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History of the Allan Line Through 1910

The story of the Allan Line is that of the enterprise of one family. Captain Alexander Allan, at the time of the Peninsular War, conveyed stores and cattle to Lisbon for Wellington's army. After 1815, he began to run his vessel between the Clyde and Canada, and as years went on, he employed several ships in the service.

Till 1837 the ships ran from Greenock to Montreal, but in that year, after the Clyde was deepened, the vessel went to Glasgow, as they have continued to do ever since.

Captain Allan and his five sons devoted all their energies to the development of the Canadian trade, and for about forty years the line ran sailing ships only, which were substantially in the request for the emigrant traffic.

In 1852 the Canadian government requested tenders for weekly mail service between Great Britain and Canada. That of Sir Hugh Allan of Montreal, one of Captain Allan's sons, was accepted, and the Canadian mail line of steamships came into existence.

It may be noted that the Allan Line inaugurated steamers of the "spar-deck" type, i.e., with a clear promenade deck above the main deck. This measure of safety was taken as a lesson from the disastrous foundering of the Australian steamship London in the Bay of Biscay in the year 1866.

The company may claim, too, that their steamship " Buenos Ayrean," built for them in the year 1879 by Messrs Denny of Dumbarton, was the first Atlantic steamship to be constructed of steel.

As time went on the company's services were extended to various ports on the eastern shores of North America and in the River Plate; and London, as well as the two strongholds of Glasgow and Liverpool, was taken as a port of departure.

In the course of its career, it has absorbed the fleet of the old State Line of Glasgow and a significant part of the fleet of the Royal Exchange Shipping Company and of the Hill Line.

Included in the latter fleet were the first twin-screw steamers constructed for a British North Atlantic line. The Virginian and the Victorian, built for the Allan Line in 1905, were the first transatlantic liners propelled by turbines.

The principal ports served by the Allan Line are (in the United Kingdom) Glasgow, Londonderry, Belfast, Liverpool and London; from these their vessels ply to many places in North and South America, including Quebec, Montreal, St Johns (Newfoundland), Halifax, St John (New Brunswick), Portland, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Montevideo, Buenos Aires and Rosario.

"History of the Allan Line," in Encyclopedia Britannica, 1911. Editied for grammar and spelling by P. K. Gjenvick, 2019.

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