HERBERT HARTLEY was born May 28, 1873 in Oswego Falls NY. His father, Ellis Hartley, had been born in England, and eventually brought his family to Camden. Herbert Hartley first went to see at the age of 18, and rose through the ranks to command what at the time was the world's largest ocean liner, the Leviathan.

Herbert Hartley served much of his career on the liner S.S. St. Louis, and had risen to the captaincy of that ship by 1914. When America entered World War I, the St. Louis was renamed the U.S.S. Louisville and converted into a troop transport. Herbert Hartley was commissioned as a Lieutenant Commander in the United States Navy, and, under the command of Admiral Henry Braid Wilson Jr., sailed the Louisville to and from Europe on convoy duty. Lieutenant Commander Hartley was awarded the Navy Cross for his actions during World War I.

After the war Herbert Hartley served as captain of the S.S. Manchuria and S.S. Mongolia. In 1923 he was given the helm of the Leviathan, where he remained until his retirement in February of 1928. He was also Commodore or the United States Lines fleet during this period.  

In 1955 Herbert Hartley's autobiography was published by Vulcan Press of Birmingham, Alabama. The book was titled Home Is The Sailor, and is credited to Commodore Hartley as told to Clint Bonner, with illustrations by Bonner and Charles Smith. 

Herbert Hartley died May 9, 1957 in Opelika, Alabama

Hartley, Herbert
Lieutenant Commander, U.S. Navy (Reserve Forces)
Commanding Officer, U.S.S. Louisville
Date Of Action:
World War I

The Navy Cross is awarded to Lieutenant Commander Herbert Hartley, U.S. Navy (Reserve Forces), for distinguished service in the line of his profession as commanding officer of the U.S.S. Louisville, engaged in the important, exacting and hazardous duty of transporting and escorting troops and supplies through waters infested with enemy submarines and mines.

Click on Image to Enlarge

C. J. A. Wilson (1880 - 1965)
Oil on canvas 21 1/8 in. by 16 7/8 in.


and the
Singer Building
New York City, 1923



Secretary James J. Davis was among the passengers board LEVIATHAN on July 4, 1923. Secretary Davis was going abroad to study the immigration problem.

Click on Image to Enlarge

The Conflict Between Science and Religion
A Discussion by Leaders in American Life, with an Introduction
Author of “The Man Nobody Knows” and “The Book Nobody Knows”

THERE is no conflict between science and religion. The trouble, if any, lies at the foundation of hasty conclusions of prejudiced or biased minds.

Evolution as a theory can certainly be harmonized with the Biblical account of creation. They travel in separate and parallel grooves. The creation of life is a single and distinct achievement. The development and evolution of life is another.

I believe it more reasonable to conclude man was created by a slow process of evolution than that he was made instanter. If we accept the theory of evolution we do not by that acceptance reject the Biblical account of creation. No scientist has yet dared to deny the one great account of the origin of life. They only attempt to trace it on through the ages.

Commodore Herbert Hartley
Commander, S. S. Leviathan


Former Camden Boy Quits Sea After 35 Service Years’
U.S. Shipping Board Accepts Decision Reluctantly; Effective Feb. 1

Thirty-five years’ buffeting by toss­ing seas and occasional raging storms is sufficient to satiate the veriest of salts, a former Camden boy, who has risen, to the rank of his profes­sion, agreed today. He is to change the rolling deck of the steamer for the prosaic career of a businessman.

He is Commodore Herbert Hartley, gallant skipper of the Leviathan, one of the world’s greatest ships, likewise head of the merchant fleet of the U. S. Shipping Board. His father. Ellis Hartley, resides at 433 State Street. The Commodore yesterday tendered his resignation to T. V. O’Connor, chairman of the U. S. Shipping Board. It is to take effect February 1.At Washington last night Captain Hartley indicates he concluded it was about time to forego the delights of the sea.

‘I have had enough of the sea” said he. “I have hot had a home ashore since I was 18 years old and I would like to see some of the other boys have the Leviathan now. Many would naturally aspire to the position. 

At Washington last night Captain Hartley indicates he concluded it was about time to forego the delights of the sea.

