Pacific Mail Steamship Company
Both ships were laid down at New York Ship-yard as Minnelora and Minnekada . They were acquired by Pacific Mail Steamship Company (Pacmail) before launching. Pacmail wanted the ships to carry freight as well as passengers in the transpacific service. They were identical ships 615 feet long, 65 feet beam and a draft of 33 feet. Each had 2 quadruple expansion engines, operating at about 215 psi with 18 foot propellers and capable of 16 kts. They were among the largest ships produced in the world at the time. The ships were set up for 346 first class, 66 second class and 1300 steerage class passengers.
Left: The Pacific Mail Steamship Co. house flag. Right: Preferred shares (1922).
Pacific Mail Steamship Company got it start carrying mail on the Panama to San Francisco leg of the mail route from New York to West Coast USA. It lost the mail contract after the transcontinental rail road was completed in 1869. The company continued to operate carrying freight and passengers to China, Hawaii and other Asian ports. The Seaman’s Act of 1915 was written by the International Seamans Union and signed into law by President Wilson. The intent of the act was to improve living and working conditions for seamen. Pacific Mail Steamship Company said that the Act would make it non-competitive with foreign competition. They sold Mongolia and Manchuria and left the business of transportation in the Pacific.
Advertisements for the Pacific Mail Steamship Co.
Mongolia and Manchuria were purchased by International Mercantile Marine (IMM) or subsidiary company in 1915. IMM was a conglomerate of American Transport Lines, American Line, Panama Pacific Line and others. It was set up by J.P. Morgan in an attempt to monopolize the shipping trade in the North Atlantic. Mr. Morgan’s plan did not have the results he desired and IMM was in financial trouble until WWI intervened. The Sherman Act of 1890, Clayton Act of 1914 and the Federal Trade Commission (1914) would prevent Mr. Morgan from gaining a monopoly. IMM became United States Line in 1931.
World War I
Both ships were operated by the US military in WWI and had three 6 inch guns installed. Mongolia (USS Mongolia (ID#1615)) was captained by Emery Rice a graduate of Massachusetts Nautical Training School (now Massachusetts Maritime Academy). In April 1917, Mongolia encountered and engaged a German Submarine in the English Channel. This was the first American shot fired after declaration of war with Germany. The shot may have damaged or sunk the submarine. USS Manchuria (ID-1633) made 13 round trips to Europe in support of the war and returning troops home after the war.
Installation of 6 inch guns during WWI.
Panama Pacific Line
After WWI both ships were returned to the Pacific and operated by Panama Pacific Line (PPL). Some of PPL ships operated in a East Coast – Panama – West Coast service. It lost a mail service subsidy in 1937 and cost of tolls in the Panama Canal increased forcing the company out of business. In 1929 Manchuria was sold to Dollar Steam Ship Company and was renamed President Johnson. Mongolia was also sold to Dollar Line and was re-named President Fillmore. Dollar Lines operated the ships in their “round the world” fleet. The ships were scrapped in 1949 and 1952.
Dollar Line "President 535 Liner" (1926).