History of the North German Lloyd Steamship Company of Bremen (1898)
When an historian of the future undertakes to write the history of Germany's transoceanic trade, an important chapter in his work will doubtless be filled by the annals of the North German Lloyd S. S, Co. of Bremen. The following short sketch of the development of the Company will illustrate how enterprise and broad-minded views have, in the comparatively brief period of a few decades, succeeded in obtaining for the Lloyd the renowned and dominant position, which it now enjoys alike in the old and the new world.
The North German Lloyd, whose vessels now unite the four corners of the globe, was founded in 1857, exactly ten years after the period when for the first time a steamer, the Washington, had crossed the Atlantic on her voyage from Bremen to New York.
The service of the Lloyd, which in the beginning was carried on by but three small steamers, consisted during the first year only of one line to England. However already in the following year, the New York line (the main object of the foundation of the Company), was opened by the despatch of the Bremen with a full cargo, some -passengers, and one cabin-passenger.
The First Decade of Service
A noteworthy success was attained the next year -- 1859: the Lloyd was entrusted with the carriage of the Anglo-American mails. The experience which in the meantime had been gathered with regard to the cargo and passenger business, as well as the generally recognized regularity and safety of the service paved the way for a rapid growth of the Company's fleet.
In 1865 the passengers conveyed by the Company's steamers reached the number of 9714. In 1866 it became necessary to dispatch a boat every week and in the following year -- ten years after its foundation -- the Lloyd controlled a fleet of 14 steamers, of which 8 were engaged on the New York line and 6 on the English line. The number of the voyages made in 1867 was 47 to America and 127 to London and Hull.
These figures proved the prosperity of the undertaking and the Directors, anticipating the influence which the development of the Company would later on exercise on Germany's transoceanic interests, justly recognized it as their duty to further promote the foreign relations of the fatherland by the creation of new services and the extension of those already existing.
This period coincided with the time when the germs of the subsequent powerful growth of German industry and commerce became first apparent and when the want of regular steamship communication made itself generally felt.
The Second Decade
The second decade of the history of the North German Lloyd bears full testimony to the fact that the Company has spared no effort to accommodate itself to the altered conditions of trade. Already in 1868 the relations with North America were extended through the opening of the Baltimore line.
In Baltimore the arrival of the first steamer was celebrated as an event of considerable importance. The place was en fête. Schools, Markets, the Custom-house and most of the shops were closed. A procession headed by the Governor and the dignitaries of both the State and the city, accompanied by United States infantry, cavalry and artillery and representatives of the different trades, clubs and societies paraded the town and at a banquet which followed, great results were confidently predicted.
The Franco-German War
We now arrive at an anxious year for the Company. On the outbreak of the Franco-German war the German ports were declared in a state of blockade. The superiority of the French fleet necessitated, not only that the Company's ships in foreign ports should be ordered to remain there, but that those at the moment on their way home should be warned of their danger and directed to safe neutral ports. Foreign steamers had to be chartered and other heavy expenses incurred. But victory on land limited the period of severest trial to about three months.
Gradually the ships left their foreign quarters and, taking a northerly course round Scotland ran into one of the English east coast ports whilst awaiting an opportunity to slip across to the Weser. In October of the first year of the war even the transatlantic service was re-opened by the Hansa with a full freight and a large number of passengers.
To the captains and officers of the Lloyd employed on these hazardous expeditions, the North Sea was as his native forests are to the Indian. They cut through the blockading cordon northwards and made their way round the perilous coast of Scotland. They steamed down the channel right through the French fleet, wrapped in friendly fogs. For reasons of policy however it is well to suppress all details of the stirring incidents of blockade-running and to pass in silence over acts of successful audacity and resource that might take rank with the feats performed at the ports of the short-lived Confederate States.
In spite of the war the new line from Bremen to the West Indies was opened in the autumn of 1870 and at the same time a regular connection was formed between Bremen, Rotterdam and Antwerp. In 1871 the service to England was augmented by a third line and four years later -- 1875 -- the Lloyd, paying due regard to the German interests in South America, established a regular service to Brazil and the River Plate.
