Sunday, June 13, 2010

S.S. Transylvania, The West Indies Run

When I buy these small collections of photographs, I'm usually drawn to only a few of the images. In this case, it was the photograph of the gentleman in his Tuxedo. Labeled, "Sabatine, Fred 1934 on ship," I at first thought he was a passenger on a cruise, but on closer inspection I began to think that he might have been the ship's photographer. Look closely, next to the chair, and a number of 8 x 10 film holders can bee seen. Used in large format view cameras, 8 x 10 film would most likely have been used in a passenger liner's photo studio, while a smaller format would have been used for candid shots taken in the ship's lounge. A probable scenario is that Mr. Sabatine set up his camera, and had an assistant press the shutter. (The 8 x 10 negative, trimmed out to about a 6 x 8 area was included in the sale.) Also, there is a hair printed into the chair. White in color, it would have been on the neg when printed. For a ship's passenger, it would most likely have been reprinted or spotted, but as a keepsake for the photographer, it wouldn't have been necessary. Finally, I couldn't help but notice the finger nail staining on Fred's right hand. Common for people who process black & white film without gloves. I know, I had purple nails for the first year I worked at a lab. Anyway, this is what I've been able to find out about the S.S. Transylvania, identified on the map. The Transylvania's keel was laid down in 1919 at Fairfield & Co., LTD. Glasgow, Scotland. It was built for the Anchor Line, a subsidiary of Cunard. It was launched on March 11, 1925, and made it's maiden voyage to Moville and New York. It had three funnels, even though only one was functional, two masts and twin screws. It was designed to carry 279 first class passengers, 344 in second and 800 in third. On March, 28, 1929, the Transylvania ran aground near Cherbourg, France. It was refitted several times. In 1935 (?) it made a voyage to Bermuda, and from 1937-39 was on a regular run from New York to the West Indies. On Sept. 7, 1939, it was requisitioned by the British Admiralty for use as an armed merchant cruiser. On Aug. 16, 1940, it was hit by a German torpedo, fired from the U-56. It was taken in tow, but sunk off of Malin Head in Northern Ireland. 48 lives were lost. Underwater pictures of the Transylvania, sitting upright and nearly intact can be seen at Pictures of the Transylvania afloat can be seen at There was another ship named the Transylvania in the Anchor Line fleet. It was sunk by a German torpedo in the first world war. As far as the other photos in this group, Crystal Cave in Bermuda was discovered in 1905 and has been giving tours ever since. It's labeled, "1934 Fred Sabatine, 1934 Bermuda, Bermuda." The picture of the capitol building and the house with the flamingos are both labeled, "Havana." The capitol building in Havana was modeled after the U.S. Capitol and was built in 1929. After the Cuban revolution in 1959, it was no longer used for governance, and now houses the Cuban Academy of Sciences. When I noted that the Transylvania made it's first voyage to Bermuda in 1935, I placed a question mark after the date. If Fred Sabatine was a ship's photographer and he was on the Transylvania on that first trip, then the date on the back of the Bermuda picture doesn't match what I've been able to find on-line. That doesn't necessarily mean anything, since a wrong date could have been written on the back of the print, years latter, from memory. For pictures made by a ship's photographer from the S.S. Lurline, click on cruise ships in the labels section. Added: I've run down an obit for Fred Sabatine from the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. Fred died on Sunday, Nov. 7, 1999, at the age of 96. He and his wife Alice, owned the Modern Photo service in Bangor, Pennsylvania. In his obit, it mentioned that Fred had studied photography in New York City, and that he had been a cruise ship photographer, working out of New York.


  1. Hmmmm...wonder if this is the same Fred Sabatine?

  2. I love your blog...the research you do is so