Archibald Hurd.

The sea traders online

. (page 10 of 14)
Online LibraryArchibald HurdThe sea traders → online text (page 10 of 14)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

added the first steel vessel to its fleet. With the
exception of the Great Eastern, this was the largest
and most powerful vessel that the world had ever
seen, and three years later she was followed by
the TJmhria and Etruria, .which succeeded in bring-
ing down the time of the passage from Queenstown
to New York to six and a quarter days.

That was in the year 1885, and in 1893, in the
Campania and Lucaniaf the twin-screw and triple-

Samuel Cunard 157

expansion engine, invented by Dr. Price, were
found in combination; while, in the year 1901, it
was on board the Luca7iia that Mr. Marconi carried
out some of his earlier experiments.

Meanwhile, Germany had appeared as another
foreign competitor, and a competitor much more
considerably supported financially than the Cunard
Company had ever been, even in its earliest days.
In 1900 the Deutschland, and two years later the
Kaiser Wilhelm II, each with an average speed
of twent)^ -three and a half knots, robbed this
country of the blue riband of the Atlantic ; and
it was perhaps characteristic that it was the
Cunard Company that once more brought it back
into British hands.

In the year 1907, fitted with the turbine engines
of which Sir Charles Parsons was the designer,
the Mauretania and Lusitania regained the coveted
blue riband, each being capable of a speed of over
twenty-six knots. Huge as these vessels were,
they were later to be eclipsed by the great
Aquitania, the last word in luxurious construction,
and one of the finest vessels now afloat. Nearly
five times as long as the little Britannia of 1840,
she is a fair index of the enormous strides made
by the company since its foundation by Samuel
Cunard. With engines of 60,000 horse-power,
she was fitted out with a splendour that probably
would have staggered even the fertile imagination
of Samuel Cunard. With her swimming baths,
her libraries, her Louis XVI staircase, her gardens.

158 The Sea Traders

her Palladian lounge and her Adam's drawing-
room, she can carry well over three thousand
passengers, in addition to a crew running well
into four figures.

B}^ the year 1914, indeed, the line of Cunard's
brain had grown to such colossal proportions that
it embraced no less than twenty-six steamers, with
a total tonnage of over 300,000. That was, of
course, before the War, and few of our mercantile
shipping companies lost more heavily, during those
disastrous years, than the Cunard Company, en-
gaged as it was up to the hilt in every kind of
war work afloat. During that time, though many
additions were made to the company's fleet, and
though various other vessels came under its control
for the purposes of the war, it lost more than half
its tonnage and many of its finest ships.

Of the services it rendered it is impossible here
to give any adequate account, and it would be
impossible to estimate their value to the nation
at large. Suffice it to say that, during those
fateful years, it brought to this country, regard-
less of peril, nearly seven and a half million
tons of foodstuffs, munitions of war, and general
cargo from America and Canada alone. In
addition it was responsible for the transport of
nearly a million troops during the same period,
while its vessels steamed, in their country's
service, a total distance of nearly three and a
half million miles.

Among its directors the Navy found in its hour

Samuel Cunard 159

of need some of its ablest maritime advisers, and
in its crews and captains men with whom Drake
and Hawkins would have been proud to sail as
shipmates. Such had been the services when peace
was declared of an undertaking that only eighty
years before had been but an idea in one man's
mind, brooding over the future of Atlantic



Early Days of William Inman — The Iron Steamship and
the Screw-propeller — The Emigrant Trade — Allan, the
Sailing Ship Skipper — Possibilities of the Canadian Trade
— The First Allan Steamers — Progress of the Allan Line
— Thomas Ismay and " Room at the Top " — The Pioneer
of Comfort at Sea — The Foundations of the White Star

npHE Cimard line, as we have seen, was

■*- founded in 1839, successfully competed with

the American Collins line, and maintained,

throughout the nineteenth century, a high

position on the North- Atlantic route. It was

by no means unchallenged, however, and among

its most enterprising competitors was the line

founded by a remarkable man, Mr. William


Born in the y^ar 1825, William Inman was a

generation younger than Samuel Cunard, but, in

the shipping sense, at any rate, he started his

business life a good deal earlier. His father was

a business man, a partner in the firm of Pickford

& Co., of Leicester, and it was in this town that

young Inman was born and educated in his earlier

years. From the collegiate institution at Leicester

he passed to the Liverpool Royal Institution, and

in 1841, at the early age of sixteen, he became


Bridging the Atlantic i6i

a clerk, first to Mr. Nathan Cairns, then to
Messrs. Cater & Co., and finally to Messrs.
Richardson Bros., who were all merchants of

