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Dominion Line History and Ephemera

Dominion Line Royal Mail Steamers

The Dominion Line Royal Mail Steamers was involved in the transatlantic immigrant passenger service between Liverpool, Queenstown (Cobh) and Boston; Liverpool to Quebec and Montreal and Naples to Boston. They were in operation under Dominion Line from the late 1800s to 1908, and White Star Dominion Line until 1926.

Dominion Line Ephemera

1898-01-15 SS Canada

1898-01-15 SS Canada Passenger List

  • Class of Passengers: Saloon
  • Date of Departure: 15 January 1898
  • Route: Boston to Liverpool via Queenstown (Cobh)
  • Commander: Captain Jas. McAuley
1899-05-18 SS New England

1899-05-18 SS New England Passenger List

  • Class of Passengers: Saloon
  • Date of Departure: 18 May 1899
  • Route: Liverpool to Boston via Queenstown (Cobh)
  • Commander: Not Disclosed
1899-10-12 SS New England

1899-10-12 SS New England Passenger List

  • Class of Passengers: Saloon
  • Date of Departure: 12 October 1899
  • Route: Liverpool to Boston via Queenstown (Cobh)
  • Commander: Not Disclosed
Front Cover of 1900 Brochure from the Dominion Line Royal Mail Steamers - To Canada and the United States.

1900 Brochure - Dominion Line Book of Views

Excellent brochure from circa 1900 that provided several views of their fleet of steamships, facts about their fleet, and views of their first, second, and third-class accommodations.

1900-08-09 SS Dominion

1900-08-09 SS Dominion Passenger List

  • Class of Passengers: Second Saloon
  • Date of Departure: 9 August 1900
  • Route: Liverpool to Quebec and Montreal
  • Commander: Not Disclosed
1900-09-27 SS New England

1900-09-27 SS New England Passenger List

  • Class of Passengers: Second Saloon
  • Date of Departure: 27 September 1900
  • Route: Liverpool to Boston via Queenstown (Cobh)
  • Commander: Not Disclosed

1901-08-01 SS New England Passenger List

  • Class of Passengers: Second Saloon
  • Date of Departure: 1 August 1901
  • Route: Liverpool to Boston via Queenstown (Cobh)
  • Commander: Not Listed
1903-05-16 SS Vancouver

1903-05-16 SS Vancouver Passenger List

  • Class of Passengers: Saloon
  • Date of Departure: 16 May 1903
  • Route: Naples to Boston via Azores
  • Commander: Captain MacDonald
1906-04-05 SS Kensington

1906-04-05 SS Kensington Passenger List

  • Class of Passengers: Cabin
  • Date of Departure: 5 April 1906
  • Route: Liverpool to Halifax, NS and Portland, ME
  • Commander: Captain William Roberts
1909-08-19 SS Dominion

1909-08-19 SS Dominion Passenger List

  • Class of Passengers: Second Class
  • Date of Departure: 19 August 1909
  • Route: Liverpool for Quebec and Montreal
  • Commander: Captain W. L. Mendus

 

The Dominion Line - 1908

THE “St. Lawrence Route to Europe,” as it has come to be familiarly known, will always be popular especially with the tourist who wishes to avoid as much of the uncertain weather of the open sea as possible.

The steamers of the Dominion Line leaving Montreal Saturdays at daylight and Quebec at 7 p. m. for Liverpool direct, steam for two days and a half on the smooth waters of the river and the broad gulf before starting on the ocean run, which commences at that point in the North Atlantic where most vessels begin to bear to the eastward after two or three days’ sail from the more southerly ports, such as Boston, Kew York and Philadelphia.

One-third of the voyage on the ocean itself is thus avoided and from this point to Liverpool is but a matter of four and a half to five days. This route also offers the traveler the exceptional opportunity to enjoy over nine hundred miles of beautiful and impressive scenery skirting the banks of the St. Lawrence River and the shores of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Passing out of the portals of the New World into the North Atlantic at its narrowest point, a short sea voyage is the pleasant prospect of every passenger. During the winter season, when the St. Lawrence is closed to navigation, the Dominion Line sailings are made weekly from Portland, Maine, to Liverpool direct.

