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Lusitania Deck Chair

Lusitania Deck Chair

Above: Front of the Specimen Card

Briefly the world’s largest ship, the luxurious R.M.S. Lusitania was also one of the fastest ships of its era. On May 1st, 1915, the Lusitania departed from New York on a voyage to Liverpool with 1,959 passengers aboard. The cargo hold of the Lusitania held passengers as well: 4.2 million rifle rounds, 1,250 shrapnel shell cases, and 18 fuse cases, all destined for the battlefields of the Great War. Though the Royal Navy had promised to escort the Lusitania for part of the journey, the escort never appeared.

This specimen is an oak deck chair that once graced the decks of the R.M.S. Lusitania. The chair was among the untold tonnes of flotsam and hundreds of bodies that washed ashore in Cobh, Ireland (known as Queenstown at the time) and was held on public display for decades. It was acquired at auction from Christie’s London office in late 2016.

Above: The Lusitania Deck Chair in repose.

Lusitania Specimen Sizes:

  • Riker Box Specimen - This specimen is a complete cross-section of a supporting cross-member from the Lusitania Deck Chair. The item is housed in a glass-topped riker display box measuring 4x3x1 (inches). A small information card will accompany the specimen, which also serves as the certificate of authenticity. The size of the supporting cross-members varies widely. The size pictured here is roughly 2 cm x 2 cm.
  • Showcase Specimens - Priced and sold individually, these larger segments are remnants of the disassembly process for this specimen. Each piece will include an individual certificate of authenticity.

About the Lusitania

"The best joke I've heard in many days, this talk of torpedoing."  ~ William Turner, Captain of the Lusitania

Above: Lusitania (1907), by Norman Wilkinson.

When the First World War erupted in 1914, the Lusitania became caught up in naval warfare between the British and German empires. The British Royal Navy blockaded the German coastline, preventing its adversary from shipping in key supplies. Not only did this make it harder for the German military to obtain arms, but it threatened the German people with starvation. In response, German submarines, or U-boats, began torpedoing British ships. While they initially only attacked naval vessels, the U-boats began targeting merchant ships in 1915. They argued that because Britain used such ships to transport weapons and munitions, they were not truly civilian targets, making them fair game for naval attacks.

Above: Imperial German Embassy newspaper warning to prospective passengers.

Despite this threat, the Lusitania continued to operate across the Atlantic Ocean. In the spring of 1915, Germany’s embassy in the United States published warnings in several American newspapers, advising Americans against traveling to Europe.

On May 1st, 1915, the Lusitania departed from New York on a voyage to Liverpool with 1,959 passengers aboard. The cargo hold of the Lusitania held passengers as well: 4.2 million rifle rounds, 1,250 shrapnel shell cases, and 18 fuse cases, all destined for the battlefields of the Great War. Though the Royal Navy had promised to escort the Lusitania for part of the journey, the escort never appeared.

The Lusitania entered Irish waters on May 7th, slowing so it could navigate the foggy weather. A nearby German U-boat took advantage of this situation, torpedoing the ship twice and causing the hull to explode. 1,198 passengers drowned, including 128 American citizens, a fact which enraged the American public and later served as a catalyst for U.S. President Woodrow Wilson’s push to enter the war.


Built from 1904 to 1906, the RMS Lusitania was briefly the world’s largest ship, until it was overtaken by its sister ship, the Mauretania. The ship was named after the ancient Roman province of Lusitania, which included all of modern Portugal. While Lusitania was considered a civilian vessel, its construction was financed by the British government with the understanding that the ship could be converted to an “armed merchant cruiser”.

Further Reading

Larson, Erik. Dead Wake: The Last Crossing of the Lusitania. Broadway Books, 2015.

Martin, Michael. “RMS Lusitania: It Wasn’t & It Didn’t.” The History Press, Dublin (2014).

Sauder, Eric. “RMS Lusitania: The Ship and Her Record.” History Press Limited, Stroud (2009).

Stavridis, James. “Sea Power: The History and Geopolitics of the World’s Oceans.” Penguin Press, New York (2017).

Above: Back of the Specimen Card.

 

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