The Death of Albert V. Moore

("The Mooremack News," Spring 1953)

(Courtesy of Vincent Fiorenza)

(Please turn up your sound to hear the "End of Watch" bells)

Albert Voorhis Moore

(1880 - 1953)

DEATH CAME to Albert Voorhis Moore, president and co-founder of Moore-McCormack Lines, in the quiet of his Forest Hills, Long Island, home, the night of January 8th.

Despite knowledge of his illness the fact of his passing shocked his associates and friends deeply.

Somehow, the buoyancy of his spirit throughout his mature life and his ability to work long hours with no sign of fatigue had communicated to his staff a confidence that this was but a passing phase and that soon he would be back, in command, as he had been during the forty years of the company’s existence.

When word was flashed to the company’s offices in Scandinavia and South America, on both coasts of the United States and to the ships at sea, the reaction was that of shock and disbelief, followed by deep and sincere sorrow.

Few men in his high executive position had maintained an intimacy of contact with staff such as Mr. Moore had. His leadership was truly personal, and the fact that he had passed was not readily grasped.

Typically, he had just returned from having discharged a civic responsibility when he was stricken. Typically, too, he had stood a few hours earlier on a North River pier and watched one of his ships sail for South America.

The fact that Mr. Moore had been taken ill in mid-December and been obliged to remain away from his office restricted his activity somewhat in the final weeks. But it had by no means cut him off from the tasks which were his responsibility as executive bead of the company.

From his room at Beekman-Downtown Hospital, in Manhattan, and later from his home, as he recuperated in preparation for his return to his desk, he had maintained a steady and direct contact. His staff received memoranda bearing his familiar handwriting, he carried on a volume of external correspondence, and all members of the organization in all parts of the world had been as acutely aware of his active direction as if he had been seated behind his desk on the south side of the big room which he shared at 3-11 Broadway, with his partner and long-time friend, Emmet J. McCormack.

When the department heads of the company gathered in downtown Manhattan’s India House for their traditional Christmas luncheon on Dec. 23rd, Mr. Moore made his first appearance since his illness, immediately to be surrounded by the men who worked with him in maintaining Mooremack the institution it has become.

After lunch, he rose to their thunderous applause. In brief but sincere words he told the group that the doctors had not favored his attendance but that he had been determined to be with them regardless of circumstances. He used this opportunity to thank them for what they had done for Mooremack during the year and urged them to carry on.

The day he was finally stricken, Mr. Moore went to Pier 32 in the afternoon, to bid farewell to Mr. McCormack, who was sailing with Mrs. McCormack for South America. It was a nasty day, with Last photo taken of Mr. Moore, aboard the S.S. Argentina on Jan. 8, 1953. snow and rain in the air and sharp wind finding the corners as well as the open spaces of the pier. Mr. Moore was greeted on all sides as he boarded the ship and as he walked through the companionways.

With evident pleasure he told several of his associates that he planned to return next day to his desk and that after cleaning up certain matters would go away for a vacation. He had his final conversation with Mr. McCormack, and he left the ship as the whistles had started to sound their warning blasts.

That evening Mr. Moore attended a meeting of directors of the Gardens Corporation, whose members include property owners of the Forest Hills Gardens area in which he had long resided. On his way back to his home at 65 Tennis Place, he was stricken.

Three days later the little church of St. Luke, in Forest Hills, was filled to overflowing with personal friends, employees of Moore-McCormack, shippers, representatives of various organizations to which he had given his attention during his lifetime. Whatever their association with him, they had come for the single purpose of paying him a final tribute.

At the Moore home, prior to the church service, the family was led in prayer by Rev. R. Thomas Blomquist, pastor of St. Luke’s. The service at the church was from the prayer book of the Protestant Episcopal Church. The Rev. Blomquist read the 23rd and 121st Psalms, the Scripture lesson from the 14th Chapter of the Gospel according to St. John, the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer, and the closing prayer from the Book of Common Prayer.

Coincidentally, two of the men who had been most active with Mr. Moore in the upbuilding of the company were obliged to change their plans radically to attend the service. Mr. McCormack was at sea and Commodore Robert C. Lee, for many years executive vice-president, was in Rio de Janeiro, on business.

When word was flashed to the S.S. Argentina, as it was to all of the ships of the Mooremack fleet, plans were immediately made to divert her from her course to land Mr. McCormack, via a tender, at Newport News, Virginia. He proceeded thence by motor car and train to New York. Commodore Lee boarded a plane at Rio and landed at Idlewild airfield two days later.

When word of Mr. Moore’s death became known, messages of condolence poured in to the Forest Hills home and to the offices of the company from all parts of the world, from high officials of nations whose commerce the ships of Mooremack have carried during the last forty years; from high officials of the U. S. Government, who knew and appreciated the value of the Mooremack operation in cementing the good relations of this country with foreign nations; from spokesmen of many of the most important commercial organizations of this and other countries; from men and women who had met Mr. Moore in his long experience in shipping; from people who had traveled with him and had shared the warmth of his personality. The messages truly reflected the great variety of the friendships he had made.

It was the wish of Mr. Moore’s family that flowers not be contributed, but that persons who planned such contributions divert their charity to the Beckman-Downtown Hospital. This suggestion was heeded by many. Other charitable groups benefited, too. The men of the S.S. Brazil, for example, made a contribution to the Fresh Air Fund of the New York Herald Tribune in the memory of their leader.

