Cleopatra

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Glass Bottom Boat at Avalon, Catalina Island.
Glass Bottom Power Boat, Cleopatra, Catalina Island, Cal.
Glass Bottom Boats at Avalon, Catalina Island, Cal.
Cleopatra, Santa Catalina Island
Courtesy Catalina Island Museum

Cleopatra (#127766) (1903-1946), 44-foot gas side-wheel glass-bottom boat built at Terminal Island for the Meteor Boat Company’s excursion business at Santa Catalina Island. Cleopatra was the first side-wheel glass-bottom boat. Construction cost $15,000. The Meteor Boat Company built Lady Lou the same year. In 1920 the Meteor Boat Company and its assets, including Cleopatra, were acquired by the Wilmington Transportation Company. By 1945 Cleopatra was owned by Claude Sandy of Los Angeles. She was dismantled in 1946.


July 1903 Catherine MacLean Loud notes in her diary: “During July, 1903 the new glass bottom powerboat, Cleopatra, came into Avalon Bay from the shipyards of Herbert E. Carse of Hardison and Carse of San Pedro. The Cleo had a flat bottom so she could land directly on the beach by riding the pebbles. This would eliminate the transfer of passengers to a rowboat and then land on the rocky shore. She could carry 56 passengers.”

She added: “Competition became keen on the two larger glass bottom powerboats, and to increase her popularity of the Lady Lou carried three Negro Minstrels to entertain her guests. Then the Cleopatra followed by hiring soloists for her trips with an orchestra.”



In the News~

May 30, 1903 [LAT/SCat]: “San Pedro. The handsome new glass-bottomed boat Cleopatra, built by the Hardison-Carse Company of East San Pedro for Messrs. Martin and Hubbard of Los Angeles, was successfully launched last evening. Many guests were present, and Mrs. Herbert E. Carse christened the new craft by breaking a bottle of champagne over its bow. It is said that the Cleopatra is the largest and finest boat of its kind ever built, being fifty feet in length, with a twelve-foot beam. The decks are overhanging, making a beam of twenty feet overall. The boat was built for taking pleasure parties about the marine gardens at Avalon, Santa Catalina Island. An eighteen-horse-power engine and Westinghouse generator will be used to operate a complete electric-light plant, which is to be installed aboard the Cleopatra.”


June 26, 1903 [LAT]: “San Pedro. The trial trip of the newly-built glass-bottom boat Cleopatra, was made yesterday afternoon, and the craft proved to be satisfactory. The owners, Messrs. Martin & Hubbard of Los Angeles together with Herbert E. Carse, who designed the boat, and several invited guests, were on board. The little vessel attained more speed than had been expected, and her owners are greatly pleased with the result. So far as is known the Cleopatra is the largest boat of its particular kind in existence. She is 50 feet long, and has a 12-foot beam, with overhanging decks of 8 feet, making a total width of 20 feet. An eighteen-horse-power Union gas engine is required to run the craft, which has two large side wheels. Besides this, there is an auxiliary engine of the same make, but only three-horse-power, which is to be used in operating the electric-light plant. The engine-room is amidships, while 15 feet of heavy plate glass, measuring 30 inches in width, extends along the center of the boat on either end, furnishing an excellent view of the water the Cleopatra will carry 100 passengers. She cost about $5000.”


June 27, 1903 [LAT]: “Unique craft Cleopatra to be tried today. Today at East San Pedro the new glass-bottom boat, here pictures, will be given her trial run, going around the breakwater. This craft, which is out of the ordinary in several respects, and said to be the largest of the kind in existence, was built for Messrs. Martin and Hubbard of Los Angeles, and will be used on the clear waters around Santa Catalina Island, where wondrous sights are seen in the depths of the sea. The boat was designed and constructed by the Hardison-Carse Company of East San Pedro, and has never been out of her stall. The run today will be made at about 3 o’clock.”


July 1, 1903 [LAH]: “Avalon, June 30. — The handsome side-wheel, glass-bottom power boat Cleopatra came across from San Pedro last night, in company with the Meteor. It was intended to have the Meteor tow the Cleopatra over, but the line parted and the new boat came most of the way under her own power, making a good time and weathering a rather heavy sea in a most satisfactory manner. The Cleopatra attracted considerable attention this morning as she lay at anchor off the bathhouse wharf and was visited by a good many people, who commented favorably on her general appearance and predicted that she would prove popular not only as a glass-bottom boat, but for excursion purposes.”


July 2, 1903 [LAT]: “J. D. Martin, a member of the Meteor Boat Company of Los Angeles, owners of the excursion boats Meteor and Cleopatra, has arrived in Avalon for the season.”