‘I have had enough of the sea” said he. “I have hot had a home ashore since I was 18 years old and I would like to see some of the other boys have the Leviathan now. Many would naturally aspire to the position. 

Regret Resignation 

The resignation of the captain was accepted with reluctance by the Shipping Board.  

“The ship is the greatest in the world and Commodore Hartley has measured up to the standards needed for her command.” said O’Connor. If he were resigning to take command of any other vessel we would wish to refuse to accept it, but since he is retiring from the sea after 35 years of good service to the American Merchant Marine, we can do nothing but wish him God-speed in his new under­taking.

Mr. Hartley was born In Oswego Falls, N. Y., May 28, 1873. He spent most of his early seafaring career on the St. Louis of the American Line and was brought up to learn his duties as a seaman and a navigator by the veteran commander John C. Jamison, who had served his apprenticeship on the famous clipper Dreadnought in the Atlantic trade.  

Mr. Hartley was a cadet in 1895 in the American Line which was under contract with the Government to carry two on deck and two in the engine room on each of its four ships. He was one of the very few who stuck to the job and he eventually rose through the various grades until he was made commander of the St. Louis which became the Louisville in the World War. 

Command ‘Lucky’  

He described his getting the command at the Leviathan as one of the luckiest events in his life. He was a careful shipmaster, but had the misfortune to ground the Manchuria and later to do the same with the Mongolia of the American Line in 1923. While he was suspended as an act of discipline, Captain Hartley went to Washington to see his old friends. In recall afterward he said: 

“I had no more idea of being offered the command of the Leviathan that day than a child. Like most other shipping men in New York I naturally believed Cunningham would be promoted from the George Washington.

"I went to the Riggs House for lunch with my friends of Washington and was introduced to some of the officials who were then connected with the United States Shipping Board.  

“When we were chatting after the meal one of the officials said to me “How would you like to have command of the Leviathan?’ I said “Stop your kidding.” To my surprise he said, “I am not kidding. We w ant a captain for the Leviathan and if you would like to have the ship come round to the Shipping Board offices at 4 o’clock this afternoon."

 “Just a Fluke”

 “I did so”, said Captain Hartley ”and shortly after 5 o’clock I left the building with my appointment to take command of the Leviathan in my pocket, and walked the streets of Washington as I were treading on air. It a fluke that I went there that day.” During the time he has been in command of the Leviathan Commodore Hartley has had many anxious hours. The mammoth liners of her type are difficult to drive in heavy seas as they are likely to crack in the middle or do other damage to the superstructure of the ship. On his last westward voyage he hove-to the Leviathan for five hours because  of the strain in the pounding of the heavy seas.  

Mr. Hartley has married twice. The first time, when he was chief officer of the St. Louis, to Charlotte Adler, of Jersey City, who died and left him with a daughter, now about eighteen years old. He met his second wife, who is from Opelika AL, when he was on the Leviathan. They have a son 3 years old.


Hartley Tell How America May Lead In Marine Trade


Edinburgh, Scotland, Feb. 4 (UP). -The Leviathan, once the queen ship of the United States merchant marine, narrowly escaped going aground today on her final voyage to be scrapped in a Scottish shipyard.

The liner, which anchored one mile east of the Firth of Forth bridge after her last voyage across the Atlantic, dragged anchors in a gale and was forced downstream. She barely missed grounding on one of the 'small islands in the river but eventually started her engines and steamed back to her previous position.

The American members of the crew which was mainly British were expected to leave the ship tomorrow to go home. Two of them were reported injured in falls during the voyage.

The U.S.S. St Louis in 1898

USS St. Louis (1898)

Photographed during the Spanish-
American War. Note that, though in U.S. Navy service, this ship remains in her civilian paint scheme.

Courtesy of Rear Admiral H.C. Taylor.

U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph

U.S. Light House Tender Suwanee

Halftone photograph, published in the book War in Cuba, 1898, showing Suwanee underway off Siboney, Cuba, during the Spanish-American War. Ships in the background include USS St. Louis (left) and USS Vixen (right).

Courtesy of Alfred Cellier, 1977.

U.S. Naval Historical Center Photograph