The Steamers Laurentic and Megantic

Two new and powerful steamers—the Laurentic (triple-screw with turbine and reciprocating engines), and Megantic (twin screw)—especially designed for the St. Lawrence Route, will shortly inaugurate a Liverpool-Canadian service under the flag of the White Star Line, in conjunction with the Dominion Line, of which due announcement will be made. Both vessels are nearing completion in the Belfast shipyards of Harland & Wolff.

Being 550 feet in length and 67 feet in breadth, these are the longest and broadest steamers ever brought to the St. Lawrence, and their large displacement and the bilge keels with which they will be fitted cannot fail to secure for them that foremost seagoing quality—absolute steadiness.

The accommodations in first, second and third classes will be of the latest type, with every “creature-comfort,” and special attention will be paid to the cuisine and service. The Dominion Line service, as at present constituted, comprises the well-known and popular vessels described below.

The Steamship Canada

The Steamship Canada is undoubtedly the most famous ship of the Dominion Line, being noted for her speed, her steadiness in any sea, and the regularity of her crossings. This fine vessel is a product of the famous shipyards of Harland & Wolff, of Belfast, the builders of all the famous vessels of the White Star Line. Entirely constructed of steel after thoroughly approved modern designs, including a complement of watertight bulkheads, the principal dimensions of the Canada are: Length, 514 feet; breadth of beam, 58 feet; gross tonnage, 9,413. She is a twin-screw steamship and her engines are of the triple-expansion type, developing 6,800 horsepower, which is sufficient to insure a speed of 17 knots.

The Canada is thoroughly equipped with every modem appliance, and electricity is used for lighting and all other possible purposes.

There are fine promenade and boat decks, and on the saloon and upper decks are situated the staterooms and cabins of first-class passengers. These rooms are spacious, well lighted and are provided with modem sanitary and ventilating systems.

The first-class dining hall is an unusually large and cheerful apartment, tastefully decorated and furnished, and equipped with handsome table appointments. The cuisine is all that the most fastidious could desire and well-trained attendants perform the service.

Attractive staterooms for second-class passengers are provided on the upper deck. These cabins are well situated, light and most comfortably furnished. The third-class passengers find modem accommodations with all conveniences, desirably located on the upper and main decks.

The Steamship Dominion

The Dominion is a fine, staunch twin-screw ship entirely built of steel with water-tight bulkheads and sectional compartments, also from the yards of Harland & Wolff. The principal dimensions of the Dominion are: Length, 456 feet; breadth of beam, 50 feet; gross tonnage, 6,618 tons.

In every way the Dominion is a comfortable ship, and is furnished and decorated with exquisite artistic taste and skill. The first-class dining saloon, located on the saloon deck, is especially noticeable as a model of harmony along decorative lines. Its attractiveness is further enhanced by a soft light, which pervades the room, emanating from a magnificent dome of cathedral, and opalescent glass, which lends a distinct charm to this apartment.

On the saloon deck, also, are most of the first-class staterooms, while twenty-six cabins of a similar standard are situated on the upper deck. All the second and third-class accommodations are located on the upper deck, but are isolated from the first-class apartments. The Second Class staterooms are similar in plan to those of the first-class and are quite as well lighted and ventilated.
The ship’s library and the smoking rooms are also tastefully furnished and provided with all up-to-date conveniences.

The Steamships Kensington and Southwark

The Kensington and Southwark are sister ships, although they came from the hands of different builders, the former being constructed by Messrs. James and George Thomson, of Glasgow, and the latter the product of the shipbuilding yards of William Denny & Bros., at Dumbarton.

Each of these twin-screw steamers of beautiful model has four masts and a large single funnel. Their construction is of the best steel, with double bottoms and longitudinal and transverse watertight compartments, and they are driven by two sets of quadruple-expansion engines at an average speed of about 14 1/2 knots per hour, and have proved most popular on the St. Lawrence route. The passenger accommodations are devoted to two classes of passengers only—viz., second and third class.

The second-class passengers are located in the very best section of the snip. The moderate rates of passage provide for the best the ship offers, and passengers have the use of all the public rooms, promenade decks, etc., assuring every comfort. These moderate prices, with a maximum of comfort, and an excellent table, have made an enviable reputation for the Kensington and Southwark.

