Featured Stein ~ March 2022
The Emperor's Yacht - Meteor III
By Mike Finney ~ Pennsyvania Keysteiners
The stein seen here was produced by the firm of Albert Jacob Thewalt. The firm began producing steins in 1897, lasting until the onset of WW1 in 1914. The stein bears the usual trademark of the firm, and the form number 243. This stein would have been produced ca. 1902. It has a recesssed base to accommodate a music box.
Meteor III was an Imperial Yacht commissioned by Kaiser Wilhelm II. The New York built yacht was christened in 1902 by Alice Roosevelt, daughter of then president Theodore Roosevelt in a ceremony attended by German Prince Heinrich (left), brother of the Kaiser, and President Roosevelt (right).
Meteor III, designed by naval architect Archibald Cary Smith, was an improved and enlarged version of the yacht Yampa which was originally built by Smith for Chester W. Chapin, a United States Congressman from Massachusetts. Yampa had several owners and was eventually purchased by the German emperor. It was renamed Iduna and participated in European regattas. The emperor was so pleased with the performance of Iduna that he placed an order with Smith for the construction of a larger and improved version. The new schooner yacht was named Meteor III following the scheme the emperor had of naming his pleasure craft, as she was the next sequenced Meteor.
Meteor III was built by Townsend-Downey Shipbuilding Company at Shooters Island in New York City and launched February 25, 1902. It took four months to construct from Smith's architectural drawings. Alice Roosevelt, US President Theodore Roosevelt's 18 year old daughter, christened the yacht upon launch. The emperor's younger brother, Prince Henry, traveled from Europe to New York City to attend as the German emperor's personal representative. Two thousand spectators were at the 10:30 a.m. launching including President Roosevelt and Prince Henry.
Alice christened the schooner by breaking a bottle of champagne against the steel side of the yacht. She proclaimed in a loud clear voice, I christen thee Meteor. Up to that point the yacht was just labeled job No. 24 by the shipyard. Alice then cut the holding cord to a key block of weights that held the yacht in place on the dock support cradle, using a silver-looking nickel hatchet. Cannons were fired, brass bands played and there was a twenty-one gun salute.
Alice struck the bow of the yacht with her palm as it started moving into the water leaving its supports. President Roosevelt and Prince Henry followed her example. Nearby German officers did the same, with some nearly being knocked off their feet as the yacht was picking up speed. Immediately after the yacht was launched into the water, a message was cabled to Berlin from Prince Henry to the emperor saying, Yacht just launched under brilliant auspices. Christened by Miss Roosevelt's hand. Beautiful craft. Great enthusiasm. I congratulate you - Heinrich.
In 1909, Meteor III was put up for sale by the emperor. She eventually was sold to professor Carl Harries of the University of Kiel. She was renamed Nordstern and took part in the Kiel Regatta. Harries put the yacht up for sale in 1921 in Barcelona, Spain. It was bought by Maurice Bunau-Varilla, owner of the Paris newspaper Le Matin. In 1924 Bunau-Varilla sold Meteor III to Italian baron Alberto Fassini. In 1932 Fassini sold the vessel to a Mr. Gillet, who turned her over to Camper and Nicholsons, British yacht brokers. After being on the market for awhile she was sold to the American Francis Lenn Taylor, father of Elizabeth Taylor. Taylor used her for several years as a pleasure craft. He then sold her to Sterling Hayden. It was later repossessed because Hayden defaulted on the financial arrangements. In 1940 Taylor then resold her to Gerald S. Foley who later sold her to a Mr. David Feinburg, who sold her to Nicholas Allen. The last owner gave the schooner yacht the name Aldebaran. The United States Navy requisitioned her during World War II for service and the craft became the property of the War Shipping Administration (WSA)
The yacht had ultimately passed through twelve owners, some of who updated the yacht. The vessel during this time had received new engines, radio equipment and a third mast. The yacht at one time was used as a fishing vessel. In 1942 she was taken to Shooters Island by the WSA since they then owned her. Aldebaran, previously the German emperor's Meteor III, in 1945 was sold for $2,100 to John Witte, an iron salvager at Staten Island who did business a short distance from where Meteor III was originally constructed in 1902. Witte then took the craft apart for scrap iron.