July 3, 1903 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. The Cleopatra, the new side-wheel glass-bottom boat of the Meteor Company, made her maiden trip this morning, going to Moonstone Beach, where she landed her passengers directly on the beach from her gangplank.”


July 7, 1903 [LAH]: “Hardison—Carse Company engages T. L. Curtis of Herreshoff Yards. T. L. Curtis, a recent employee at the Hereshoff yards at Bristol, R. I., will enter the employ of the Hardison—Carse Co. in their shops at San Pedro this morning... Besides several power now under construction at the Hardison—Carse Co. shops, there will soon be under construction two thirty-footers which promise to make the yachts now owned on the coast do some very close work if they win or keep the cups now being raced for on the coast... H. E. Morse, chief engineer for the company, returned from Catalina yesterday. Mr. Morse has had charge of the trial trips of the glass bottom power boat Cleopatra recently constructed by the company for the Meteor Boat Company. Mr. Morse states that her owners are greatly pleased with the moat and have accepted her and that she is now making her regular trips along the shores of the island.”


July 13, 1903 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. W. D. Hubbard, one of the owners of the new glass-bottomed boat Cleopatra, which has proved such a success, came over yesterday for a Sunday outing.”


July 14, 1903 [LAT]: “Avalon. The Meteor Boat Company, owning the launch Meteor, and glass-bottom boat Cleopatra, has incorporated with a capital stock of $25,000. The incorporators are W. D. Hubbard, D. H. Martin, Herbert Morse, Augustus Knowles, and Clarence Jargstorpf.”


July 14, 1903 [LAH]: “The announcement is made that the Meteor Boat Company has been incorporated under the laws of California, with a capital of $25,000. The stock is subscribed for by five persons: W. D. Hubbard, D. H. Martin, Herbert Morse, Augustus Knowles and Clarence Jargstorff. The company owns at present the yacht Meteor and the new side-wheel, glass-bottom power boat, Cleopatra.”


July 17, 1903 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. The Cleopatra took a record-breaking party to Moonstone Beach this morning, numbering seventy-six persons.”


July 26, 1903 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. The management of the Cleopatra will inaugurate a series of moonlight watermelon parties Sunday evening… Competition among the glass-bottom boat people is becoming strenuous. The Cleopatra has maintained an orchestra for some time, and today the Lady Lou management brought over an orchestra of three colored musicians, who made the beach ring with their negro melodies.”


July 28, 1903 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. The Cleopatra took a ‘watermelon party’ to Gallagher’s last evening. The boat was strung with Japanese lanterns which were taken ashore at the landing and hung about the beach, making a pretty picture.”


July 29, 1903 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. The large side-wheel glass-bottom boat Cleopatra was working overtime last night. She slipped off her moorings and started on a sea voyage manned only by the spirits of the ancient aboriginal inhabitants. Fortunately she encountered no obstacles and escaped the peril of being dashed on the rocks of the shore and gently glided out into the open sea. Her absence was discovered early this morning and the Meteor started in pursuit, finding her about two miles off shore, opposite Pebbly Beach.”


August 5, 1903 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. The Cleopatra has replaced its two-horse-power auxiliary engine used for generating electricity for illuminating the vessel, with one of five-horse-power which will enable her to carry out the scheme of illuminating the depths by powerful submerged lights.”


August 9, 1903 [LAT]: “The watermelon party at Camp Whittier Thursday night was one of the events of the season. The attendance was so great that both the launches Meteor and Cleopatra were chartered for the occasion, and both were loaded to their utmost capacity. The boats were brilliantly illuminated with electric lights and Japanese lanterns. A gang of workers was sent up to Camp Whittier in the afternoon to arrange things there, and when the boats arrived everything was gay, with bonfires and lanterns. Dancing and games succeeded the feast of melons.”


August 11, 1903 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. The Cleopatra took a gay party to Gallagher’s last night, where they cut a watermelon—and then some more.”


August 19, 1903 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. The glass-bottom boat Cleopatra carried away her steering gear yesterday afternoon as she landed her passengers on the beach, which necessitated her being taken to San Pedro for repairs.”


August 19, 1903 [LAH]: “Avalon, Aug. 18. — The Meteor Boat Company is meeting with serious financial loss, owing to an accident to the Cleopatra's steering gear that made it necessary to send her to San Pedro for repairs. The Meteor towed the Cleopatra over last night, making the run in four hours, and then returned in time to take a big barbecue party to the isthmus.”


