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It came to my attention in building this site over recent years, that a book had been written in France which referred to La Touraine quite extensively.

The book is entitled 'En Transatlantique', was written by H. Lacapelle & published by Charavay, Mantoux, Martin (Librarie d'Education de La Jeunesse) of 14, Rue de L'Abbaye, 14, Paris. 159 pages of about 8 3/4 by 5 1/2 inches. I cannot tell you when it was published, since my copy of the book does not contain a publication date. It was, however, somewhat after 1890 when La Touraine was launched. It might be possible to deduce the year of publication from the references to other liners, including references to City of Paris, City of New York, America, Alaska, Umbria and Etruria, & also to many of the other vessels then owned by Compagnie Générale Transatlantique. The Oregon would seem to have been the ocean greyhound at that time, if my understanding of the French text is good.

My hope in purchasing the book was that it might contain a few engravings of La Touraine, suitable for inclusion on this site. And indeed it does. Some of the engravings are quite obscure, to the webmaster at least. So I have ignored those & present only the most interesting here. The first such image, of La Touraine, of course, is at left. Somewhat enlarged. The original is 3 1/4 x 4 1/4 inches in size.

A somewhat damaged copy of the book was sold in Dec. 2005 via e-Bay for EUR 6 or approximately U.S. $7.11. Another copy was sold in Feb. 2006 for EUR 12.82 or approximately U.S. $15.26.

The book is a simple story of a voyage of the author & his two children from Le Havre to New York. They travelled westwards on La Touraine & returned later on the Champagne. The children would seem to have been befriended by the Captain, & so details of the vessel are provided.

All of the image captions are in fact in capital or block letters, which I have made lower case below for ease of reading. 'Poyet' seems to be the artist or engraver, a familiar signature & featured on an earlier La Touraine page.

The first image that I provide is entitled 'Le palier d'entree du hall et le double escalier'. Which I believe, translated into English means: 'The lobby landing and the double staircase'. How ornate!

And the second and next image is entitled 'La claire-voie du salon de conversation et de musique'. 'Claire-voie' means 'open lattice' or 'open work'. So the caption probably means something like: 'The conversation and music room with its natural lighting'. Can anybody improve on that webmaster attempt at a translation?

Now while the image below does show what seems to be a 'well' with natural lighting from above, to me the greatest visual impact in the image is provided by the electric lighting. We forget that electric lighting is relatively new, such that the H. Lacapelle volume of the 1890s has no less than 14 1/4 pages on the then 'novelty' of electric lighting. He tells us that La Touraine had 872 incandescent lamps aboard specifically 300 lamps of 16 'bougies' & 572 lamps of 10 'bougies'. A 'bougie'? That I must yet figure out definitively. The word means a 'candle' so it may mean one candlepower. Here I provide a little of the most interesting text both in its original French and with an attempted translation into English. Electric lighting was so new that the author had to explain how one switches the lights on through using a simple light switch!


  La Touraine, je l'ai dit, est éclairée à l'électricité. Point de lampe à huile répandant une odeur nauséabonde, prédisposant au mal de mer. En Manœuvrant un simple bouton, le passager peut faire à volonté la lumière ou l'obscurité dans sa cabine, sans sortir de sa couchette, pendant toute la nuit. De plus, l'illumination de tous les locaux communs du navire s'obtient d'un seul coup, sans transport de flammes, sans aucun danger d'incendie.

Les besoins d'éclairage, nous explique le capitaine, ne sont pas les mêmes dans toutes les parties du navire ; aussi a-t-on eu recours à la division suivante en trois catégories bien distinctes :

L'éclairage permanent. - Il est réservé aux locaux où la lumière du jour ne pénètre pas du tout ou ne pénètre qu'insuffisamment, comme les compartiments des machines et des chaudières, les cales, les cabines intérieures.

L'éclairage de soirée et de nuit. - Il comprend les lampes nécessaires pour assurer, a tout moment de la soirée et de la nuit, la lumière indispensable a la libre circulation des passagers dans les salons, fumoirs, couloirs, et dans leurs cabines.

L'éclairage de soirée. - Il complète l'éclairage de soirée et de la nuit, et fournit aux passagers, depuis le coucher du soleil jusqu'à minuit, un surcroît de lumière partout où ils vivent et circulent en commun.

  Pour qu'une avarie survenue à un fil conducteur ne cause par l'extinction d'un trop grand nombre de lampes à la fois, la lumière électrique est distribuée par un nombreuse canalisation. Il y a, à bord de la Touraine :
  300 lampes incandescentes de 16 bougies ;
  572 lampes incandescentes de 10 bougies ;

Soit, en tout, 872 lampes, donnant ensemble une intensité lumineuse égale à celle que produiraient 10,520 bougies.


  The Touraine, as I have said, is lit by electricity. No oil lamps giving out a sickening odour, possibly causing sea sickness. By flicking a simple switch, a passenger can light up his cabin or plunge it into darkness without leaving his berth, all night long. And the common areas of the ship can all be lit up by a single switch, without the use of an open flame and with no danger of causing a fire.