At the end of the second decade of the existence of the company (1878) it became necessary to divide the South American line into two separate services, one to Brazil (Bahia, Rio de Janeiro, Santos) and the other to the River Plate (Montevideo, Buenos Aires), whereas connection with the West Indies was discontinued.
A New Era in Transatlantic Travel
The period in the development of the Lloyd Company which now follows will always form an important phase in the history of navigation in general. While up to this time the aim of the steam ship owners of all seafaring nations had been directed towards security and regularity in the services of the vessels, it now became necessary to consider a third point, viz: speed -- and aided by the great progress made in marine engineering, a new type of vessel, the modern fast-steamer or ocean-greyhound was created.
Up to this time a speed of 12-13 knots an hour had formed the average for the regular mail steamers. In 1878 however the English Guion line had a steamer constructed (the Arizona) whose engine developed the, until then unheard of, speed of 16 nautical miles an hour, and which at the same time was provided with the necessary accommodation to carry a great number of passengers.
A new era in the art of shipbuilding and steam navigation was thus inaugurated, Considering the enormous increase which of late had taken place in the traffic between the Old and the New World, it was evident that steamers of this speed, would, if they proved safe, soon attract pas sengers and mails, thus securing pecuniary advantages for their owners.
Fast Steamers Join the Fleet
For the North German Lloyd, which at that time already occupied a prominent position among steamship companies, the introduction of the fast-steamer service was a matter of course, as soon as first experience had proved its practical feasibility. Thus the Lloyd commenced in 1880 the construction of its fleet of fast steamers which surpassing all its competitors as regards the number of the vessels employed has placed it in the front rank of the leading steamship companies of the world.
On the 26th June 1881 the first fast-steamer, was placed upon the line, she was followed in 1882 and 1883 by the Werra and the Fulda (16-17 miles), in 1884 by the Ems (17 miles), in 1886 by the Aller, the Trave and the Saale (17-18 miles), in 1888 by the Lahn (19 miles), in 1889 by the Kaiser Wilhelm II and in 1890 by the Spree and the Havel (19-20 miles).
The construction of the fast-steamers inaugurated also a change in the interior arrangements of the vessels, The old-fashioned monotonous dining-rooms with a number of tables in file flanked on each side by uncomfortable benches were replaced by saloons of studied elegance and sumptuousness. In the modern dining-saloons furniture, carpets, curtains, paintings combine to form an artistic whole with the architectural disposition of the rooms. The whole outfit of the saloons has been executed by the firm of A. Bembé of Mainz after the designs of the Bremen architect Poppe.
The period during which the fleet of fast-steamers of the Lloyd was constructed coincides with another important phase in the development of German transoceanic trade, namely the establishment of the subsidized mail steamer service to Eastern Asia and Australia, In July 1885 the North German Lloyd contracted with the German government to carry on the service on all the Imperial mail-steamer lines which Parliament had decided should be established with the provision that all the new steamers to be placed on such lines should be built in German shipbuilding yards.
The speed contracted was 12 miles for the line to Eastern Asia and for the Mediterranean line, 11 1/2 miles for the Australian main-line and the other branch-lines. The new mail-steamer service consisted of 1) main-line to Eastern Asia, 2) main-line to Australia, 3) branch-line Trieste-Brindisi-Alexandria, 4) branch-line Hongkong-Japan, 5) branch-line Sydney-Tonga Islands-Samoa Islands,
The preparations for the opening of the new important services were accelerated so that as early as the 28th June 1886, the first Imperial mail-steamer, the Oder, could leave Bremerhaven to carry the German flag to the shores of Eastern Asia. The new steamers Stettin and Lübeck built for the branch-lines had already left Bremerhaven some time before.
The Imperial Mail Steamer Service
As the steamers which the Lloyd possessed at the time of concluding the contract were inadequate in number and construction to the requirements of the new service, the company at once ordered three steamers for the main-lines and an equal number for the branch-lines of the Vulkan shipbuilding yards at Stettin. The new steamers, named Preussen, Bayern, Sachsen and Stettin, Lubeck, Danzig, exceeded by far the provisions of the contract with the government as regards dimensions and speed.
