The Shipping Lines

The most important English shipping lines were (in alphabetical order):

The Allan Line, officially called the Montreal Ocean Steamship Co. was founded in 1854 by Hugh Allan and provided regular steamship service from Liverpool to Canada. Its additional services were direct sailings from Glasgow with calls at Irish ports. In 1915 it merged with Canadian Pacific.

The Anchor Line was founded by Thomas Henderson and it provided a weekly steamer service Glasgow-New York with calls at Moville for Irish passengers. Later additions to the service were carrying Scandinavian emigrants on feeder vessels to Leith and onwards by rail to Glasgow as well as operating direct service from the Mediterranean to the US as of 1882 offering direct service from Liverpool to New York. Cunard Line purchased this company in 1911.

James Baines & Co started in 1852 the Liverpool Black Ball Line of Australian Packets. Taking advantage of the gold rush it took up service of carrying emigrants and cargo to Melbourne. A few years later, the company diversified its service by calling on ports in Queensland as well as running a joint service with the British and Australian Steam Navigation Co. Due to a number of unsuccessful attempts to merge with other shipping lines as well as being involved in the banking crisis in 1866, by 1871 the line was financially ruined.

In 1840 the Cunard Line started out with four wooden paddle steamers as the British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company. Seven years later the service was increased to weekly transatlantic sailings and the company was later renamed to Cunard Steam Ship Co., Ltd with an upgrade of its fleet in 1878. In order to keep up with fierce competition from the American combine and the German Cunard modernized and upgraded its fleet once more by adding the express liners Mauretania and Lusitania in 1907. By the end of World War I the fleet was rebuilt and around the same time Cunard moved its express service from Liverpool to Southampton. Eventually Cunard built the two large liners Queen Mary in 1936 and Queen Elizabeth in 1940 respectively and took over the White Star Line in 1934. With the decline in passenger traffic in the 1960s the shipping line discontinued the regular transatlantic service and concentrated on cruising only. Still today Cunard is known for its cruise ships such as the Queen Elizabeth 2 or Queen Mary 2.

The Dominion Line was founded in 1870 as the Liverpool and Mississippi Steamship Co. The expansion of the service to Quebec and Montreal lead to the change of its name to Mississippi and Dominion Steamship Co., abbreviated to Dominion Line. The majority of its weekly service to Quebec and Montreal were emigrants to Canada calling on Irish ports en route. IMM bought the company in 1902 which maintained the Canadian trade from 1909 until 1926 as a joint service with White Star.

The Inman Line founded in 1850 by the Richardson Brothers & Co., with William Inman as partner was the first steamship line to carry steerage passengers. The line expanded and flourished despite its concentration on war work during the Crimean war (1854-1856) and the loss of two ships and 480 passengers. As of 1871 the shipping line began experiences problems due to intense competition particularly from White Star Line which resulted in the Inman Line being sold to the American International Navigation Co., owners of the American and Red Star Lines in 1886. This resulted in the shift of the British terminal to be moved from Liverpool to Southampton in 1893.

The National Steam Navigation Co., Ltd., also known as the National Line was founded in Liverpool in 1863 and concentrated on the cargo and emigrant trade from Liverpool to New York. Four years later it was reorganized and changed its policy of concentrating on capacity instead of speed so that in 1870 it had carried some 33,500 steerage passengers and 395,000 tons of cargo. With these numbers it was only second to the Inman Line. Declining numbers in passenger traffic and the loss of two vessel were the reasons for the discontinuation of the passenger business in 1890 and concentrated on cargo-only service. The Line was bought by the Atlantic Transport Line in 1896 and operated separately until its disappearance in 1914.

The Shaw Savill & Albion Co Ltd was founded in 1882 by the merger of Shaw Savill & Co of London with Patrick Henderson's Glasgow-based Albion Line. Both ran sail services for cargo and mainly emigrants to New Zealand. Both lines shared the mail service. By 1883 the shipping line added its first two steamers and after negotiations with White Star used three of its surplus ships. White Star eventually took a share of ownership but the line continued to operate separately until Lord Kylsant, then owner of White Star, bought the major share in 1927. As a result of Lord Kylsant’s crash Shaw Savill & Albion Co was taken over by Furness Withy. In association with the British Maritime Trust, it was rebuilt and operated a fleet of cargo liners and a few large passenger liners until the early 1970s. With Bank Line a service from New Zealand and Australia to the West Indies was started in 1978. From 1980 to 1986 this all-container service used a last ship under the Shaw Savill & Albion Co's colors.

The White Star Line set up in 1868 as the Ocean Steam Navigation Co., Ltd., got its name from the defunct White Star Line of Australian sailing packets which was bought by Thomas Ismay in 1867. Ismay’s new shipping line took up service in 1870. An agreement with Inmal Line strengthened its business. Parallel, Ismay, Imrie & Co., the managers, also ran a fleet of large iron and steel sailing ships until 1895. The partners began buying cargo and cattle steamers as well as large luxury passenger ocean liners which ultimately lead to ships as the Olympic, Titanic and Britannic. Thomas Ismay died in 1899 and his creation was sold to the International Mercantile Marine (IMM) in 1902. IMM rationalized the its services and in 1907 moved from Liverpool to Southampton. In 1926 it was purchased by Lord Kylsant but his subsequent crash when he was charged on three counts of larceny lead to the merger with Cunard in 1934.

The Wilson Line was founded in 1843 in Hull and its main business was operating feeder ships which brought the emigrants from other European countries such as Germany, Sweden, Norway, etc. to the UK. By 1858 the company basically had a monopoly on the route from Scandinavia to Hull. In 1906 it substantially expanded its business by forming a new company, the Wilson and North Eastern Railway and Shipping Company, offering now both the feeder ship service as well as the transport by railway to Liverpool, Glasgow, etc. It was the largest privately owned shipping line.

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