To the last-named of these firms belonged a
fleet of sailing vessels, plying between Liverpool
and Philadelphia, and so impressed were Messrs.
Richardson with young Inman's abilities that
they took him into partnership at the age of
tw^enty-four. These sailing vessels were then
chiefly employed in the carriage of emigrants,
and Inman was entrusted with the entire manage-
ment of the fleet. This gave him not only a
comprehensive knowledge of the rather com-
plicated emigrant-carrying problem, but also
directed the attention of his keen mind to the
rapid progress and growing possibilities of steam
navigation. The success of Samuel Cunard and
the resulting activity of Mr. E. K. Collins
doubtless stimulated William Inman's imagina-
tion, and they were assuredly considerable factors
in determining him at last to found his own line
of steamers.

He soon showed himself, in some waj^s,
quicker to appreciate new developments than any
of his older rivals. In the matter of the screw-
propeller, for instance, successfully designed in
the year 1804 by John Stevens in America,
William Inman became the first British ship-
owner to inaugurate a regular line of steamers
wholly consisting of iron vessels and all employ-

i62 The Sea Traders (

ing the screw-propeller. The original idea of
such a line seems to have occurred, on this side of
the Atlantic, to a Glasgow firm of shipbuilding
engineers, Messrs. Todd and Macgregor; and in
the days when more cautious shipowners were still
regarding these developments a little askance, they
launched the City of Glasgow, an iron screw-pro-
pelled steamer of about 1,600 tons and 350 horse-
power. William Inman, who had been in corre-
spondence with the firm, was greatly impressed by
her build and potentialities, and, convinced that
the future of steamships lay in iron-built and
screw-propelled vessels, he strongly advised his
partners to buy the City oj Glasgow, which they
did. In the winter of that year, 1850, they
accordingly sent her across the Atlantic \vith four
hundred steerage passengers, and they soon ac-
quired a similar vessel in the City of Ma7ichesteri
which made a profit for her owners, in her first
year, of forty per cent.

With these two vessels they now established
regular fortnightly saihngs between Liverpool and
Philadelphia, and, during the next five years, they
added three more ships to their fleet, the City of
Baltimore, the Kangaroo, and the City of Wash-
ington. The ill-fated Collins line, with whose
story we have dealt in the previous chapter, was
now in sight of its end, and Inman resolved, in
the year 1857, to make New York one of his
ports of call. In 1860 he developed a weekly ser-
vice; in 1868 he increased this service to three

Bridging the Atlantic 163

times a fortnight ; and, in 1866, during the summer
months, the Inman Company was maintaining a
twice-weekly service of steamship saiHngs.

Meanwhile, on the final failure of the Collins
line, Inman had perceived a further opportunity
of successful enterprise. He obtained the con-
tract for carrying the United States mails between
England and America, and arranged his dates
of sailing to coincide with the dates that had been
adopted by the now defunct American line. It
was in the emigrant service, however, that he
continued to discern his chief possibilities. He
catered for their comfort, and attracted such large
numbers of these passengers in consequence, from
all parts of Europe, that in the years 1856 and
1857 alone he carried no fewer than eighty-five
thousand of them. In this trade he maintained
the lead for many years, and in 1870 carried ten
thousand more emigrants than his nearest rivals
in this class of work, and nearly twenty thousand
more, for example, than the older Cunard line
carried. He showed a humanity and a considera-
tion for the poor adventurers from the various
underworlds of Europe that none of his com-
petitors had hitherto exhibited, and he may justly
be said to have been a reaj benefactor in this

