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Introduction and Founders - The Story of the Cunard Line

Reprinted Buisness Illustrated History of Cunard Line - Dec 1902

GGA Image ID # 100243bf8e

The Great Atlantic Ferry: OCEAN TRAVEL IN EXCELSIS.


In the stirring story of ocean steamship enterprise the year 1902 will ever remain one of remarkable memories. During this year the supremacy of Great Britain in the Atlantic shipping trade has, for the first time, been seriously threatened.

Even as it is, the blandishments of American capital, handled on Napoleonic lines, and the fascinating possibilities of enterprise on a colossal scale, have together succeeded in absorbing within one huge combination several British Atlantic steamship lines, which' had previously been engaged in active coin-petition.

As was to be expected, this proceeding excited an amount of sensational interest which was unprecedented in the history of the shipping industry. Happily the Cunard Steamship Company, Limited-- one of the oldest and most famous of British steam navigation undertakings--was one of those concerns which elected to remain independent and outside the scope of the great Trust; and, with the support and co-operation of the British Government, it has, within the past few months, entered upon a new chapter in its history, under conditions which are likely to maintain the splendid traditions of the Cunard Line.

The Founders of the Cunard Line

The Founders of the Cunard Line

Clockwise from the top: Sir Samuel Cunard , David MacIver , and Sir George Burns | GGA Image ID # 100264e46e

In view of what follows in the course of this article, the terms of the arrangement concluded with His Majesty's Government may advisedly be recapitulated here. The Cunard Company is to add to its fleet two large steamers of high speed for the Atlantic trade, and has pledged itself to remain a purely British undertaking for a period of twenty years from the completion of the second of these vessels, alike as regards the management, the shares, and the vessels of the Company.

During the currency of this arrangement the Company holds the whole of its fleet, including the two new vessels, and all others as built, at the disposal of the Government, who are at liberty to charter or purchase all or any of these vessels. The Cunard Company also undertakes not to unduly raise freights, or to give preferential rates to foreigners.

The Government on their part will supersede the present Admiralty subvention by the payment to the Cunard Company of the sum of £150,000 per annum, and will also lend the Company the necessary funds to enable it to construct the two new vessels, charging interest at the rate of 2 3/4 per cent. per annum, the security for the loan being a first charge on the two vessels, the Company's present fleet and its general assets.

Altogether the arrangement is one which is creditable alike to His Majesty's Government and to the Cunard Company. It is one, moreover, which is fraught with great possibilities. It may, for one thing, be the precursor of means which will repair those disabilities from which British ship owners have long suffered in comparison with the ship owners of rival nations, whose efforts are supported by the bounty system.

It is the existence of this system in connection with the ocean steamships of other countries which, amongst other effects, has temporarily deprived British ship owners of the honor of being the holders of the record for speed in crossing the Atlantic, which it was their proud boast to possess for many a year.

No doubt the new vessels to be added to the Cunard fleet will once more secure this honor for British liners. In any case, the circumstances in which the Cunard Company now finds itself placed are eminently calculated to foster that spirit of enterprise for which the Cunard Line has always been celebrated.

The close of the year 1902—marking as it does a period which has been fraught with much momentous change to British shipping and allied interests—seems, then, to form an appropriate juncture at which briefly to review the history of the Great Atlantic Ferry, and in fuller measure to tell the story of the Cunard Line, which has filled so prominent a place in the annals of British shipping. The occasion, too, is none the less opportune because it closely synchronises with a memorable period in later British history—the Coronation of King Edward VII.

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