National Maritime Day is observed on the day the American steamship Savannah set sail from Savannah, GA on the first ever transoceanic voyage under steam power, May 22, 1819. The ship “put to sea with both steam and sails” and reached Liverpool in 29 days and four hours, becoming the first steamship to cross the Atlantic. While the steam engine performed faultlessly, it was not the only means of propulsion; historians have estimated that the Savannah was under sail 80% of the time.
The national holiday was created by US Congress on May 20, 1933 and National Maritime Day is a day to pay special tribute to the merchant marine and to the benefits that the maritime industry provides this country and to all who live here.
Maritime Day is observed in a variety of ways. Many ports have open houses and special celebrations. Propeller Clubs all over the United States hold special luncheons. At Merchant Marine Memorials, such as the one in New York City and the one in San Pedro, California, memorial observances are held.