Title: S.S. Majestic, outward bound, clearing the dock
Photographer: Detroit Publishing Company
A product of Harland and Wolff, the Majestic was launched on 29 June 1889. The ship spent the next nine months being fitted out for delivery to White Star in March, 1890. White Star had sought to fund the construction of the Majestic and her sister ship Teutonic through the British government, a proposal which was accepted, with the stipulation that the Royal Navy would have access to the two liners in a time of war.
On 2 April 1890, she left for her six-day, ten-hour maiden voyage from Liverpool to New York. There was a strong desire in the White Star management to regain the coveted Blue Riband, the award for the fastest crossing of the Atlantic. The maiden voyage did not produce a time good enough to win the Blue Riband away from City of Paris, but on a west-bound voyage between 30 July and 5 August 1891, she achieved that goal, with an average speed of 20.1 knots. Unfortunately, the Majestic held the honour for a mere two weeks, as her sister ship, the Teutonic completed a crossing on 19 August with a speed of 20.35 knots (the City of Paris then won it back a year later).
In 1895, the Majestic was assigned a new captain, an up-and-coming officer named Edward Smith, later notable as the captain of the Titanic. Smith served as Majestic’s captain for nine years. When the Boer War started in 1899, Smith and the Majestic were called upon to transport troops to Cape Colony. Two trips were made to South Africa, one in December, 1899 and one in February, 1900, both without incident.
In 1902–1903, the ship underwent a refit, which included new boilers (and consequently taller twin funnels), after which she returned to the Liverpool-New York run. Smith left as captain in 1904 to take on the new Baltic, then the largest ship in the world. In 1905, the Majestic suffered a fire in her bunker, but the damage was not significant. In 1907, White Star’s main terminal was moved from Liverpool to Southampton and, on 26 June, the Majestic sailed from these new facilities for the first time.
When the Olympic entered service in 1911, Majestic’s sister Teutonic was removed from the New York run and put on Canadian service with the Dominion Line. Likewise when Titanic came on the scene in 1912 Majestic was retired from White Star’s New York service and designated as a reserve ship, biding her time at Birkenhead’s Bidston Dock. When the Titanic met her fate in April, 1912, Majestic was pressed back into service, filling the hole in the transatlantic schedule.
On 17 October 1913, she came to the rescue of the French schooner Garonne, which had wrecked. 14 January 1914 saw the Majestic leave for her last Atlantic crossing. Soon after, she was sold for £26,700 for scrap to the Thomas Ward yard at Morecambe. Before scrapping of the ship commenced the scrapping company opened the ship for public tours, and some of the still-beautiful interior panelling was saved and used in the offices of the Ward company.