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History of the Hamburg American Line Through 1910

The extraordinary progress of Hamburg as a seaport during the last thirty years of the 19th century may be held due in no small measure to the enterprise of this line, which now carries passengers not only to the two American continents, but also to the east of Asia and Africa.

Hamburg-Amerika Linie (Hamburg-American Line) was founded in May 1847. At that time, owing to the political disturbances throughout Germany, there was an enormous exodus of emigrants to the new world; of this the founders took advantage, and they started a regular service of sailing ships between Hamburg and New York.

The first ship they owned was the Deutschland, of 700 tons, built on the Elbe. It is interesting to note that the present Deutschland is of 16,502 tons gross register, and is of twenty-three times the capacity of her predecessor. The first sailing took place in October 1848.

In 1851 the company's fleet consisted of six vessels, with an aggregate of 4000 tons. In 1856 the first screw steamer in the company's service left Hamburg; this was the Borussia, a vessel constructed, as were her sisters for many years, on the Clyde. From this time, when the company abandoned sailing ships and took to steam, its prosperity may be said to have dated. It is strange to note that the two first steamships owned by it were chartered by the British and French governments to convey troops to the Crimea.

By 1867 the company had ceased to own any sailing ships. The enormous increase of the traffic is indicated by the fact that whilst in 1856 the sailings to New York took place every fortnight, in 1881 there were two a week, and later on three. The company had also by this time considerably extended its operations from the original passage between Hamburg and New York.

After the war between France and Germany it started a line to the West Indies, and later to Baltimore, Boston, Montreal and other ports in North America. In 1875 it absorbed the old Eagle Company of Hamburg, which had previously been its rival, and then began to run steamers to Central and South America, and later to China, Japan and the Straits Settlements.

Today the Hamburg-American Line may claim to be the largest steamship company in the world. For its services to New York run by twinscrew steamers it has the Deutschland, built at Stettin by the Vulcan Company. Her engines develop about 33,000 horse-power, and she was the first Atlantic liner to exceed a speed of 23 knots at sea.

Other large steamers built for its Hamburg - Southampton - New York service are the Kaiserin Augusta Victoria and the Amerika, which, though larger, has not the Deutschland's speed. A service from Hamburg to New York direct for thirdclass passengers only is also maintained. The Hamburg Company has extended its influence and enlarged its fleet by purchases from and absorptions of other fleets. Thus it has acquired vessels from the Carr Line and the Hansa Line of Hamburg, the Rickmers Line of Bremen, as well as from the Hamburg South America and the Hamburg-Calcutta companies. In conjunction with the Lloyd Line it took over the fleet of the Kinsing Line.

In 1901, with a view to the feeding of its main lines, it acquired the Atlas Line of Liverpool - a company which had developed the trade between New York and the West Indies. Starting from Hamburg, its vessels run to New York, Portland, Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia, Galveston and New Orleans, and to Canadian ports.

In Central and Southern America, there are lines to Mexico, Venezuela, Brazil, Uruguay' and Argentina. Amongst the West Indian Islands Cuba receives special attention from this line.

There is a service to Eastern Asia, China and Japan. From Stettin its steamers run to New York, and from New York to the Mediterranean, Brazil and Eastern Asia. From Genoa they run to La Plata direct.

Source: Encyclopedia Britannica 1911

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