A Trip Across Time

"Today we come to the happy task of sending on her way the stateliest ship now in being. It has been the nation’s will that she should be completed, and today we can send her forth no longer a number on the books, but a ship with a name in the world, alive with beauty, energy and strength! May her life among great waters spread friendship among the nations!"

King George V on the Queen Mary launch

The Queen Mary’s creation and launch was nothing if not extraordinary and her story is rich with history, elegance and grandeur. From the time her construction began in 1930 in Clydebank, Scotland, the Queen Mary was destined to stand in a class all her own. Despite suffering economic setbacks during the Great Depression, which stalled construction on the ship for several years, Cunard Line spared no expense on building the Queen Mary – which was originally known as job #534.

The Legend Behind The Name

Legend has it that the board of directors at Cunard had decided to name the ship the Queen Victoria, which would have been in keeping with the tradition of Cunard ships having the "ia" suffix (Mauretania, Aquitania and Berengeria). As per protocol, legend states that the Cunard directors went to ask King George his blessing of the ship's proposed name saying, "We have decided to name our new ship after England's greatest Queen," meaning Queen Victoria, the King's Grandmother. Upon which the King is reported to have stated, "My wife (Queen Mary) will be delighted that you are naming the ship after her."

The Maiden Voyage Of The Queen Mary

On May 27, 1936, the Queen Mary departed from Southampton, England embarking on her maiden voyage. She boasted five dining areas and lounges, two cocktail bars and swimming pools, a grand ballroom, a squash court and even a small hospital. The Queen Mary had set a new benchmark in transatlantic travel, which the rich and famous considered as the only civilized way to travel. She quickly seized the hearts and imaginations of the public on both sides of the Atlantic, representing the spirit of an era known for its elegance, class and style.

Since her retirement from the sea as an active liner in 1967, the Queen Mary has never been more popular as an iconic Southern California attraction, hotel, and venue for special events. The ship carried some 2.2 million passengers in peacetime and 810,000 military personnel in the Second World War, but here in Long Beach, an estimated 50 million people have visited. The day the ship was launched in 1934, a well-known English psychic, Lady Mable Fortiscue-Harrison would predict, “The Queen Mary will know her greatest fame and popularity when she never sails another mile or carries another fare-paying passenger.” A compelling insight!

From The Height Of Luxury To WWII

For three years after her maiden voyage, the Queen Mary was the grandest ocean liner in the world carrying Hollywood celebrities like Bob Hope and Clark Gable, royalty like the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, and dignitaries like Winston Churchill. During this time she even set a new speed record, which she held for 14 years. But when the Queen Mary docked in New York in September 1939 that would be the last time she would carry civilian passengers for many years.

As World War II started, the Queen Mary's transformation into a troopship had begun. She was painted a camouflaged grey color and stripped of her luxurious amenities. Dubbed the "Grey Ghost" because of her stealth and stark color, the Queen Mary was the largest and fastest troopship to sail, capable of transporting as many as 16,000 troops at 30 knots. After the end of WWII, the Queen Mary began a 10-month retrofitting process, which would return the ship to her original glory. On July 21, 1947, the Queen Mary resumed regular passenger service across the Atlantic Ocean, and continued to do so for nearly two more decades.

The Last Great Cruise

The increasing popularity of air travel helped signal the end of an era for the Queen Mary. By 1965 the entire Cunard fleet was operating at a loss and they decided to retire and sell the legendary Queen Mary. On October 31, 1967, the Queen Mary departed on her final cruise, arriving in Long Beach, California, on December 9, 1967. She has called Southern California her home ever since. The Queen Mary is now a floating Hotel, Attraction and Event & Wedding Venue, home to three world-class restaurants and an icon in Southern California.

