This waterline model of Queen Mary is built in the tradition of what were called “Studio Models” in the middle decades of the 20th century. They were designed to attract potential North Atlantic travelers and displayed in the windows of upscale travel agencies. In the late 50s, air travel had advanced to the ability to fly from New York to Europe in 11 hours or so. Before this time, ocean liners were literally “The Only Way to Go.” The Queen Mary was made a dinosaur nearly overnight by advances in technology gained during World War II and only dreamed of at the time of her maiden voyage in 1936. Not only was it cheaper to fly, but reaching the opposite ends of the Atlantic in hours rather than days was very much embraced by the traveling public. The jets spelled the end for great liners like Queen Mary. Cunard White Star tried to utilize her majesty as a cruise ship but she was so large, she couldn’t fit into the smaller ports. She was built for the North Atlantic to transport huge numbers of passengers at magnificent speed in unparalleled luxury. She was retired in 1967 and sailed on her last voyage to Long Beach, CA to be turned into a museum and hotel.
Nearly 6 feet long, one can see in the photographs that the studio models were quite impressive. Mine was built by Ered Mathews and it is quite detailed and built using original building plans. The specially-built table it rests upon is 32 inches tall, 18 inches wide, and 72 inches long. My collection is taking up more and more room in my house and I hope to one day live in a large house with a room specifically built for Queen Mary memorabilia with this table and model in the center with ceiling floodlights shedding light upon it. I have a 10 year-old nephew who informed me upon seeing it that all he wants from my estate when I die is this model!
The photographs above capture a few unusual items of memorabilia from Queen Mary. From her maiden voyage to the early 60s, souvenirs with exotic, incandescent butterfly wings were used in photos, ashtrays, and jewelry. As can be seen, these souvenirs have withstood the decades and remained primarily blue but many have faded to brown or, worse, turned to dust and simply discarded. My collection includes a framed example, a ring still in its case, a brooch, an ashtray, a tieback, and cufflinks. In today’s politically correct society, Cunard White Star would have outraged many by killing butterflies to display their wings as a background for hand-painted vignettes of the ship. But these souvenirs were quite popular in the middle of the last century and, fortunately, many have remained incredibly preserved, serving as a herald to a bygone era of ocean travel aboard the most successful, popular liner of all time.
This scale model of Queen Mary is over 3 feet long and built from metal, wire, plastic, and pewter. It is one of only a few ever built in the world by a company called Maritime Replicas. Since only a few were built, it cost approximately $3,800.00. But the model is worth it due to its rarity, craftsmanship, and extraordinary scale. The photos do not do it justice. Presently, I have an extremely rare, perhaps one of a kind, waterline model which is 5 1/2 foot long being refurbished. It was used as a travel agency display in the 30s, 40s, and 50s in New York. It will be necessary to send this particular model freight. I will have a table built to accomodate it and place it behind my living room sofa which is, thankfully, an inch longer so that the display will not be wider. I am anxious to receive it and builder/refurbisher Ered Matthew of CabinClass.com states that it is the finest waterline model of a ship he has ever encountered.
I use the 3 foot long model for school and library presentations, most recently the “Read Aloud Day” at Eldorado Elementary for a fifth-grade class. Students are read period pieces concerning the building of the ship, the launch, the maiden voyage, and the present day existence of her majesty as a hotel, tourist attraction, and museum. By the fifth grade, most students are capable of imagining a ship as long as the Empire State Building is tall lying on its side in the water. As students a row at a time stand and inspect the model, awe and wonder always ensue and the questions last for a considerable time.
The chessboard pictured above was purchased approximately 5 years ago from a dealer in England. As I recall, it cost $450.00 and since I had only seen one other in all the years I have collected Queen Mary memorabilia, I snatched it up. This past week, I was contacted by another dealer in California with an example identical to this one who asked $2,500.00. He is a friend who graciously gives me first dibs on Queen Mary pieces he comes across and when I explained that I already had one but thanked him, he was uncertain as whether to list it on Ebay or contact other collectors first. He called this morning and excitedly told me he had sold it to a collector who offered $3,000.00 not to list it on Ebay. I have long been advised that my Queen Mary collection was an investment that would only increase in value as the years went by. Indeed, judging by the transaction of the chessboard, I may need to have my collection appraised and buy an insurance policy!
The chessboard has individually cut squares of walnut and other woods I am not familiar with and stained in light oak and dark mahogany. It is quite heavy to prevent movement in heavy seas and as far as I know, was used exclusively on Queen Mary in the First Class Lounge.