August 27, 1903 [LAT]: “Avalon. The power glass-bottom boat Cleopatra has added fishing lines to its equipment, and passengers may troll as they view the wonders of the marine gardens. Yesterday a large box which was provided for the reception of the fish was well-filled when the boat reached Avalon. The Cleopatra gave a successful watermelon party at Gallagher’s Landing last evening.”


August 30, 1903 [LAT]: “Avalon. A fishing party on the Cleopatra yesterday, which had a fine sport, took several yellowtail and rock bass, during a trip to Moonstone Beach, comprised Mrs. Provines of San Antonio, Texas…”


September 8, 1903 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. The Cleopatra yesterday broke all her previous records carrying more people than on any one day in the height of the season.”


September 24, 1903 [LAT/SCat]: “The Meteor Boat Company gave its final barbecue excursion to the Isthmus yesterday, carrying about fifty passengers. Tomorrow they will take both their boats, the Meteor and the side-wheel glass-bottom boat, Cleopatra, over to San Pedro, where they go into winter quarters.”


September 24, 1903 [LAT]: “San Pedro. Arrived Thursday, September 21. Launch Meteor, with glass-bottom powerboat Cleopatra in tow, from Catalina Island.”


September 25, 1903 [LAT/SCat]: “The power boat, Meteor, left for San Pedro this morning towing the Cleopatra, a sailboat and three or four row boats.”


October 18, 1903 [LAH]: “The Meteor Boat Company has given Hardison-Carse Company, the local boat builders, the contract to remodel the glass-bottom power oat Cleopatra.”


January 25, 1904 [LAT]: “Sixty employees of the Z. L. Parmelee Company had a barbecue at Portuguese Bend yesterday. They were taken to San Pedro in a special car on the Salt Lake Road, by Fred W. Horner, vice-president of the company, and C. E. Parksman, treasurer. At San Pedro the large side-wheel glass-bottom boat, Cleopatra, of the Meteor Boat Company, was awaiting their arrival and the merry crown piled aboard and steamed around to Portuguese Bend where the barbecue appeared and duly disappeared. A few braved the tumbling coldness of the breakers, while others climbed the rocky hillside…”


April 7, 1904 [LAT]: “Avalon. The Conservative Life Insurance Company of Los Angeles took Catalina by storm today. An excursion numbering nearly one hundred, including managers and employees with wives and sweethearts, came over on the Warrior, arriving at noon. After lunching at Hotel Metropole they lined up on the lawn in front of the hotel and had a photograph taken of the group. Then the glass-bottom boats Cleopatra and Lady Lou being placed at their disposal, everybody viewed the marine gardens and the aquarium and at 3:15 left for the mainland. The day was perfect and everything conspired to make their outing a happy one.”


August 2, 1904 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. The Engarita Club gave a moonlight ride on the launch Cleopatra last evening, going up to White’s Landing.”


January 19, 1905 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. The big power glass-bottom boat Cleopatra and the schooner yacht Meteor, which have been hibernating in San Pedro Bay since October 1, arrived last night to engage in the winter business of showing tourists the sea sights.”


February 25, 1905 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. The big glass-bottom power boat Cleopatra, which is unique among power boats for the reason that she is perhaps the only ocean boat in the world which requires no wharf at the beach to land, but simply glides up on the beach to receive and discharge her passengers, was chartered yesterday to carry the Hotel Maryland excursionists to Seal Rocks. In landing to receive them she she ran up on the beach on a receding tide, which left her stuck hard and fast. Her sister boat, Lady Lou, tried for half an hour to drag her off, but was obliged to give up as a bad job, when Captain Tripthen of the ship Cabrillo had a line passed out to his ship and soon had her in the swim again.”


March 5, 1905 [LAT]: “San Pedro. Much local pride is felt in the admirable boat-building plant at East San Pedro. H. E. Carse is president of the company and the plant is growing rapidly… Some of the products of this plant are the launch Vittoria, $2500; Stella, $3000; glass-bottom boat Cleopatra, in use at Avalon, $7000…”


June 10, 1905 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. On invitation of the Meteor Boat Company, a number of personal friends yesterday afternoon witnessed an exhibition of deep-sea diving. Herbert A. Young, who for several years has been plying the vocation of diving at Honolulu, is now here with his apparatus and he and the guests were taken out in the power glass-bottom boat Cleopatra, which was anchored off Sugarloaf… Captain Clarence Jargstorff was master of ceremonies.”


