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The MEISSEN - a paddle steamer from 1881

The paddle steamer MEISSEN is an impressive large object, which can also be viewed in the future in our exhibition "Passenger Shipping and Migration" in the museum.

The accessible central nave of the MEISSEN is an integral architectural component of the museum building, which was designed by the architect Hans Scharoun (1893-1972). The paddle steamer is therefore the name giver for the exhibition area surrounding it, the MEISSEN-Hall. The saloon inside the ship and the sun deck, flanked by the two large wheel cases of the paddle wheels, make passenger shipping on the rivers Elbe and Weser around 1900 come alive again. During her active period, the MEISSEN could accommodate about 500 passengers who wanted to spend a day on the water for pleasure. The engine room with the coal supplies can also be visited. It gives an impression of the adverse working conditions of the machinists and stokers who were responsible for the smooth operation of the steam engine.

The history of the MEISSEN and their way to us in the German Maritime Museum

The iron paddle steamer could look back on an eventful history before it found its last home with us. The MEISSEN was built in 1881 in Blasewitz near Dresden by the Saxon-Bohemian Steamship Company for passenger transport on the Upper Elbe. In 1907 the ship was sold to Hameln. The new owner had some modifications made to the paddle steamer and renamed it KRONPRINZ WILHELM. Until its decommissioning in 1967 the paddle steamer carried day tourists on the Upper Weser. The paddle steamer reached Bremerhaven via the Board of Trustees for the Promotion of the German Maritime Museum. As it was too large for the museum building with a length of over 50 m, the fore and aft ship were separated. The middle section, which had been restored to its original condition of 1881, was integrated into the museum building during construction work in the mid-1970s, where it will continue to be on display in the future.

The MEISSEN in the future exhibition "Passenger Shipping and Migration"

After the redesign of the Scharoun Building, the 18 m long central nave of the MEISSEN will be part of the new exhibition area on the subject of "Passenger Shipping and Migration". At the MEISSEN, the travel conditions of emigrants, who had to travel long distances from the interior to the emigrant ports of Bremerhaven or Hamburg, will be exemplified. Often the distance via the rivers was shorter than via land. Steamship companies took advantage of the increasing number of emigrants and used paddle steamers similar to the MEISSEN for their transport. Even though the MEISSEN itself never transported emigrants, its function as a paddle steamer is representative of the extensive logistics of the emigrant business in the 19th century.

Further literature

Brück, Heike
Die Verbesserung der Hinterlandverbindungen zu den Auswandererhäfen im frühen und mittleren 19. Jahrhundert. Wechselwirkungen zwischen Auswandererströmen und Verkehrseinrichtungen
in: Deutsches Schifffahrtsarchiv 7 (1984), S. 213-222


Dumpleton, Bernard
The Story of the Paddle Steamer
Melksham 1973


Ostersehlte, Christian
Raddampfer MEISSEN
in: Heimat Nordseeküste. Von Land und Leuten an Weser und Elbe 63 (2011), S. 73-75


Paddle steamer KRONPRINZ WILHELM (formerly MEISSEN)The new owner had some modifications made to the paddle steamer and renamed it KRONPRINZ WILHELM. Until its decommissioning in…










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Opening hours

Cog hall: Tuesday till Sunday from 10 am to 6 pm

how to reach us

Deutsches Schifffahrtsmuseum
Hans-Scharoun-Platz 1
D-27568 Bremerhaven


T. +49 471 482 07 0

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