Named not in hubris but in honor and memory of Austin M. Wright, who taught me critical thinking, and his teacher, Wayne Booth, who coined the phrase.

Friday, September 7, 2012

The Zionist Mayflower, Part X: Were your Relatives on the SS President Arthur?

Exactly who was on the three voyages of the SS President Arthur is of most interest to genealogists exploring their families' histories.  In 1925, the U.S. did not maintain lists of travelers departing the U.S., but a partial and not-totally-reliable list can be cobbled together from a number of sources.
The New York Times of March 12, 1925 (page 22), names 322 passengers, although a subhead on the article is “500 to sail this morning.” My great-grandfather, Jacob Drapekin, is not listed; he was a second-class passenger, and it is possible that the Times included only first-class passengers. Others not listed were officials of the American-Palestine Line, such as Philip Wattenberg, his wife and his daughter.

The Central Zionist Archives in Jerusalem has arrival lists, but there are some shortcomings.  One is that they do not list where the passenger boarded the ship.  Because the SS President Arthur stopped at Naples en route to Haifa, one cannot determine if a passenger embarked from New York or Naples.

A Central Zionist Archives list with 184 names and ages of people arriving in Palestine on March 31, 1925, includes some who had not been on the Times list (the Wattenberg family).  It is typed in Hebrew and it is legible.  Contact and request ISA1/15489/2.

A Central Zionist Archives list with 167 names and ages of people arriving in Palestine on May 31, 1925, the second voyage of the SS President Arthur, is also in Hebrew and typed. It is called a “List of Immigrants” (Olim), but clearly not all are immigrants; many names can be found on either the U.S. manifests of returning passengers on the SS President Arthur or other ships.  This list (S104/560) was mistakenly referred to as the “Prince Arthur” by the archivist and wrongly dated 1924.  Go there if you can, but if you cannot, be persistent!  I suspect other pages have been misfiled.

Similarly incomplete and inaccurate are the manifests of citizens returning to the U.S. on the President Arthur on May 8, 1925; July 14, 1925; and September 18, 1925 (all microfilmed and on-line at  The on-line manifest of July 14 includes the same page copied nine times.  Unfortunately I learned from a query to the National Archives that the original manifests were destroyed after being microfilmed many years ago.

The Mariners' Museum Library at Christopher Newport University, Newport News, VA, has brochures, charts, and other materials relating to the SS President Arthur at the time it was owned by the American Palestine Line.  They are from the collection of Lt. Col. Richard Newman, USA. Information about all of the library's rich holding are online.  

Happy hunting!

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