February 15, 1906 [LAT]: “The glass-bottom boat Empress, built for the Meteor Boat Company of Avalon, was launched today from the yards of Fulton & Iverson on Terminal Island. The new craft was christened by little Lucilla Iverson, daughter of one of the builders. The Empress will be used in the excursion business at Avalon. She is 80 feet long, 18 feet wide and has a carrying capacity of 118 passengers. Her sister boat, the Cleopatra, has but a capacity of but fifty-six passengers. The Empress will be commanded by Captain Martin and will be equipped with sixty-five-horse power engines, with an eight-horse power engine for electric lighting purposes.”


April 26, 1906 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. The children of the public schools will have a holiday tomorrow, and to show that their hearts are in the right place they will improve the occasion by running an excursion to Moonstone Beach in the afternoon, the management of the glass-bottom power boats having placed the Cleopatra and the Lady Lou at their disposal. The little folks will sell all the tickets they can and turn over the proceeds to the relief fund.”


September 12, 1906 [LAT]: “San Pedro. The cruising yachtsmen spent Sunday in fishing and swimming and began to leave the harbor at about 9 A.M. yesterday. One of them, which has not been named, was more busy in firing her valedictory gun than in attending to her sailing, and apparently there was no one to clack off the main sheet after the anchor was hauled up. As seen from the wireless station up the mountain there was plenty of time to slack away this sheet and let the boat pay off, but the helmsman seemed to expect the boat to do the impossible and the result was there was a bowsprit shoved into the paddle box of the glass-bottomed boat Cleopatra.”


January 19, 1907 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. Trouble over the fence, which has just been rebuilt along the beach by the Santa Catalina Island Company, resulted today in a merry fight and incidentally in a minor case of blood-shed. The Meteor Boat Company and the employees of the Island Company met in a grand mix-up this morning. Now there seems to be a truce, temporarily, with the Meteor Company claiming the first round as theirs. Trouble began brewing last summer between the Meteor Company and the Santa Catalina Island Company, and when the latter concern banished the boatmen’s stands from the beach and arranged for the boating business to be done from their wharves and through their agent, or from an opening in the fence at the extreme end of the bay, the situation became strained between the two companies. The result of this was that open hostilities began this morning when the Meteor Company began business again after a lapse of six weeks, during which that company was fixing up their boats at San Pedro. The Meteor Boat Company is the owner of the glass-bottom powerboats Empress, Lady Lou and Cleopatra. About a week ago the latter boat was brought over, and it gradually leaked out that the owners took issue with the Island Company as to their claims and rights, and that they were intending to bring about conditions that would throw the matter into the courts and bring out a definite ruling as to ownership of a certain strip of land lying between high-water mark and the county road. In pursuance of this program this morning Compton and Newberry cut out a section of the fence, which they claim is far too low on the beach to make any rights the Island Company may have, and therefore illegally constructed. The break was immediately repaired by the Island Company, and when the Cleopatra came in to pick up a lot of passengers for a trip to Seal Rocks, the boatmen found their landing-way again barred. Determined not to use the place appointed to them, W. M. Hunt, Jr., also a member of the Meteor Company, attempted to again cut the wires, in his effort, as he says, to force his arrest and thus bring the matter into the courts, and his point was gained for he was promptly placed under arrest. He was allowed to go on his own recognizance at first, but on account of ‘pernicious activity,’ the arresting officer started to escort him to jail, but he produced bail and was allowed his liberty. Captain Newberry then attempted to ram the fence with the Cleopatra, which was built for landing on the beach without the aid of a wharf, but the tide was not sufficiently high, and he failed to reach it. Procuring a grappling hook, however, he succeeded, after an hour’s struggle with the employees of the Island Company, in demolishing about one hundred feet of the fence, furnishing the most exciting episode the islanders have witnessed in many moons. In the course of this struggle, Roy Staples, an employee of the Meteor Company, who was actively engaged in seeing that the hook caught, and held to the wires, got mixed up with a dozen or so of the cholos who were just as strenuously attempting to cut away the hook, and as a result he got a beating and a cut on the side of the head. Having accomplished sufficient destruction, Captain Newberry then attempted to get his passengers on board, but in getting the gang-plank up, he was opposed by the whole Island Company’s force. Calling for assistance from the bystanders about an equal number responded, and there was a merry mix for a few minutes. The opposing factions fought up and down the beach, into the water and out, until Captain Newberry got his hook into the ropes on the plank, and putting on steam, backed out into deep water, and finally succeeded in getting his passengers aboard. This incident also resulted in several arrests, and the end is not yet. The Cleopatra was not molested on her return. Act two will presumably be set in the courts.”


January 22, 1907 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. The truce between the Meteor Boat Company and the Santa Catalina Island Company is still in effect, although the Cleopatra stirred things up yesterday by parading up and down in front of the offending fence, and landed at several points, but made no attempt at an attack.”


