Rau was a Navy veteran and later an officer of the court for New York State and New York City until he retired in 1989. From 1989-2006, he served as the editor of the maritime historical publication of the Steamship Historical Society of America.
Approximately 100 cubic feet of photographs, slides, postcards, scrapbooks, brochures, artwork, drawings, and other ephemera documenting engine-powered vessels of the international maritime industry.
Brochures: The brochures are from international passenger lines and cruise lines. They detail both individual ships and shipping lines; they also detail features and services offered by the ship and crew.
Photographs: The photographs, which are captioned, depict ships of all kinds and sizes and in various locales. Some are of specific elements and equipment in the ships, including design elements.
Scrapbooks: Contain photographs, postcards, menus, brochures and flyers, advertisements and clippings. The majority cover passenger and cargo lines, whlie others are on regions or specific topics.
Postcards include both commercially printed images and photographic postcards sent to Rau by friends.
Drawings and oversized materials include blueprints of ships, dock and harbor facilities; artwork; posters; maps and charts; maritime calendars, large photographs, and miscellany.
William M. Rau Steamship Collection, 1900-2007, Archives Center, National Museum of American History