The lighting needs, the captain explains, are not the same in all the areas of the vessel ; the needs can be divided into three separate categories :

The permanent lighting. - Reserved for those areas which receive no daylight or insufficient daylight, such as the machine and boiler rooms, the holds and the internal cabins.

The evening and nighttime lighting. - The lighting necessary to permit passengers to use the parlours, smoking rooms, passageways and cabins through the evening and nighttime hours.

The evening lighting. - Additional lighting to permit the passengers to enjoy their cabins and the common areas, from sunset to midnight.

  In order to avoid many lamps failing at the same time, the electrical power is distributed throughout the vessel by many cables.

There are, on board Touraine :
  300 incandescent lamps of 16 candlepower ;
  572 incandescent lamps of 10 candlepower ;

So all of the 872 lamps, combined, provide an intensity of light equal to 10,520 candles.

And this one is entitled 'Cabine de luxe', which clearly means a first class or luxury cabin.

The dining room. The French text reads as follows: 'La salle a manger, les longues tables du milieu et les petites tables de famille a babord et a tribord'. Which means, I believe: 'The dining room, the long tables in the middle and the small family tables on port and starboard sides.


It would be wonderful to be able to present here, both bigger & in all of its glorious detail, the print which follows. It was published on Feb. 20, 1892 as a removable black & white plate in 'American Architect and Building News', which publication would seem to be rare & valuable indeed today. It is of course of La Touraine, a relatively new vessel at the time having been launched on Mar. 23, 1890. At the time, I read, the sixth largest ship ever built in the world after Great Eastern, City of Paris, City of New York, Majestic & Teutonic. A well regarded and popular vessel with travellers being both fast & steady at sea.

There were in fact two La Touraine prints published by 'American Architect and Building News'. The first (not illustrated here) was published on Dec. 26, 1891. Both were of either 13 x 17 1/2 inches in size or maybe 12 x 15 1/4 inches (not sure exactly which) on a page which was 16 1/2 x 19 inches in size. So very large prints indeed. They would have had a centre-fold when published but were blank on the rear.

The e-Bay listing for the image at left below (the item was sold for U.S. $95.00 in Jan. 2006) describes the print as being a 'beautifully detailed hand-coloured steel engraving. Entitled 'LA TOURAINE' 'PAQUEBOT POSTE A GRANDE VITESSE DE LA CIE. GLE. TRANSATLANTIQUE'. With 'HAND-COLORED' 'Krieger B. d'apres nature del ... et sculpt. Paris, 1891' at the bottom. Recording the record-breaking passage of the packet-boat La Touraine sailing between Le Havre & New York, with three beautiful views of the boat's lavish interiors. 

The interior images are in fact somewhat familiar. The image at bottom right is essentially the same image that appears immediately above, while the image at top left is essentially the image that appears at the very top of this page. The version of the print at right is from a long expired e-Bay listing to show you the print as it was published in its original black and white.

Perhaps someday a kind site visitor will provide, for presentation on this page, a large quality image of the print.

On the first La Touraine page, I was able to feature a fine postcard of La Touraine provided by Hans R. Wüthrich of Elsau, Switzerland. The postcard had been posted in 1906 by Hans's grandfather, Karl Götz, then 21 years old, before he & his aunt departed Le Havre on May 5, 1906 bound for New York aboard La Touraine.

Hans has additionally provided two related documents both of which I think you will find to be most interesting.

The first is the front page of Karl Götz's travel contract with 'Zwilchenbart', the Emigration Agency in Basel, Switzerland, re 3rd Class travel by rail to Le Havre & a 2nd Class passage to New York aboard La Touraine.

The second is the May 14, 1906 advice of 'Zwilchenbart' to Karl's family in Switzerland of the safe arrival of La Touraine in New York, the text translating as 'Shipsnews, cable-telegram – The French Fast Mail steamer “La Touraine”, having left Le Havre on May 5, safely arrived on May 12 at 8 p.m.. Duration of journey: 7 days and one hour. – Faithfully, Zwilchenbart'.

In a description of his journey, Karl mentioned that the cabins on La Touraine had 'street' addresses. His was No. 179, Rue de Machines (of four bunks only three of which were occupied) & his aunt’s was No. 207 Rue de Londre, a two bunk cabin which she occupied by herself. So while he wrote about large numbers of emigrants on the voyage, at least in 2nd class they were not overbooked. I have not read before that the cabins were individually so addressed.

Hans, we thank you!

Maybe you can provide additional images? Or data?

This page will, hopefully, track data about the La Touraine as it comes to hand. And hopefully data as it specifically relates to the Volturno tragedy.

If any visitor can clarify (or correct) or provide more information about any of these matters, I would truly welcome their help.

May I suggest that you navigate the site via the index on page 01. PRIOR PAGE / NEXT PAGE

The other La Touraine pages are numbered 80, 81, 82 & 84.

To the Special Pages Index.

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