Already during the first years of the existence of the Imperial mail-steamer service some changes became necessary. In the first place the line between Trieste, Brindisi and Alexandria was rendered impossible on account of the sanitary conditions prevailing in Egypt. This line was therefore replaced by a line from Brindisi to Port Said, The latter existed until the year 1893 when the Mediterranean branch service was given up altogether, as it was decided that the steamers of the main-lines should in addition to Genoa (where they had called since 1887), also touch at Naples for the embarkation of mails in order to ensure a speedy despatch of the latter.
In 1893 Parliament further decided that the branch line in the Pacific, which had proved of no practical value, should be discontinued and that a new branch-service from Singapore via Batavia to German New-Guinea should be carried on instead.
The service of the Imperial mail lines soon showed prospects of a hopeful future. The fears which on various sides had been expressed that the subsidy given by the country would only benefit the commerce of other nations, that German commerce would derive no profit from it and that the interests of the already existing lines of steamers owned by private firms, would be seriously injured, all proved without foundation.
The offer of cargo for the steamers was from the beginning considerably in excess of the room available, The increase in the German exports to the countries concerned has been so rapid that no doubt as to the favorable influence of the lines can be further entertained. The interests of the lines carried on by private firms have not been injured, but rather the contrary has taken place.
In proof of this we beg to call the attention of our readers to the figures which they will find subjoined, The total German exports to China amounted to 14 1/2 millions of marks in 1887, against 47 millions in 1893, the export to Japan has during the same period risen from 4 1/2 millions to 26 millions, and the exports to Australia have increased from 17 millions to 114 millions,
As regards the lines carried on by private firms, the German Kingsin line to Eastern Asia was already in existence before the Imperial mail lines were founded, This line dispatched a steamer every four weeks; but in 1887, one year after the opening of the Imperial mail lines, the Kingsin line found itself under the necessity of doubling its service. As regards the trade to Australia before the opening of the Imperial mail lines, there existed only one line, the Sloman line.
This line was of comparatively little importance to German commerce, as the steamers used to embark their cargo chiefly in Antwerp and London and only in exceptional cases sailed direct for German ports when returning, The Sloman line has it is true since suspended its service, but in its place a new company, the Australian steamship company, was founded only three years after the inauguration of the Lloyd lines. The German Australian company likewise maintains a fortnightly service with Australia.
Larger Steamers and Enlarging the Existing Fleet
As regards the Imperial mail lines, the steamers soon proved too small for the goods that were offering, but a few years ago these lines were completely provided with much larger steamers. The alterations in the construction of some of the vessels, as well as the new additions to the fleet, which for this purpose were ordered by the Lloyd, on the one hand represent a work in the art of shipbuilding, never undertaken before to such an extent, and on the other, have created a new type of steamer which gives the fullest satisfaction.
In the latter respect may be mentioned the twin screw steamers Prinz Regent Luitpold and Prinz Heinrich built by F. Schichau of Danzig, As regards the reconstructions effected, the most remarkable work is the lengthening of the steamers Bayern, Sachsen and Preussen carried out by the firm of Blohm & Voss in Hamburg.
Each of the three steamers was placed in a floating dock and cut through amidships just forward of the engines. The forepart of the steamer was then drawn forward by hydraulic force and a new compartment was built between the two separated parts of the vessel. -- In this way the Sachsen and Bayern have been lengthened by fifty feet and the Preussen by seventy feet.
The tonnage of the two former steamers was thus augmented by about 2000 cubic meters each and that of the Preussen by about 2500 cubic meters, the speed of the steamers not being impaired by the lengthening,
At the end of this article our readers will find some statistical tables showing the development in the traffic of passengers and goods, as will as of the tonnage employed on the Imperial mail lines.
In 1892 the North German Lloyd started a special service of cargo-steamers between Bremen and New York and between Bremen and Baltimore. For the latter, denominated the Roland line, a number of new steamers were built. The dimensions of these steamers have been so arranged, as to allow them to profit by the successfully completed work of deepening the Weser, to land and embark goods at Bremen instead of at Bremerhaven. The line from Bremen to Baltimore has been formed by the large steamers of the München class, all built as recently as 1889 and 1890. These two lines carry passengers and goods, the Baltimore steamers also taking a limited number of cabin passengers.
