SS BELFAST Arrives at Her Namesake Port

Eastern Illustrating & Publishing Co.

On this day in June, 1909, the last of Eastern Steamship Company’s “Great White Flyers” arrives at the Belfast steamship wharf. Two thousand people in their best clothes form a grand welcoming party for the 320 foot long, triple screw, steam turbine-powered ship. Bunting adorns the terminal building, conveying the festive mood of the occasion. Eastern Illustrating & Publishing Company’s photographer captured this perfectly from the top deck of the great ship. Steamships were a popular photographic subject, but the vast majority of photos were taken from shore. This view from the deck is unusual and the perspective gives the photograph a dynamic element.

SS BELFAST was built at Bath Iron Works and worked the Bangor-to-Boston overnight run. She was so large she had to back away from Belfast’s wharf to turn around. Her last trip to Belfast was in 1935, beaten by good roads, automobiles and bridges. She was sold and renamed ARROW. During WWII, she carried troops. In February of 1947, while being towed from Puget Sound to Astoria, OR, she broke loose and beached at Ocean Park, WA, her final resting place.

The steamboat age in Maine is easy to romanticize; this photo encourages the sentiment. Steamship photos are common and most are descriptive views, excellent historical records. But in this photo, you see little of the ship. Looking down onto the wharf, you do sense its size. You also sense the crowd’s excitement and the significance of the moment. This photo captures the spirit of that time better than any broadside view.

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