Harvard I (schooner-rigged steamship)
Harvard, a college founded at Cambridge, Mass., in 1636, was named for John Harvard, a general benefactor. Opened in 1638, Harvard University now includes a large group of graduate and professional schools as well as the college and is one of the world's leading educational institutions.
The first Harvard, a schooner-rigged steamship was built in 1888 as City of New York by J. & G. Thompson, Clydebank, Scotland, for the Inman Line. Sister ship of City of Paris, City of New York was one of the largest and best liners of her day, and one of the first steamships with twin screws. She was transferred to American registry under the American Line in 1893 as New York. These ships brought the United States to the front rank in the Atlantic passenger trade, and New York established the record for the Southampton to New York crossing in September 1893. At the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, New York was chartered as an auxiliary cruiser with a civilian crew, commissioning 26 April 1898 at New York, Captain C. S. Cotton in command and renamed Harvard.
Assigned as a scout, Harvard departed New York 30 April to cruise West Indian waters in search of the Spanish fleet. After sending back several reports on the location of Spanish units in the Caribbean, Harvard was blockaded by a larger force at St. Pierre, Martinique, 11-17 May, after which she proceeded to Santiago de Cuba and St. Nicholas Mole, Haiti, with dispatches from Commodore Schley. Interrupting her scouting duties, Harvard returned to Newport News, Virginia, 7-26 June, during which time her crew was officially taken into the Naval Service.
Harvard returned to the Caribbean with troops and supplies, arriving at Altares, Cuba, about 1 July. The morning of 3 July she received the electrifying news that the Spanish fleet had sortied. After Rear Admiral Sampson's smashing victory off Santiago, she rescued survivors. Despite the high surf and ammunition explosions from the stricken Spanish ships, Harvard succeeded in recovering over 600 officers and men.
No longer needed as a scout in the Caribbean, Harvard was sent back to the United States 10 July 1898. She was temporarily turned over to the War Department, and returned to Santiago de Cuba to transport troops back to the United States. Harvard arrived at New York 27 August and decommissioned 2 September 1898 at New York Navy Yard.
Reverting to her old name, New York, the ship resumed transatlantic service with the American Line until World War I. During this period she underwent extensive conversion in 1903, when one of her three funnels was removed. Again needed in support of American forces abroad, New York was chartered by the Navy 9 May 1918 for use as a troop transport. She commissioned as Plattsburg 24 May 1918, Commander C. C. Bloch commanding.
Plattsburg made four voyages from New York to Liverpool transporting the AEF to Europe, and after the end of the war made a total of seven voyages, bringing home over 24,000 veterans. She returned to New York after her final crossing 29 August 1919, and was returned to her owners 6 October 1919.
As New York the ship once again plied the Atlantic with passengers, but she was no longer a first-class liner, and was withdrawn from service in 1920. Sold to the Polish Navigation Co., she made two more voyages, but the company was soon forced to close down and she was scrapped in 1923.
Harvard, a passenger ship built by Delaware River Shipbuilding Company in 1907, was acquired by the Navy from Pacific Steamship Co. in 1918. She served as Charles (q.v.). Renamed Harvard after her return to private owners in 1920, she served with the Los Angeles Steamship Co. until she was stranded and destroyed north of Point Arguello, Calif., 30 May 1931.