The Kensington is 495 feet long, 57 feet wide, and of 8,669 tons; while the Southwark is 495 feet long, 57 feet wide, and of 8,607 tons.

The Steamship Ottawa

The fastest trips ever made between Montreal and Liverpool—both east and westbound—are those of the Dominion Line steamer Ottawa—less than seven days from quay to quay—over the beautiful St. Lawrence short-sea route, the time named including stops at intermediate points to embark or land passengers and cargo.

The great satisfaction expressed by the traveling public, as shown by their patronage of this staunch steamer, is a matter of congratulation to the Dominion Line. The Ottawa is of 5,071 tons; 468 feet long, and 45 feet beam, and her accommodations are devoted entirely to passengers traveling in second and third-class, the same as upon the sister ships Kensington and Southwark. This enables passengers, at a moderate fare, to make the trans-Atlantic trip with every comfort and all privileges and in the minimum time. The Ottawa has earned a large degree of popularity since entering the St. Lawrence Route.

The Steamship Vancouver

The Vancouver—one of the most comfortable and speedy vessels in this service—is a favorite with a large number of travelers. This staunch ship was originally built in Glasgow by Connell & Company, but has since been thoroughly over-hauled and refitted by Harland & Wolff. At the same time she was equipped with new engines of 5,000 horse power, and the steamer herself is 448 feet long, has a breadth of beam of 46 feet, and registers a gross tonnage of 5,292 tons.

The dining saloon is spacious and well lighted and ventilated, besides being handsomely furnished. The staterooms are situated upon the saloon deck, with about twenty-five additional located on the bridge deck, where the Captain’s quarters and chart room are also to be found. There are a number of large cabins which may be made en suite as occasion demands, and families are thus accommodated with the utmost facility. The ship is lighted throughout by electricity, and her entire appointments are of the best. The cuisine and service are kept up to a high standard of excellence.

The Vancouver carries passengers in second and third class only; and as her promenade space is extensive for both classes, the opportunity for out-door pleasures is exceptional.

The Steamship Cambroman

The Cambroman is practically the same size and type as the Vancouver and is a trim-looking vessel of 5,672 tons, 445 feet long:, 46 feet breadth of beam, and about 30 feet depth.

The Cambroman was built at Birkenhead, bv Laird Brothers, and her record and reputation as a comfortable steamer in the Dominion Line have been most excellent.

Source: International Mercantile Marine Company, "Dominion Line Montreal-Quebec-Liverpool (Summer); Portland-Liverpool (Winter)," Facts For Travelers: American Line, Atlantic Transport Line, Dominion Line, Leyland Line, Red Star Line, White Star Line, 1908: P. 31-35

Dominion Line Royal Mail Steamers Advertisement - 1890s

Mid 1890s Advertisement marterial from the Dominion Line that provides information about routes, agencies, fleet and accommodations.

Mid 1890s Advertising Material, Dominion Line

Domion Line Royal Mal Steamers

Sailing Regularly Between

  • Liverpool, Quebec and Montreal
  • Liverpool, Halifax and Portland, ME
  • Liverpool and Boston

Agencies

  • W. M. Macpherson,  83. Dalhousie St., Quebec
  • A. G. Jones & Go., Halifax, N.S.
  • Warren & Co., 125, Milk Street, Boston
  • D. Torrance & Co., 17, St. Sacrament St., Montreal
  • D. Torrance & Co. Portland, Me

Richards Ails Co Managers 24. James St Liverpool

Dominion Line

The Dominion Line Steamers Sail Regularly Between

Liverpool, Quebec And Montreal (Via Londonderry).

Liverpool, Halifax and Portland (Via Londonderry).

Liverpool and Boston (Via Queenstown).

The Following Is A List Of The Steamers Comprising The Fleet :

Dominion Line Fleet
Vessel Year Bult Tonnage Length Breadth
SS Canada (Twin Screw) 1896 9000 515 58
SS Scotsman (Twin Screw) 1895 6041 471 49
SS Labrador 1891 5000 401 47
SS Vancouver 1884 5000 430 45
SS Cambroman 1892 5000 429 46
SS Ottoman 1890 5000 403 45
SS Roman 1884 5000 405 43
SS Norseman 1882 5000 392 44

These Steamers are fitted with Electric Light throughout, have Saloons and State Rooms, Music Rooms, Smoking Rooms and Bath Rooms amidships, where the least motion is felt, are amongst the largest and finest afloat, and are well and favorably known for the comfort and excellent arrangements they afford for all classes of Passengers.