Mr. Moore’s passing attracted widespread comment in the press, causing to be recounted the story of the two men who in 1913 joined their talents and experience in forming Moore & McCormack Co., Inc., with the avowed intention of operating ships. Two world wars and a major depression have been survived by their company.

Mr. Moore, who was born in Hackensack, New Jersey, was the son of a manufacturing jeweler, who owned an interest in sailing ships that operated to all parts of the world. Only a few months before his death he showed associates a copy of a newspaper published in Rochester, N. Y., in 1826, which had just been found among his father’s effects. He could not understand why his father had saved it but thought the news of world trade which the paper reported may have been the reason. He went on to recall that as a small boy he sometimes visited his father’s offices in Manhattan and went down to South Street with him, the port’s principal shipping area, to visit ships in which his father had a financial interest.

Throughout his career in shipping, which covered half a century, Mr. Moore delighted in the physical movement of ships. He felt an excitement in watching them as they prepared to sail, as they took on cargo and supplies, as the last-minute problems came and were solved, and finally, as the blast of the whistle and the release of the ropes and the turning of engines heralded departure, a cargo on its way to far lands.

He never failed to visit the piers whenever any excuse offered, to visit the master of a returning ship and hear of the incidents of the voyage, to meet and talk with returning passengers and obtain their reaction to their trip. It was his standard that nothing be left untried if it could possibly make a Moore-McCormack ship more efficient, and he would talk to anyone who had a suggestion to offer.

His habit of rising early on alternate Monday mornings to be at Pier 32, North River, to welcome the Good Neighbor liners on their return from South America, was widely commented on, by shippers and passengers, and by members of his staff, most of them his junior by a good many years, who considered the visit a task. To him it was no task; it was a pleasure, an adventure. The tall figure always loomed on the pier as soon as the ship had been berthed. He would take a position about half way down the pier where he could observe the gangplank and the passengers as they came ashore, and he had an understanding with his assistants that he was to meet people, anyone they could find who would contribute information or suggestions, anyone who could suggest improvement, change, new facilities. If anything was not perfect, he wanted to know.

On sailing days he went to the ship with a list of passengers in his hand and he went from one stateroom to the next, introducing himself and asking questions, determining that everything possible had been done to make the trip comfortable. Few, if any, shipping executives knew as much about their ships and what people thought of them as did the president of Moore-McCormack Lines.

It was specially fitting, therefore, that he had spent his final day visiting one of his ships, and anyone aboard that day who was not aware of his recent illness, would never have known it from the way he moved about, eager as ever to hear anything that was to be learned. Undoubtedly, he had no idea that he might have remained away to conserve his strength. After all, here was a ship sailing, which meant that A. V. Moore had to be there to see about it. That was his way with his job, as it had always been.

Whenever possible, he cleared his desk and headed out to the areas which his ships served. He combined several objectives on these trips, for he had a capacity for winning back his depleted strength while at the same time meeting people who had ideas, conferring with district and area managers, visiting with officials of foreign governments, whose good will was valuable. In October 1951, when the company changed the route of the Pacific Republics Line by sending the ships from Buenos Aires around the southern tip of South America, through the Straits of Magellan to Callao, Peru, and then up to Pacific Coast ports of the U.S., he and Mrs. Moore boarded the Mormacrey and made the trip. They later set down their experiences in a booklet illustrated by photographs they had made, and distributed it among friends.  [Note:  Excerpts of this booklet are on our site in the Cargo Liner section.]

Last Summer, Mr. and Mrs. Moore sailed in the other direction, to Scandinavia and the Baltic, aboard the Mormacdawn, stopping en route at Reykjavik, Iceland, where they enjoyed golf and the fishing, then to Gothenburg, Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, Helsinki and the Continent for a few weeks before returning to the U. S. It was their first trip to Scandinavia since the war, and all along the route he was greeted by old friends, many of whom had known him since the days in 1920, when Mooremack first entered that area. He came home, as he always did from this trip, with renewed enthusiasm for ships and shipping.

Mr. Moore entered shipping in 1903, with Bowring & Co., British shipowners, in New York, became secretary and treasurer of Tweedie Trading Co., in 1907, operating in general shipping to South America and the West Indies. Two years after joining with Mr. McCormack, the partnership sent the Montara to South America, it being the first American flag ship in that area in thirty years. In 1919, they sent their first ships to Scandinavia. Through the years the company’s special areas have been South America and Scandinavia though ships have also been operated intercoastally, to the Gulf of Mexico, Ireland and India.

Mr. Moore held many positions through the years. At his death he was vice-president of the Pan American Society, the Argentine-American Chamber of Commerce and the American-Brazilian Association, a director of the American Merchant Marine Institute, and a member of the Society of Naval Architects and Marine Engineers, the American Scandinavian Foundation, the Metropolitan, Whitehall and Propeller clubs, the Deepdale Country Club, and the India House.

Both the Argentine and Brasilian governments had conferred decorations on him in recognition of his contributions to the commercial well-being of their countries, and the Republican party named him a Presidential elector in the national election of 1952.  He was sorely disappointed that his illness prevented him from going to Albany to cast his electoral ballot for President Eisenhower.

Mr. Moore is survived by his wife, Florence, his daughter, Mrs. Charles Mattmann, and his son, William T. Moore.

 

 

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