungsholm 1969-70, has informed us about a unique donation to Sjöfartsmuseet, the Maritime Museum in Gothenburg. It is a statue of Venus and a model in relief of the Kungsholm of 1928. Both objects were removed from the Kungsholm in 1941, when she was converted into a troop transport ship, and renamed John Ericson. Read about it here.

A Kungsholm Cruise to Cuba


Johan Sjöberg has contributed a link to ShipGeek's color film of a M/S Kungsholm
cruise to Cuba
in wartime, prior to December 1941. The Kungsholm sailed on cruises
in the Carribean until the attack on Pearl Harbor. The ship was first seized by
the US Government in New York harbor to be used as a troop transport ship,
and shortly thereafter purchased and renamed John Ericsson.

"12 1/2 day cruise to Havana, Panama Canal, and Haiti. Really interesting. No submarines in sight.
Mildred E."

The Kungsholm continued sailing on cruises from the USA to the Caribbean during the first years of WWII, until the USA entered the war in December 1941. This postcard, which features the Kungsholm painted to show her neutral status, was mailed in New York on June 10, 1941.

A Kungsholm Cruise from New York to Haiti 1935

Kungsholm Song
The Kungsholm Song was written by a passenger in the thirties, and became the ship's official song, sung at the Farewell Dinners. A legendary Chief Purser, Evert Eriksson, made a 78 rpm recording of the song.

Kungsholm -37
Kungsholm Cruises 1937
Wondercruise -38
Wonder Cruise to the North Cape,
Russia, and Lands of the Vikings, 1938
Contributed by L-O Rydén

West Indies and South America Cruise
January, 1935
Hemingstam collection.
Hemingstam collection.

The following photos from a Caribbean Cruise in February 1935, have been contributed by
Colonel Edward S. Murphy, USMC Ret., of Yuma, Arizona.

Kungsholm at Curacao in 1935

Ed Murphy's (standing) 7th birthday party, Feb 6, 1935.

Caribbean Costume party 1935.
Syl Murphy, Anita Wilson Schmidt, Bill Schmidt, Aileen Wilson Murphy, (plus unknown passenger).

The Kungsholm Follies, October 20, 1938.
A show performed by passengers and cruise staff.

Third Cabin Class Menu, June 10, 1935.

Third Class Farewell Dinner Menu, October 6, 1938.


Parts of the Third Class accommodation shown below.
Click on the images to enlarge.


Excellent site!
Don't miss a visit to Henrik Ljungström's and Daniel Othfors' excellent website
The Great Ocean Liners, where you can find lots of information about the SAL liners.



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