The Story of the Dominion Line - 1896

For many years after the introduction of iron screw steamships to the Atlantic trade it was not supposed that they could compete successfully with sailing ships in the carriage of such bulky goods as raw cotton. However, in 1870 a number of merchants engaged in the New Orleans trade with Liverpool resolved to make the attempt, and formed the Mississippi and Dominion Steamship Company, Limited, under the management of Messrs. Flinn, Main & Montgomery, of Liverpool. They were to run to New Orleans in winter (calling on the outward voyage at Bordeaux, Lisbon and Havana), and to Quebec and Montreal in summer.

Their first boats were the St. Louis, Vicksburg and Memphis, all under 2000 tons gross, built in 1870. In 1871 they built the Mississippi, 2129 tons (now the Sicilia), and in 1872 the Texas, 2822 tons.

After a time the directors abandoned the New Orleans trade and confined themselves to the Canadian trade, sailing to and from Portland, Maine, in winter, and thus the boats became known as the Dominion Line.

Gradually they sold the smaller boats and substituted larger ones, designed to carry large cargoes, with good accommodation for passengers, and fitted with compound engines of moderate power. Being of less speed at first than the Allan boats, they were not as popular with passengers, but latterly they have become powerful competitors, both for goods and passengers, and two of their boats are about a match for the popular Parisian in point of speed.

 In 1874 they built the Dominion, 3176 tons, 350 H.P. nominal (335 x 38^4 x 32'5), and the Ontario, a sister ship, at Dumbarton; in 1879 the Montreal, 3300 tons, 375 H.P. (320 x 39 x 25); in 1880 the Toronto, 3316 tons, 375 H.P. (329’5 x 39 '3 X 25’2), at Whiteinch, and the Ottawa, a sister ship; and they bought from the Inman Company the City of Dublin (re-named the Quebec), and the City of Brooklyn (re-named the Brooklyn), 2911 tons and 450 H.P. nominal.

In 1882 they built the Sarnia, 3694 tons, 500 H.P. (360 x 40 x 32), at Whiteinch, and in 1883 the Oregon, 3672 tons, a sister ship, two very fine boats of larger size and power, with midship saloons and staterooms.

But the line had its full share of misfortunes. The Vicksburg stranded below Green Island, in the St. Lawrence, in 1874, and after a heavy repair, struck field ice in the following spring (30 May) and sank with 40 to 50 of the passengers and crew, including her captain.
The Quebec ran into two sailing ships when leaving Quebec in 1876, and, after a long Admiralty lawsuit, had to pay some $30,000 damages, besides heavy costs.

The Ottawa struck the ground, about 50 miles above Quebec, on 21 November 1880, could not be rescued, and gradually broke up. The Sarnia went ashore on Rathlin Island, but came off and was repaired; and the Brooklyn was totally wrecked on Anticosti. Happily, there was no loss of life in any but the Vicksburg.

Nothing discouraged, however, in 1883 the company contracted with Messrs. Connal & Co., of Glasgow, for a magnificent ship, of over 5000 tons, with good speed, but before she was completed sold her to the Inman Company, to replace the City of Rome, and she was known as the City of Chicago. They at once had built by the same firm the Vancouver, launched in 1884.

She is a very fine and fast ship, 5149 tons gross and 2859 net (430 x 45 x 33). She had powerful compound engines of 1000 H.P. nominal, giving her an average speed of fully 14 knots at sea, and placing her nearly on a par with the Parisian, their best passages showing only a difference of three or four hours.

Having splendid accommodations amidships, she soon became a great favorite with passengers; and in August 1890, she carried 201 saloon passengers, and in April 1893, she landed no less than 1340 in Halifax, 78 cabin passengers and 1262 steerage. She has, however, met with several accidents.

