Artifact of the Month: M.S. Stockholm poster

Our April Artifact of the Month is a poster, donated by Lew Powell, advertising cruises from Morehead City on the M.S. Stockholm.

poster advertising M.S. Stockholm

When this travel poster was created, the M. S. Stockholm was a slim young 12,000-ton ocean liner with a yacht-like profile. The ship, which was owned by the Swedish America Line, began sailing in 1948. The Stockholm provided regular service between Scandinavian ports and New York City during an era when crossing the Atlantic by ship was gaining in popularity — despite the growing availability of transatlantic air service.

Designed to provide comfort and intimacy rather than luxury for its passengers and crew, the Stockholm was the smallest passenger liner on the North Atlantic route. Due to its slim hull and initial lack of stabilizer fins, the ship quickly gained the reputation as the “worst roller on the North Atlantic.”


Partly in response to the vessel’s lively behavior in the rougher northern seas, the Swedish America Line scheduled the Stockholm for a series of four cruises originating at Morehead City, North Carolina, with Havana, Nassau, and Bermuda as destinations in the autumn of 1953. As local newspapers reported, North Carolinians took advantage of this opportunity, with the first cruise being occupied almost entirely by about 400 members of the North Carolina Academy of General Practice physicians and their families. The departure from Morehead City was postponed by one day while Hurricane Hazel roared ashore. The October 23rd cruise to Bermuda included a convention of North Carolina livestock Feed Dealers.

The Stockholm has subsequently led a long and eventful life.

On the foggy night of July 25, 1956, the eastbound Stockholm collided with the much larger luxury liner and pride of the Italian Line fleet, the Andrea Doria, near the Nantucket lightship. A fourteen-year-old girl was catapulted from her berth in the Andrea Doria onto the deck of the Stockholm. The girl survived. But the Andrea Doria sank eleven hours later. Between the two ships, fifty-one lives were lost.

The Stockholm after its collision with the Andrea Doria. Image from John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Australia.
The Stockholm after its collision with the Andrea Doria. Image from John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland, Australia.

The bow of the Stockholm was repaired, and the ship was placed back into service. Since then, the vessel has experienced a considerable series of changes of ownership and name.

Sold to East German government. Renamed Völkerfreundschaft. Operated as an ocean liner for fifteen years.
Transferred to a Panamanian company. Named shortened to Volker. Laid up in Southampton, United Kingdom, in 1986. Then renamed Fridtjof Nansen. Served as a barracks ship for asylum seekers in Oslo, Norway.
Sold to an Italian company, which rebuilt it as a modern cruise ship from the waterline up. Renamed Italia 1, then Italia Prima, then Valtur Prima while providing service to Cuba. Laid up in Cuba in 2001.
Purchased by Festival Cruise Line. Renamed Caribe. Sailed on the Cuba route.
Sailed for Classic International Cruises. Renamed Athena. Attacked by pirates in the Gulf of Aden on December 3, 2008, but the ship’s crew and a U.S. Navy patrol aircraft drove the pirates off.
A 2011 photograph of the ship then known as the Athena. Photo from the Wikimedia Commons.
A 2011 photograph of the ship then known as the Athena. Photo from the Wikimedia Commons.
Bought by a Portuguese company, Portuscale Cruises. Renamed Azores. Conducted charter cruises.
Scheduled for long-term service by the Cruise and Maritime Voyages company. The ship once known as the Stockholm will be 67 years old in 2015.

3 thoughts on “Artifact of the Month: M.S. Stockholm poster”

  1. What a checkered past — and still not at the scrapyard!… I remember watching at age 11 the dramatic aerial footage of the Andrea Doria crash on the “Today” show…. btw, the poster’s easel back suggests it sat on a counter, perhaps at a travel agency or other ticket sale location…. Many thanks, Doug….

  2. Lew, your mentioning watching the Andrea Doria on the NBC “Today” show brought to mind a great TV story from one of the best, if not the best, storyteller of our time, the late Don Hewitt, Executive Producer for CBS’ “60 Minutes.”

    In 1956, Hewitt was producer/director of CBS’ 15-minute nightly newscast “Douglas Edwards with the News.” On the night of July 25, 1956, after an extremely long day “at the office,” Hewitt was driving home when he heard on his car radio that the Andrea Doria had collided with the Swedish Liner Stockholm in the fog off Nantucket. He immediately got to a phone and called Edwards and the CBS desk in New York.

    “Have a film crew meet us at the Naval Air Station at Quonset Point, Rhode Island where reporters are gathering for a fly over,” he told the assignment editor on the desk in New York.

    Edwards, Hewitt, and the CBS cameraman got caught up in traffic and got to Quonset Point late…the press plane had already taken off. Hewitt talked a Navy pilot into taking the three for a fly over, even though he knew CBS was late with its coverage. Here’s how Hewitt describes what happened next.

    “As we approached the wreck, we opened the door of the chopper and Doug stood in the opening so we could film him in the foreground with the ship below us. ‘How long do you think she’ll stay afloat?’ I asked the pilot, figuring he would say a few days, maybe a week.

    ‘Don’t stop that camera,’ he said, ‘she looks like she’s going down.’

    “And sure enough, with our camera grinding away and Doug looking down and describing the scene, the Andrea Doria rolled over like a big dead elephant, and as the water emptied out its swimming pools, she sank…When we landed, I called the news desk. ‘Tough luck,’ the editor said. ‘Everybody else has already been on the air with pictures of the ship. The only thing we can do now is go back in a few days and catch it as it sinks.’

    “She already has I said, and Doug and I have it all on film.”

    So, by noon on July 26, 1956, CBS News was on the air with the sinking. Here’s how Edwards described the scene…

    MP3 file 200k

    “… There below, on glasslike water, water strewn with wreckage and oil, is the Andrea Doria, listing at a 45-degree angle and taking water by the minute . . . the ugly gash in her side covered by the Atlantic. . . . Her three swimming pools are empty of water, emptied the hard way, spilled into the ocean. . . . A few minutes past ten o’clock . . . the ship’s list is 50 degrees. Her funnels are taking water . . . the boiling green foam increasing. . . . The Andrea Doria is sinking gracefully below the smooth Atlantic—a terrible sight to see. Our Navy commander has tears in his eyes. Nobody feels anything but an awful helplessness. There is one thing to be thankful for: the loss of life as not nearly, not nearly as great as it might have been. 10:09 it’s all over, the Andrea Doria is gone.”

    That was television news as it was meant to be.

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