Learn the story of The Last Great Cruise of RMS Queen Mary

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Years of Glory

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Press Releases

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Press Release | March 24, 2023

Preserving A Historic Icon

On Sept. 26, 1934, at the John Brown & Company shipyard on the banks of the Clyde River in Scotland, Job Number 534, the largest ship the world had ever seen, slid down the launchways into the water as Queen Mary addressed the crowd, speaking into the microphone, "I am happy to name this ship the Queen Mary. I wish success to her and to all who sail her." One thousand and one transatlantic crossings later, the Queen Mary retired in Long Beach, arriving on Dec. 9, 1967. At exactly 12:07 p.m., John Treasure Jones, the Queen Mary's last sailing master, ordered "finished with the engines," signaling the end of one career and the beginning of another.

The Queen Mary lives on now as a full-service Long Beach hotel, historical landmark and entertainment venue, giving visitors a unique glimpse into a bygone era when steamships were the most regal way to travel.

We thank all of our guests for their continued support of this truly wonderful ship. Check out the information below to find out how you can help support the Queen Mary and take a look at some of the recently completed projects.

Email us at preservation@queenmary.com if you have specific questions.

A Trip Back In Time

The Queen Mary has a long and distinguished history and we invite you to explore her past. We strive to locate and maintain as many authentic historical documents as we can in hopes of carrying on the Queen Mary legend. Please peruse and discover the rich history of the Queen Mary.

If you have any authentic Queen Mary documents, lists or memorabilia that you would like to share with us, please email us at History@Queenmary.com or call us at 562-499-1791.

Keeping the Queen Mary’s history alive and preserving her past is of utmost importance.

The Queen Mary Art Deco Style

The Queen Mary features some of the grandest, most intricate and beautiful interior designs ever aboard an ocean liner. Influenced by the Art Deco movement of the 1920s and 30s, the interior design includes strong curves and geometric forms representing elegance, glamour, function and modernity.

The Ship Of Woods

The Art Deco design was further enhanced by the use of over 56 different types of woods from all over the world, which earned the Queen Mary the nickname, the "Ship of Woods." The highly decorative and luxurious woods were used throughout the entire ship – inside and out. Intricate marquetry, carvings and highly decorative murals were featured in every ballroom and salon of the Queen Mary. Accented with modern materials such as glass, marble, metal, enamel and even linoleum, the woods gave the ship an unmistakable grandeur that reflected a blending of classic style with modern age design. A total of 56 types of highly polished veneers appear on the Queen Mary, one for each of the British protectorates at the time the ship was built. Six of those types of woods are now actually extinct making the Queen Mary one of the few places they can still be found.

Art Aboard The Queen Mary

Art plays a prominent role in the décor of the Queen Mary with elaborate murals, paintings, sculptures and wood carvings found throughout the ship. Leading proponents of the Art Deco movement were commissioned by Cunard to create unique and contemporary pieces of art work, many of which can still be found on the ship today. Some of the most famous works are murals by Doris Zinkeisen, whose work echoed themes of mythology, animals and nature, abstracted into pure form. Today, the Queen Mary is widely considered one of the best examples and landmarks of Art Deco style in the world.

The Queen Mary - Our Story – Amateur Radio

Radio During the Queen Mary’s Decades at Sea

Like all other vessels of her era, the Queen Mary used maritime MF and HF radio frequencies to communicate with other ships and with shoreside high seas radio stations. Most of the world’s shipping lines contracted with radio companies to provide equipment and skilled radiomen for their ships, the largest being Marconi’s Wireless Telegraph Company. Cunard Lines selected the much smaller International Marine Radio Company to provide their ships with radio equipment and operators. IMRC designed and custom-built most of the equipment used on Cunard liners, and employed the radiomen who maintained and operated it. Some of that IMRC-built equipment is still on display in the Wireless Room. IMRC radiomen sailed on every voyage of the Queen Mary, using the radio callsign GBTT, providing communications in support of intership safety, navigation, weather, news reports, ship’s business, crew and passenger messages, and even radio-to-landline telephone calling for those who would pay the rather high prices for that service. Except for the ship-to-shore radiotelephone calls, most other traffic was passed using Morse code radiotelegraphy. In this era, radiotelegraphy was more efficient and reliable, being able to get through noise and signal fading much better than the AM and SSB voice modes.

