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Empire State I Records, 1927-1979

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: CA-RG1-0003

Scope and Contents

The Empire State I was used by the New York State Merchant Marine Academy (now SUNY Maritime College) as its training ship from 1931 until 1941. The ship was used to train young men for careers in the Merchant Marines and the Naval Reserves. Materials in this collection include documents regarding the acquisition of the Empire State, materials recounting of the Empire State’s rescue of a Spanish fishing boat as well as films, transparencies and students notebooks donated by Frederick E. Bidgood. This collection also contains administrative documents, cruise itineraries, correspondence, news articles and various Alumni Association materials.


  • Majority of material found within 1927 - 1940


Language of Materials

Materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

Appointments to examine materials must be made in advance. Please e-mail for more information or to schedule an appointment.

Conditions Governing Use

Reproductions may be provided to users to support research and scholarship. However, collection use is subject to all copyright laws. The responsibility to secure copyright permission rests with the patron.

Historical Note

The U.S.S. Empire State replaced the U.S.S. Newport as the training ship for the New York State Merchant Marine Academy (now SUNY Maritime College) on September 21, 1931. The Superintendent at the time, Captain James H. Tomb, made the case that the Newport was inadequate due to its size and by arguing that the cadets no longer needed training on the use of sail and would be better served focusing their studies on steam engines and the business of shipping. New York State Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt agreed and urged the Navy to find a more suitable training ship for the academy. At first the Navy was hesitant to donate a ship to a state run academy but Governor Roosevelt suggested amending the school’s policy to allow admission to out of state students who would be required to pay for boarding. This satisfied the Navy and they donated the U.S.S. Procyon a cargo ship built in 1919 that was larger than the Newport and entirely powered by steam. The ship’s name was changed to the Empire State on the suggestion of Governor Roosevelt and it served as the school’s training ship until the United States joined World War II in 1941. At that time control of the ship was turned over to the Maritime Commission and the ship’s name was changed to the American Pilot.

When the United States entered World War II, the government needed Merchant Mariners to sail on their merchant fleet and supply the troops. The training at the newly renamed New York State Maritime Academy was accelerated to meet the demand of sailors that the war needed. Due to a shortage of ships during World War II the American Pilot had to serve as training ship for the New York, Maine and Massachusetts Maritime academies. The ship was also confined to Long Island Sound due to the risk of German U-Boats in the waters off the east coast of the United States. At the end of World War II the American Pilot (formerly the Empire State) was given to the Massachusetts Maritime Academy for use as its training ship and the name was changed to the Bay State II. In 1946 the New York State Maritime Academy acquired the U.S.S. Hydrus for use as its training ship and its name was changed to the T.S.Empire State II. In 1948 the former Empire State was sold for scrap to American Shipbreakers Inc.

School Name Time Line

1873 – 1913: New York Nautical School
1913 – 1929: New York State Nautical School
1929 – 1941: New York State Merchant Marine Academy
1941 – 1949: New York State Maritime Academy
1949 – present: State University of New York Maritime College


1.7 Linear Feet (2 standard archival document boxes and 1 clamshell archival box.)

Arrangement of Materials

Materials are arranged in alphabetical order by subject/topic. If several files contain materials on the same subject these files are then arranged chronologically.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

These materials were collected from various sources over the years, including faculty, staff, and alumni. Unfortunately, deeds of gift or transfer documentation has not been located for most of the items. Reproductions were also obtained by the librarian from other institutions and interspersed with original documents. See Processing Information for additional context.

Related Materials

Empire State I Logbooks, 1931-1941 Identifier: CA-RG1-0005

SUNY Maritime College Photograph Collection, circa 1874-1999 Identifier: CA-RG14-0001


Williams, Joseph A. (2013). Four years before the mast: A history of New York's maritime college. Bronx, NY: Fort Schuyler Press.

Processing Information

In 1974, in conjunction with the college’s centennial, Carol Finerman, a graduate student in the Palmer School of Library Science, was hired to organize the Maritime College archives held at the Luce Library. According to a report by Finerman, “all the items that accumulated came in separately; none were deposited as a series of records from the offices of origin.” This is not necessarily surprising given that the school did not have a land base until Fort Schuyler was dedicated in 1938, or a professional librarian on staff until 1946.

From the late 1940s through the 1970s, librarians such as Terrance Hoveter, Filomena Magavero, and Richard Corson actively solicited alumni, faculty, and staff for materials documenting the school’s early history. However, these materials remained largely unorganized until 1974, when Finerman was hired.

Because the provenance of much of the material was unclear, and the records had not been transferred from administrative units, Finerman elected to create an alphanumeric classification scheme for the collection. Within this scheme, the records pertaining to the Empire State I schoolship were organized under the letter H. Container lists for these records were part of an Institutional Records inventory that eventually ballooned into a 300 page+ word document.

In 2017 the library embarked on a project to bring the college archives into the 21st century, creating a new organizational scheme and finding aids for the records in ArchivesSpace. As part of this project, the archivist re-processed the Empire State I records, rehousing the materials for preservation and bringing intellectual clarity to the arrangement. Given that the provenance and original order of the materials had already been disrupted, the archivist imposed her own arrangement based on the content of the items. Proper archival description, in adherence with Describing Archives: A Content Standard (DACS), was also created for the first time.

Some items were obtained from other institutions as part of efforts by the early librarians to document the school's history, and mixed in with the original documents. During re-processing, the archivist elected to leave reproductions in folders, as separating them would have been a tricky and time consuming process.


This project was made possible in part by a generous grant from the Documentary Heritage Program of the New York State Archives, a program of the State Education Department. The collection was processed by Project Archivist Jannette D'Esposito under the supervision of Archivist Annie Tummino.

Empire State I Records, 1927-1979
Jannette L. D'Esposito
November 2017
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script

Repository Details

Part of the Stephen B. Luce Library Repository

6 Pennyfield Avenue
Bronx NY 10465 United States
(718) 409-7231