Learn about Life in the 1920s

1927 Description of the new French Ocean Liner Ile de France

"ALL THINGS TO ALL MEN" might be a fitting motto for the new French liner, which has just been welcomed to New York on her maiden voyage from Havre; for every phase of worldly and unworldly inclination seems to have been provided for in the huge steamship's design.

Crossing the pond in her sumptuous precincts, the art lover may find a wealth of study in the realm of modern decoration, the devotee may seek contemplation in an exquisite and duly consecrated chapel, two decks in height, with organ and all complete; the boulevardier may sun himself in a sea-going cafe of the Parisian sidewalk type, the casual traveler may experiment in endless gymnastic and recreational novelties, and the children may ride on a merry-go-round. As an example of the "colossal luxury "of the vessel's appointments, we are told that in the center of the dining-room, which seats 600 persons, "there is a fountain of round gold and silver pipes, with a center silver light. Mural paintings by noted French artists cover the walls. The approach to the tea-room on the upper deck is by two wrought-iron gates. The walls have 398 panels set in silver frames." Myron T. Herrick, United States Ambassador to France, who was not the least distinguished of the new liner's passengers, remarked, after describing the happy international influence of Lindbergh's flight to Paris, that the arrival in New York of the Ile de France was in the nature of a return visit to that of the Spirit of St. Louis, and that those two maiden voyages were "strengthening the bonds of friendship between the two great republics." Here is the New York World's account of the liner's arrival, with a description of her main features:


Breaking the record for steamers of the Compagnie Transatlantique, the new French liner Ile de France arrived here yesterday on the first half of her maiden voyage, having taken five days and eight hours to cross from Plymouth, England, to Ambrose Lightship.
A three-funnel ship, with the black band and red funnel markings of the French Line, she resembles the Paris, except for a slight increase in size. Her 41,000 tons make her the sixth largest ship in the world, with a length of 791 feet and a beam of 84 feet, with engines of 52,000 horse-power, capable of developing a speed of 24.5 knots.
The Ile de France represents the crowning achievement of M. Dal Piaz, president of the French Line, who stated upon his arrival aboard the liner that while the ship is not the largest in the world, it was his plan to have it years in advance of all others in beauty, comfort, and harmony of interior fittings.
With many new features designed for passenger accommodations, its greatest novelty is the decorative scheme—entirely in "modern art" style. Nearly $10,000,000 went into the ship's construction at the French shipyard of Penhoet, much of which was poured into the lavish interior decorations.
Deciding on the newest school of decoration, the execution of the plan was placed entirely in the hands of the foremost modernists in the art and decoration in France. Using thirty-six kinds of wood, a subtle and lavish harmony of color has been produced from the natural shades of these woods.
With a radical departure from the usual lighting effects, the entire ship is illuminated in public rooms and cabins with an indirect system of lighting. Throughout the vessel—on darkest days and nights—an effect of warm sunshine has been produced.
The grand salon is done in lacquer and gold. Around its walls are forty columns, each sixteen feet high, surrounding a dance floor of a thousand square feet. In this room are four statues, nine feet tall, in gold, representing the four rivers Seine, Marne, Oise, and Aisne, the boundaries of the Ile de France, the original feudal domain of the Kings of France, from which the liner takes her name.
The dining-room, the largest on any ship in the world, is decorated in three harmonizing shades of gray marble. Luminous stripes of gold again present the effect of a warm, bright sun, altho the room is several decks below.

Other unusual features of the Ile de France are dealt with by the New York Herald Tribune, thus:

At the forward end of the Salon de The and at the head of the grand staircase is a magnificent hand-wrought iron railing by the famous Subes. Bright red columns and red lacquer doors lend their brilliance to the sparkling richness of this room. The window draperies are true works of art from Rodier. A gorgeous tapestry by Dupin occupies the aft panel. In the center of the tea-room is a decorative group of carved goldenoak mounted on a marble pedestal, the work of Janniot. Pierre Patou is responsible for the decoration of the grand dining salon, which is the largest ever built on a liner.
Other features include a replica of a bit of the Rue de la Paix, where a dozen of smart French fashion shops have been allotted space on B deck in the grand foyer, which is no less than four decks in height.
A garage capable of housing sixty automobiles, the largest ever to be built aboard a steamship, is another of the many features of the Ile de France.
It is pointed out by French Line officials that the building of such a palatial vessel marks an epoch in French industrial and maritime history that has stirred the nation.

Private dining-rooms are another innovation offered by the Ile de France. We quote a description furnished by the French Line:

While the great size and gorgeous splendor of the grand dining salon are beyond all comparison, there are times aboard ship when, to celebrate a birthday or other anniversary—or for a business dinner, perhaps a group of passengers desire more intimate privacy than the big salon affords.
For just such occasions, four private dining-rooms have been installed, immediately forward of the grand dining salon. Of these four, two will comfortably accommodate eight diners each; the other two have accommodations for six diners each. The French Line has intrusted the decoration of these four rooms to the younger artistic generation of France; to the pupils of the Boule School, in fact, who, under the direction of their professors, are responsible for their complete design, down to the minutest detail.
The idea has been that these dining-rooms should have the "at home" atmosphere of cozy comfort—and the aim has been realized.
One of them has a piano, which will enable musical artists who desire a comfortable and quiet corner in which to rehearse or work, to find just that.
Again, the children have been remembered, and their own private dining-room has been installed, following the long-established custom aboard French Line steamers.
This big, bright room, where the little passengers take their specially prepared meals under the watchful eye of mother or nurse, is gaily decorated with stenciled fairy-tale characters and colorful paintings depicting scenes from stories dear to childish hearts.

The command of the new liner, we learn from The Herald Tribune, has been given to Capt. Joseph Blancart, commodore of the French Line fleet, who entered the company's employ in 1898, at the age of twenty- one, as a midshipman. Of Captain Blancart's career we read:

He has seen service in sail. In 1909 he was made captain. During the war, while in command of the line's Niagara, he transported to France some of the first units of the A. E. F., and in 1917 was made a Knight of the Legion of Honor. His last command was the Paris, which has been supplanted as the flagship by the Ile de France.
Captain Blancart is bringing with him to the Ile de France the Paris's former chief engineer, Lanne, and purser, Henry Villar.
Besides being an important addition to the French Line's fleet because of her size and splendor, the Ile de France will round out the company's express ship service, affording, with the Paris and France, a sailing a week. In this way the line will be able to match the schedules of the Cunard and White Star Lines.

Source: "The Literary Digest" July 16, 1927