Even into the 1950s and 1960s when Amateur Radio became increasingly popular, IMRC radiomen weren’t much interested in tuning-in and operating on the ham radio frequencies. Indeed, after working a watch of four to six hours of pretty much constantly sending and copying Morse code traffic, the radiomen had little desire to do more of the same on the ham bands on their own time.

Amateur Radio Station GB5QM on the Queen Mary’s Last Great Cruise

Amateur radio first came aboard the Queen Mary for her Last Great Cruise in 1967. Upon learning that the City of Long Beach was considering the purchase of the Queen Mary to serve as a larger-than-life icon of its emerging status as an ‘International City’, Long Beach resident and radio amateur Nate Brightman, K6OSC, fell head-over-heels in love with the idea. He bent every ear and pulled every string he could to convince city leaders to go ahead with the deal. They heard him, and the purchase was made. Then, learning about the emerging plans for a Last Great Cruise to deliver the liner to Long Beach, Brightman hatched a plan to place an amateur radio station aboard the ship to contact and converse with radio amateurs around the world during the Queen Mary’s Last Great Cruise.

Brightman had to overcome many significant impediments to this project. The Cunard Line, US State Department, and the British Government all had to be brought into agreement to permit this event to happen. When all was arranged, Long Beach radio amateur Al Lee, W6KQI, led a team of amateurs as they flew to England, boarded the Queen Mary, installed their radio equipment, and broadcast from the Queen Mary at sea using the British-issued callsign GB5QM during the Last Great Cruise. Every radio amateur around the world who made contact with GB5QM was sent a commemorative ‘QSL’ (confirmation of radio contact) certificate. One of these certificates is still on display in the radio display room.

W6RO Aboard the Queen Mary in Long Beach

Nate Brightman, K6OSC, founder of W6RO aboard the Queen Mary

Nate Brightman’s vision for amateur radio aboard the Queen Mary did not end when she reached her final mooring in Long Beach. He was already at work on a plan to establish a permanent amateur radio station aboard the ship. This proved to be his most daunting undertaking ever, requiring 11 years of persistent negotiating to convince City and ship officials to grant his aspiration. Space was approved on the Sports deck in the structure originally housing the ship’s squash court. This was an ideal location as it provided direct access to the roof overhead for antennas and was in a position to be passed by visiting tourists as they exited the wheelhouse and officer’s quarters exhibits. Construction was funded by the City, and the console was re-created from Brightman’s own photos of the ship’s original Wireless Telecommunications console, formerly located on the Promenade deck portside, photos which he shot during a VIP tour shortly after the ship’s arrival in Long Beach in 1967.

Amateur radio equipment for the Queen Mary’s new Wireless Room was donated by the Swan Radio Company of Oceanside upon Brightman’s request to the company’s founder, Herb Johnson. The equipment and antennas were installed, some of the ship’s original radio equipment was added for display, and the new Wireless Room was opened for operation on April 22, 1979. Frm that date forward, volunteer radio amateurs from the local ham radio club, the Associated Radio Amateurs of Long Beach, as well as others from all over southern California, have staffed the Wireless Room, making radio contact with hams across the US and around the world and demonstrating ham radio to the ship’s tourists as they pass by. Many of them still use Morse code.

Brightman served as manager of the station from 1979 until his retirement in 2013 – nearly 35 years! The station was re-dedicated as ‘The Nate Brightman Wireless Room’ in 2007 in his honor. W6RO enjoys worldwide fame on the ham radio bands. Amateurs who make an on-air contact with the station are sent the very popular W6RO ‘QSL’ card commemorating their exchange with the Queen Mary.

Be sure to stop by the Wireless Room on your tour of the Queen Mary. And, if you’re lucky enough to encounter one of the volunteer radio amateurs there, enjoy a conversation about all things radio.