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Cunard White Star Line, RMS Queen Mary, Maiden Voyage souvenirs, May 1936.

by Jonathan Quayle |

It was May 1936, after years of delay, a rebirth from the ashes of the great depression, Cunard White Star finally introduced the world to its new ship of state, the RMS 'Queen Mary'. It was the event of the year, anyone who was anyone wanted to be onboard that first voyage, from all walks of life, up and down the country, everyone wanted a piece of what the King himself would call, 'The stateliest ship'.

A myriad of souvenirs were produced to mark the introduction into service of the new mighty liner. Hundreds of companies across the British Empire celebrated the event by producing countless articles that ranged from the sublime to the ridiculous. Glass candy bottles in the shape of the ship filled with sweet treats, felt beret's with the profile of the ship on the top, countless medallions and coins, models of the ship in chocolate, the list was endless, such was the pride of the nation hailing the ship that pulled the country from the depths of the Great Depression, it was a period of great understandable  celebration.

Highly prized and rare fine bone china plate, transfer print with hand coloured cellulose paint. Produced by the famous english firm 'Minton' in 1936 to mark the ships entrance into service. Minton 30 years previously had also produced similar plates for the sister ships "Lusitania" & "Mauretania". These plates were exclusive to the ship and purchased onboard. Very few perfect examples survive, this being in near mint condition.

All of those articles that survive today from that great event are still highly prized and valuable, but perhaps the best of these are the items that Cunard White Star produced or commissioned themselves to mark the occasion to be sold or given out on the day. Again the list of articles produced as 'official' souvenirs was endless. Some of the more memorable items to find might be a set of 6 solid silver spoons produced by an esteemed Southampton jeweller to be brought back home as a present for mother or a loved one.

Or for the gentleman what better than an especially created Cuban cigar sold in the ships very own tobacconist, and why not get an ash tray issued by the company who manufactured her four propellers to catch the ash from that cigar, modelled as one of those props, the blades even turn!

But perhaps the rarest of souvenirs are the more humble articles that on the whole even at the time would be overlooked and thrown away. One such item is an invitation we purchased recently. Issued by the International Marine Radio Company Ltd, the firm responsible for the ship to shore communications of the passengers, it was issued to members of the press, in this case the Belfast Telegraph. It entitled the user communications and telegrams from ship to shore during the great voyage, to be handed in upon completion, not many can have survived. 


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