Above: Charles Baskerville painted portraits of the wealthy and documented the Jazz Age in his drawings for the New Yorker Magazine, but the tropical murals in the America’s First Class lounge were the sort of work he enjoyed most.
(Sandy McLendon) Image from the Mariners’ Museum Collection
The first all-women design team to decorate an ocean liner Dorothy Marckwald and Anne Urquhart look out at us with a confident knowing smile. They created a ship that was uniquely American in style and spirit.
When the Marckwald/Urquhart team designed the America they stayed clear of the opulent ArtDeco style found on the Normandie. They also avoided the confusing mixture of French provincial, Elizabethan, Georgian, and pseudo-hunting lodge – Wild West interiors found on the Manhattan and Washington.
“For the America”, said Marckwald, “it was decided that this latest of our passenger ships should distinctly and completely represent our own personality; therefore, a simple, comfortable American style was determined upon.” “Simple” meant comfortable yet elegant. For “American style”, she chose contemporary art and “Hollywood Modern” interiors. The cream-colored walls, recessed lighting, and black linoleum floors with white inlaid swirls shared a similarity with the slick stage sets of a Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire film. The ship was a hit with the traveling public and continued to have a loyal following well into the 1970s