Something about a cruise is just exciting. In Baltimore, we love adventures on the Chesapeake Bay, whether we’re spending a day as a pirate with Urban Pirates, watching the cannons fired off the USS Constellation, or taking my students crabbing on the Lady Maryland. So I imagine that if a ship with exotic music and art from Turkey showed up in the harbor, a lot of Baltimoreans would check it out.
In the 19th and early 20th century, if you wanted to learn about cultures and technological advances around the world, you could go to a World’s Fair, where countries would host booths and pavilions featuring everything from belly dancers to the Ferris Wheel. Turkey took the idea further and, in 1926, developed a “Floating Exhibition” to showcase Turkey’s modern culture and business at port cities around Europe.
The Baltimore Sun reported on July 25th that, “Beautiful Turkish women gowned in Paris modes and emancipated from the veils of former years added a feminine touch to a reception held on the Kara-Deniz at Havre during the stay of a floating exhibition of Turkish goods and products, the first of its kind ever seen in European waters.”
In 1954, the Turkish government launched a new display with the SS Tarsus. The ship (originally the SS Exochorda) had previously operated in the Caribbean as an export liner. During WWII, the US Navy purchased it (renaming it the USS Harry Lee), using it in both the Caribbean and Pacific theaters. (Read the full history of the ship here.) By 1954, Turkey was still trying to secure its place in an emerging Cold War world, and it took the ship for a new Floating Exhibition, showcasing Turkey’s immense value and potential. Just six years later, a freak three-ship collision destroyed the Tarsus.
Many American tobacco companies packed their cigarettes with “Turkish” tobacco, which is a strand of the tobacco crop species. The Floating Exhibition featured genuine Turkish-made cigarettes. I’m curious if they taste different… but I’m not curious enough to light up a 60-year-old cigarette!
I haven’t figured out what influenced the artwork on this pack, but it’s quite lovely, even a bit psychedelic if you stare at it for too long: a flower with a red center surrounded by white petals and surrounding blue petals.
The pack is for sale at my store: http://cigarettecollector.net/2016/06/08/turkish-floating-exhibition-1954-70mm-vintage-turkish-cigarette-pack/
The Turkish Floating Exhibition set sail most recently in 2011. But I’m afraid the SS Tarsus didn’t take part. Just six years after the 1954 exhibit, it was destroyed in a freak three-ship collision.
P.S. Ships make great classrooms. Take your children (or, in my case, students) out on the water, raise a sail, inspect the water, catch some seafood. If you come to Baltimore, check out the Living Classroom’s Lady Maryland.