January 24, 1907 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. There were indications of a compromise this morning in the fight between the Meteor Boat Company and the Santa Catalina Island Company. Hancock Banning arrived here yesterday and immediately ordered a change of the location of the place designated for the landing of such boats as did not choose to enter the combine and do business from the Banning wharves. The place was found to be inaccessible to the Cleopatra on account of shallow water, and was ordered changed to a more accessible point. The wires were cut further down the line and this morning the ‘rambunctious’ Cleopatra, which has done no business since the mix-up of last week, quietly steamed up to the new landing place and taking on a load of passengers, proceeded up to Moonstone Beach. Moonstone Beach is likewise tabooed to the Meteor Company‘s boats, but they landed their passengers below high tide, and no attempt was made to prevent their landing except the verbal injunction that it was a closed port. This probably ends the fence-smashing episodes and may lead to a compromise while the matter is threshed out in the courts. While the Meteor Company claimed to have worsted their opponent in their recent fight, the Santa Catalina Island Company had another trump up their sleeve, which they are now proceeding to play. The first fence was stages of the tides and was thus exposed to the assaults of the Cleopatra. Now the Island Company is building another fence higher up and supposedly on the line of the street, which cannot be reached from the water, and unless there are two simultaneous attacking forces, from land and sea, it would be useless to attempt to force a landing.”


March 22, 1907 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. The management of the steamer City of Long Beach announces its intention of running an excursion to Catalina every Sunday throughout the coming season. On their first trip last Sunday they carried 199 passengers. They made no attempt to land here, but took a trip to Moonstone Beach, through the marine gardens on the power glass-bottom boats Empress and Cleopatra.”


November 2, 1907 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. The San Diego of the Meteor Boat Company’s line probably made her last trip yesterday. At any rate, she will not resume them for an indefinite period. It is believed here that this will eventually result in the discontinuance of the Cleopatra’s operations, as the Cleopatra is the only glass-bottom power boat belonging to the Meteor Company in island waters, and its patronage was largely derived from the San Diego’s passengers. On the whole, the removal of the San Diego is regarded more as a practical defeat for the Meteor Company, and it is believed that it is improbable that the struggle between the Banning Company and the Meteor Company will be resumed. “


November 7, 1907 [LAT]: “Santa Catalina Island — S.S. San Diego leaves Los Angeles, 6th and Main streets, 8:45 A.M. operating in connection with large glass-bottom power boats, Empress, Cleopatra and Lady Lou for the Marine Gardens. Important Notice: These boats are large and safe, and regularly licensed by U.S. inspectors. Combination rowboat tickets sold by other lines will not be accepted on these boats. Meteor Boat Company. Ticket office 6th and Main St.”


November 9, 1907 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. The steamer San Diego resumed her regular runs today after about ten days’ cessation on account of repairs. Her tender, the Cleopatra, went on the beach in the course of the operation and could not be got off. When the time for the departure of the San Diego came it was necessary to load them onto the launch Avalon for transfer to the larger boat. The Cleopatra is so far up on the beach that it is believed she will not be floated until high tide tomorrow. Passengers of the San Diego were inclined to blame the management of the company for the accident. The boat crews state, however, that it was unavoidable.”


November 11, 1907 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. The Meteor Boat Company’s glass-bottom boat Cleopatra, which went on the beach at the exceedingly high tide of Friday, was again floated yesterday. At one time in the strong flood tide it was feared that the boat would become a total wreck.”


September 30, 1908 [LAH]: “The Meteor Boat Company yesterday brought over the glass bottom power boat Cleopatra from Catalina. She will be tied up in the inner harbor for the winter.”


September 3, 1909 [LAT]: “Avalon. Avalon is preparing for the Venetian evening, which will be celebrated next Saturday… “The Empress, the Lady Lou and the Cleopatra, the Meteor Company’s power boats, will be lighted by special dynamos, and all the launches and small craft will take part in the water carnival, conveying visitors free of charge to and fro, over the glowing waves…”


April 21, 1911 [LAT/SCat]: “Avalon. After luncheon at the Metropole the glass-bottom boat Cleopatra was summoned and the trip started to Seal Rocks and the marine gardens…”


July 17, 1913 [LAT]: “Avalon. Every boy of The Times camp was guest this morning of the Meteor Boat Company on board their glass-bottomed powerboat Cleopatra. The boat made a special trip over the marine gardens, visited Seal Rocks and other coves of interest along the coast. Manager Lockard was so impressed with the boys’ good behavior that he has invited the boys of the seventh contingent, due in Avalon next week, to take a joy ride…”