Nor did his vessels lag behind in the matter
of size and speed. Thus the City of Paris — the
first ship to bear that name — a vessel of 3,081
tons and 500 horse-power, set up in the year 1867

i64 The Sea Traders

a westward record of eight days four hours. In
the year 1873, too, in the City of Chester, and
the City of Richrnondj he added to his fleet two of
the finest vessels then in existence on any ocean.
Each was capable of developing 800 horse-power,
was fitted with male and female hospitals, and
provided, in the galley saloons, cooking facilities
for fifteen hundred persons. The speed of these
two vessels w^as sixteen knots, and they had a
tonnage of 4,700. Both these vessels, on an
average, made the Atlantic passage from New
York to Queenstown in some eight and a half
days. Two years later they were surpassed by
the City of Berlin, a vessel built on the
Clyde, and intended to excel the recently con-
structed Britannic of the White Star Line, in
which the great shipbuilding firm of Harland and
Wolff, at Belfast, had dealt a shrewd blow at the
older Clyde shipbuilders. Built by Messrs. Caird
& Co. of Greenock, the City of Berlin, with the
exception of the Great Eastern, was the largest
vessel afloat, while her speed was as great as that
of the White Star Line's star vessel, the Britannic.
She carried accommodation for over seventeen
hundred passengers, and registered 5,500 tons,
and was supplied with two compound condensing,
direct-acting, high- and low-pressure engines that
developed on trial 4,799 horse-power. Altogether
she was acknowledged generally to be the finest
steamship of her day under any flag, until she
was eclipsed, six years later, by the great Cunarder

Bridging the Atlantic 165

Servia, which we have ah-eady mentioned in the
preceding chapter.

By the year 1875 the Inman hne owned sixteen
steamers, of a total tonnage of 44,000. William
Inman was now fifty years old, a man of wide and
varied interests. Besides being a member of the
Mersey Docks and Harbour Trust, and of the first
Liverpool School Board, he was a magistrate for
the county of Cheshire, a captain of the Cheshire
Rifle Volunteers, and chairman of the Liverpool
Ship Owners Association. Married while quite a
young man — in the same year, in fact, in which
he first became a partner in the firm of Messrs.
Richardsons Brothers — he was the father of twelve
children, nine sons and three daughters. He did
not, however, like Samuel Cunard, reach a ripe
old age, but died in the year 1881.

Nor has his company survived, bearing his
name, as has Samuel Cunard 's. But it was
destined, after his death, to mark at least one
more epoch in steamship evolution. This was in
the year 1888, when, with the two vessels, the
City of New York and City of Paris , the Inman
Company produced the first two regular Atlantic
liners, carrying mails and passengers, to adopt the
twin-screw principle. Each of these vessels was
of 10,000 tons with five decks, and had a speed
of nineteen knots, and in their internal architecture
they were pioneers in many details since generally
adopted. Thus the uppermost promenade deck
afforded free scope for exercise to the passengers

i66 The Sea Traders

while at sea, a passage up and down this deck
fifteen times being equivalent to a mile's walk.
The berths and dining-rooms were perhaps more
spacious and architecturally effective than any
hitherto found in trans- Atlantic steamers, a great
feature being made of the central-dome principle
in the dining-saloon. These two vessels were also,
later in the year 1888, the first Atlantic liners to
be fitted with the triple-expansion engine, invented
by Dr. Price. It is very hard in fact to appreciate
the full debt which the science and art of ship-
building has owed to the individual enterprise and
acumen of such men as Samuel Cunard, William
Inman, Thomas Ismay and Alexander Allan.

With regard to the two last named, although
of course what may be called the spade-work had
already been done, not even the briefest study
would be complete without mentioning their work.
In Thomas Ismay, the principal figure of the early
days of the great White Star Line, and in Alex-
ander Allan, the shrewd spirit that divined the
future of Canada in terms of sea-traffic, the
Atlantic trade produced two men who left a deep
impression on the history of shipping. Like
the Collins Line in America and the Inman Line
with which we have just dealt, the White Star
and the Allan had their origin in fleets of sailing
vessels, and Alexander Allan and his two sons
were the first to develop a regular service of

A native of Saltcoats, Alexander Allan laid

Bridging the Atlantic 167

the foundations of his success in Glasgow, where
he became the owner of several sailing vessels, one
of which he himself commanded for a time. He
was thus practically acquainted with the sea, not
only as a man of business but as a practical
mariner; and when the success of the steamship
as a means of transport between England and the
United States seemed assured, it occurred to him
to establish a service between Great Britain and
Canada. During the summer months the great
estuary of the St. Lawrence river offered splendid
possibilities of steam navigation, while in winter,
when this river was icebound, there were more
easterly open harbours available.

