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Paquebot Tonkin, 1899 (Orangutan)
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Paquebot Tonkin, 1899 (Orangutan)


The Paquebot Tonkin was part of the French Messageries Maritimes fleet. Launched in 1898 from the yards of La Ciotat, the Tonkin initially worked the Marseille-Saigon-Yokohama route, with space for 185 first-class passengers, 86 second-class and 77 third-class. This menu, from February 1899, would be from one of her earliest voyages.

The Tonkin took her name from the French term for northern Vietnam, which was occupied by the French at the time. (Sixty-five years later, the name Tonkin became infamous as a result of the “Gulf of Tonkin incident”, when the USS Maddox was supposedly attacked by Viet Minh, sparking a major escalation in the Vietnam War.)

In 1912 the Tonkin was refitted, renamed the Lotus, and reassigned to serve Egypt and Syria. After making it through the First World War unscathed, she met her effective end in 1926 when she rammed a Turkish steamer.

The illustration of an orangutan chef sampling the champagne was created by the French illustrator and watercolour artist Auguste Vimar. Born in Marseille in 1851, he became an illustrator for children’s books and also contributed some of his wonderful animal images to Le Figaro Illustré. He died in 1916.

Vimar created a range of witty animal-themed illustrations for the Messageries Maritimes fleet - see all the ones we have here

Courtesy Private Collection.

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