In August, 1890, in a fog near Belle Isle, she struck an iceberg, but got clear with little damage; and in November her popular commander, Captain Lindall, was swept overboard by a sea, together with a quartermaster, and both were drowned . In November, 1894, her screw slipped when entering Lough Foyle, and she grounded on Lyle's Bank, but sustained no damage, and was towed to Liverpool.

As she never realized a rate of speed proportionate to her great power, in 1893 Messrs. Harland & Wolff gave her new engines and boilers of the latest type (triple cylinders), which, although of less nominal power than the original ones, and consuming much less coal, gave her quite as much speed.  Marine engines become obsolete so rapidly.

Misfortunes, however, continued. In August 1889, the Montreal was totally wrecked in a fog on the island of Belle Isle, but passengers and crew were saved. In 1890, the Idaho, a chartered boat, was wrecked on Anticosti, with a very valuable cargo of grain, cheese and cattle, but no lives were lost.

In 1891, the company launched from the yard of Harland & Wolff, Belfast, a very fine new ship, the Labrador, 4737 tons gross, 2998 net (401 x 47 x 28’3), 650 H.P. nominal, 3800 indicated. Although of less power, she exceeds the Vancouver in speed, while carrying a very large cargo of 5700 tons.

She has some novel arrangements, such as pipes for conveying fresh water to cattle, automatic ventilators, open in all weathers, and others supplying fresh air to the 'tween decks by fans; steam pipes to each compartment for extinguishing fire, and refrigerating machinery for fresh beef, fruit, eggs, etc.

In the steerage, the canvas beds in framework of wood can be folded up by day, and she is lighted throughout by electricity. So far, she has been very successful and has made some remarkable passages. In May 1894, she averaged 365 knots per day from Moville to Rimouski, or 15 knots per hour.

In August she ran from Moville to Rimouski in 6 days 8 hours, the quickest passage ever made; and in December she ran from Moville to Halifax in 6 days 12 hours, averaging 348 knots per day, great work for a boat of such small power.

In addition to the Liverpool line they now run one between Montreal and Avonmouth (Bristol); and in 1893 the Nevada, 3617 tons, was bought at a very low price (said to be only, £4500) for this line from the Guion Company and re-named the Hamilton.

All their boats, except the Vancouver, carry cattle, sheep and horses, and latterly, to prevent a useless competition, the Allan’s agreed to share the small mail subsidy with the company, the Vancouver and Labrador carrying the mails for two weeks out of every five.

The Sarnia has been particularly unfortunate. In March 1893, when bound from Liverpool to Halifax with 700 passengers, in long. 44° W., the bearings of the after crankshaft broke; they were temporarily repaired at sea in six days, and she reached Halifax without assistance.

In August of the same year, she broke her shaft and was towed 1000 miles to Queenstown by the Allan steamship Monte Videan, and in December 22, 1894, she lost her rudder in lat. 550 N., and long. 12° W. After drifting for several days, helpless, she was towed to Innstrahull by the Allan steamship Norwegian, and thence to Belfast by tugs.

In May 1894, the Texas ran ashore near Cape Race in a fog and became a total wreck, but Captain Hunter was absolved from all blame by a court of inquiry. As a set-off against all these losses the Oregon fell in with the Ethiopia, of the Anchor Line, disabled and towed her to Ireland, and the Texas towed the Allan steamship Sardinian to Liverpool; the latter ship having lost her rudder, and the company thus earned considerable salvage.

In the fall of 1894 Messrs. Flinn, Main & Montgomery, the managers, resigned. On 12 December, to the surprise of everyone outside the shareholders and directors, it was announced that all the boats had been sold to Messrs. Richards, Mills & Co., of Liverpool, at a great sacrifice.

The original, £20 shares (after wards reduced to, £15) realized only £1 16s. 6d. per share, the buyers assuming the company's liabilities. There are besides debentures to the extent of, £78,000. Thus, over, £400,000 sterling appears to have been lost by the extreme depression in ocean freights and other losses.

Fry, Henry, “Chapter XVI: The Dominion Line,” in The History of North Atlantic Steam Navigation with Some Account of Early Ships and Ship Owners, London: Sampson Low, Marston and Company, Ltd. (1896): P. 198-203.

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