Alexander Allan was the father of five sons, all
of whom became interested in this project, two
of them, James and Bryce, being themselves
experienced seamen. In the year 1852, when the
Canadian Government advertised for tenders for
the conveyance of mails, their steamers were not
ready, and another company, Messrs. McKean,
McClarty and Lamont, of Liverpool, obtained the
contract. This firm had four steamers available,
and it was to them, when their first steamer had
been constructed, that the Allans chartered it.

After about eighteen months, however, the
service, as conducted by this firm, not proving
sufficiently satisfactory to the authorities, the con-
tract was transferred to the Allans themselves.
But there was yet to be a further delay in the
final establishment of what was to be known as

i68 The Sea Traders

the Allan Line, for the Crimean War intervened,
and the Allans' new steamers were diverted to
Russia for transport services, so that it was not
until the year 1856 that they were able to com-
mence their regular sailings to Canada. At first
these took place once a fortnight to Montreal in
the summer months, and once a month, during
the winter, to the harbour of Portland in Maine.
These services were soon made weekly, while
Halifax in Nova Scotia became the chief winter
port of call. The port of St. John's, New-
foundland, was also embraced within the orbit
of the Allans' enterprise, being reached from
Halifax with the aid of an ice-breaker in winter,
while a service was also established between Liver-
pool and Baltimore, additional sailings being made
from Glasgow. In charge of all this, James,
Bryce and Alexander established themselves at
Liverpool, while Hugh and Andrew superintended
the company's interests in Montreal, their earlier
steamers being built by William Denny of

Regularity of sailing, safety and efficiency
were the watchwords of the company, and their
steamers were well up to the standard in the
matter of speed and modern equipment. Indeed,
in the Hibernian, they were the first to introduce
into the Atlantic trade, in the year 1861, the
principle of the promenade deck covering the
deck-houses and extending throughout the length
of the ship, .while they were actually ahead of the

Bridging the Atlantic 169

Cunard, White Star and the Inman lines in the
launching of a steel-built vessel. So greatly did
the line prosper that, within a quarter of a century,
it consisted of twenty-two steamships with a total
tonnage of over 54,000.

That was in the year 1875, and a few years
before this the White Star hne had been founded,
although, for many years previously, it had been
in existence as a fleet of fast American clippers in
the Australian trade. In this, its new phase,
Thomas Ismay was the chief factor, and from the
outset the ideal that he set before himself was the
comfort of his passengers. In this particular respect
— in what may be termed perhaps the hotel side
of Atlantic travelling — he may justly be called a
pioneer. In the construction of his steamers,
all of which were built by Messrs. Harland and
Wolff at Belfast, the comfort of his passengers was
the primarj^ consideration ; and in the Oceanic , the
first great White Star liner, many novel features
.were assembled.

Realizing that the old tradition of placing
passengers aft made for acute discomfort with the
arrival of the screw-propeller, he decided to put
his passenger quarters forward of the engine-
rooms, where the vibration and movement of the
vessel were least noticeable. The saloons and
staterooms were placed amidships, and the former
were so constructed as to occupy the whole width
of the vessel, being superior in ventilation, light-
ing and general upholstery to any yet in existence.

170 The Sea Traders

This, indeed, was the first of the modern luxury
liners, as we know them to-day, far surpassed
though she has since been, of course, by such
vessels as the Cunard Company ^s Aquitania and
the White Star Line's Olympic, built in 1910.

It was in the year 1867 that Thomas Ismay
first "took hold" in the American phrase, and
by then the Cunard, the Guion, the Inman and
the National Lines were all thoroughly established.
Believing in the general principle, however, that
there is always plenty of room at the top, and
finding in Messrs. Harland and Wolff shipbuilders
and designers of the highest enterprise and effici-
ency, the Oceanic on her maiden voyage, begun on
March 2, 1871, ushered in a new-comer among
trans- Atlantic steamship companies that was very
soon to take high rank.

Thus, in the year 1901, with the Celtic, the
White Star Line launched the first steamer that
exceeded in tonnage the famous but unsuccessful
Great Eastern, for so many years the record-holder
in mere bulk. Provided with swimming-baths,
concert rooms and a gymnasium, she was so
popular and profitable that, in 1904, when the
White Star Line had formed American associa-
tions, though retaining its own British manage-
ment, the Baltic was built on even bolder lines,
to be further expanded, a few years later, in the
shape of the Adriatic, and to be more than
doubled in the ill-fated Titanic and her sister
ship the Olympic.

