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Felix Riesenberg
Born April 9, 1879
Died November 19, 1939 (aged 60)
Nationality American
  • United States Merchant Marine
  • explorer
  • administrator
  • author
Known for writing

Felix Riesenberg (9 April 1879 – 19 November 1939) was an American maritime officer and writer of maritime professional, historical, and fictional literature in the early 20th century.


Riesenberg was born in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He later attended the New York Nautical School graduating in the class of 1897. Afterward, he secured a position as a deck officer in the merchant marine, being part of the Coast and Geodetic Survey and also serving in the Naval Reserve until 1909. Riesenberg was hired by Walter Wellman to be a part of the support crew in an unsuccessful attempt to reach the North Pole by airship in the summer of 1906. He was rehired by Wellman the following year to be the navigator aboard the three man airship America in a second failed attempt to reach the North Pole in 1907.

After this, Riesenberg enrolled and graduated from the Columbia School of Engineering and Applied Science in 1913.

Riesenberg worked as a civil Engineer for New York State from 1913 to 1915 and then again from 1920 to 1922. In the interim, he was the Chief Officer of the United States Shipping Board.

Riesenberg was the superintendent of the New York Nautical School on two occasions, from 1917 to 1919 as Commander of the barkentine "Newport" and again from 1923 to 1924.

Riesenberg was also a prolific author, publishing a textbook, Standard Seamanship for the Merchant Service that became commonly used, as well as several maritime historical works and novels. He wrote several articles that appeared in the magazine The Nation. Riesenberg published his memoir Living Again in 1937.

Riesenberg died 19 November 1939 in Scarsdale, New York. After a funeral service held in Bronxville his ashes were scattered at sea.

He had four children, Felix Jr., William, Margaret (Peggy), and John (Jack). Priscilla was Felix Jr's wife. His son Felix Jr. (1913–1962) was also an author of numerous maritime books.

The New York Nautical School is today called "Maritime College" and is part of the State University of New York (SUNY) system. Present day cadets are still taught the 'Riesenberg Saying': "The sea is selective; slow at recognition of effort and aptitude, but fast in sinking the unfit."


The SS Felix Riesenberg was a type EC2-S-C1 Liberty ship built at Brunswick, Georgia and delivered to the United States Merchant Marine 26 December 1944 that was named in Riesenberg's honor. Following World War II she was sold to a private company in 1947 and finally scrapped in 1972.

In the 1940s, a sail training schooner at the United States Merchant Marine Academy in King's Point, New York was renamed the Felix Riesenberg, having previously been named the Rhine.

On the campus of State University of New York Maritime College Riesenberg Hall, which houses the athletic department, was dedicated 6 May 1965 to honor Riesenberg. Riesenberg Hall contains a gymnasium and a natatorium, it hosts the college's basketball, volleyball, and swimming & diving events.

In 2001, Felix Riesenberg was inducted into the National Maritime Hall of Fame at Kings Point.

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