Bridging the Atlantic 171

As in the case of the Cunard, Allan, and indeed
every great line, the services, during the Great
War, of the White Star line, were beyond all com-
putation ; and in the first British hospital ship to
be sunk, the Britannic, lost in the iEgean Sea in
November, 1916, the White Star Line sacrificed
the most modern, the most elaborately equipped
and most expensive of its liners. Launched on
February 26, 1914, from the yards of Messrs.
Harland and Wolff, she had a tonnage of 48,150,
while her estimated value was over £2,000,000.
Fortunately there were no invalids on board at
the time, but her crew and medical and nursing
staff numbered over one thousand, and more than
a hundred of these, unhappily, were either killed,
wounded, or drowned.



Small Beginnings in Lime Street, London — The First
Sailings to Spain — The Indian Mails and their Transport
— Beginnings in the Indian Ocean — Rivalry with the
East India Company — Sailings to China and Australia —
The Effects of the Suez Canal — The Enormous Growth
of the Company.

TN the last few chapters we have traced the gradual
-■• divorce between the great business houses and
their shipping and the rise of sea transport as an
independent industry, chiefly as it affected the
Atlantic. But the same process was at work,
immensely accelerated by the advent of steam, as
regards our even larger Oriental and Australian
commerce. The great Russian and Levant Com-
panies as such had now ceased to have their
previous importance, but the trading energies that
they had fostered had branched out into innumer-
able independent concerns.

The East India Company, however, was still
a very great power, and for a long time, as we
shall see, clung jealously to its precedence in the
matter of sea transport no less than in many others.
Presently, however, the new disintegrating move-
ment, based upon the colossal expansion of our
oversea trade during the comparatively peaceful


Early Days of P. and O. Company 173

Victorian era, was to prove too strong even for
this ancient and honourable concern, and in the
transformation of our eastern sea traffic no two
men played a greater part than Brodie Willcox
and Arthur Anderson. Both of them started life
in humble circumstances, with far fewer advan-
tages, for instance, than Samuel Cunard, Will-
cox being four years Cunard 's senior and eight
years older than his partner Anderson.

Born in Ostend in 1783, of mixed Scottish and
English ancestry, Willcox was educated chiefly at
Newcastle-on-Tyne. When he was thirty-two
years old he had saved enough money to enable
him to open an office for himself in London.
Here, in the year 1815, with very small means
and without much influence, he started in business
in Lime Street, off Leadenhall Street, as a ship-
broker and commission agent, and presently
engaged as a clerk in his office a young man,
Arthur Anderson, from the Orkney Islands.

Both men were industrious, capable, more than
ordinarily shrewd and, needless to say, trans-
parently honest, and by slow degrees they estab-
lished not only a solid commission business, but
became part owners of a few sailing vessels. In
1825 Willcox made Anderson a partner, and the
new firm, under the title of Willcox and Ander-
son, moved to St. Mary Axe.

It was chiefly with the Peninsula — with Por-
tugal and Spain — that Willcox's sailing vessels
were employed in trade, and he presently estab-

174 The Sea Traders

lished a system of regular sailings, opening, when
steamers became practicable, a scheduled steamship
service. The firm still continued, however, its
brokerage business, and in this connexion became
the intermediaries in the chartering of a vessel —
owned by Messrs. Bourne of Dublin, who were
stage-coach contractors for the conveyance of
mails in Ireland — to the Queen Regent of Spain.
A little later, after diplomatic pressure on the part
of the Spanish Minister in London, Messrs. Bourne
decided to establish a line of steamships running
regularly between London and the Peninsula.
Brodie Willcox and Arthur Anderson were ap-
pointed agents for this new concern, and Messrs.
Bourne sent to them from Dublin another young
Scotsman, one James Allan, to assist in the
management of this further venture. This was
called the "Peninsular Steam Navigation," and
became the parent of the now world-renowned
P. & O. line.

Efficiently managed from the outset, it soon
became so palpably the best company sailing to
the Peninsula that, after much opposition from
interested quarters, it obtained the contract for the
carriage of mails, and in the Iheriay sailing in
September, 1837, the directors had the satisfaction

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 10 12 13 14

Online LibraryArchibald HurdThe sea traders → online text (page 10 of 14)