The 1890s: The Newest and Largest Vessels
Since 1890 the traffic with New York has been further developed by the opening of a line of fast-steamers from New York via Gibraltar to Genoa and Naples, with occasional calls during the winter season at Algiers, Return tickets for the line Bremen and New York can be made available for the Mediterranean line and vice versa, the passengers being at liberty to choose that route which according to the season and their plans best suits them.
During the past two years 1896/1897, the North German Lloyd has placed in service a considerable number of new vessels of the largest dimensions, retiring and disposing of its older steamers, and thus bringing to completion the rejuvenation of its large fleet so that it now controls a steamer material fitted to meet all possible requirements and in no respects is surpassed by that of any other Company.
Among the new vessels deserving special mention are the four large steamers of the Barbarossa class, each of them 550 feet long, 10500 tons capacity and 20000 tons displacement. They are twin screw steamers, driven by two completely separated sets of engines of from 7000 to 8000 horse power,
A special new feature of these steamers is the arrangement of the two enormous promenade decks, one above the other, giving the vessels an imposing and distinguishing appearance. The staterooms are all situated above the main deck, in the best possible location, and have won immediate favor with the traveling public because of their unusual size, comfortable arrangement and superior ventilation. The Barbarossa steamers are employed in the service between Bremen and New York during the Summer, and in the Australian service during the Winter.
The Express Steamship Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse
In addition toward the end of last year 1897 the new twin screw Express Steamship Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse was placed on the line between Bremen and New York and its superior arrangements and wonderful achievements hare aroused the greatest interest and sensation throughout the entire world.
The Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse has a length of 648 feet over all, 66 feet beam and 43 feet depth, is of 14350 register tons and 20 000 tons displacement. The vessel is designed to carry 400 First Class, 350 Second Class and 800 passengers, and has a crew of 500. The Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse is not only the largest but also the most superb steamer now afloat.
In design, as well as in the equipment, the interior appointments of the steamer, the saloons, reading rooms, smoking rooms, drawing rooms, etc. are distinguished by their unexcelled, artistic arrangement.
The two powerful engines of 30 000 horse power give the vessel a speed of 21 -22 miles an hour. The first trip from Southampton to New York was made in 5 days, 22 hours, 35 minutes, and the home trip from New York to Plymouth in 5 days, 15 hours, 10 minutes. The average speed was 21.39 and 21,91 miles an hour respectively.
The best performance for a single day was a run of 567 miles, equaling a speed of 23 miles an hour and the best speed on the third voyage from New York to Southampton 32,35 knots giving to the steamer the best single days record and the best average record in the world.
A second twin screw Express steam ship, of about the same size as the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse, the Kaiser Friedrich, will be placed in the service between Bremen and New York in the Spring of 1898.
The South America Trade
The trade with South America has also been considerably increased during the last few years, some new and comfortable steamers having been especially constructed for that purpose. -- In the first place we ought to mention the two new saloon-steamers Mark and Pfalz, which, provided with all modern improvements for a voyage in the tropics, form quite a new type of tropical steamer. Their construction also allows them to steam up the river as far as Bremen and to be dispatched from the latter place instead of from Bremerhaven.
Besides the steamers mentioned, the company has placed upon the River Plate line the twin screw steamer H. H. Meier and Wittekind.
The company further maintains a regular service by passenger and cargo-steamers to Brazil (Pernambuco, Bahia, Rio de Janeiro and Santos). The passenger-steamers leave Bremerhaven on the 10th and the cargo-boats on the 25th of each month, In connection with the arrivals of and departures of the steamers from Santos, the North German Lloyd have recently opened a branch service for passengers and goods with calls at Paranagua, San Francisco, Desterro and Rio Grande do Sol.
Summary and Conclusion
In conclusion we should mention that the company maintain a regular summer-service to the North Sea Islands Norderney, Borkum and Heligoland. In connection with these lines fast express-trains are run to the principal inland places. These trains are dispatched from and arrive at the Lloyd Halle in Bremerhaven which is in immediate connection with the landing place of the steamers.
In the preceding pages we have given a short sketch of the rapid growth of the company, Subjoined our readers will find a list of the various lines of the North German Lloyd at present in operation:
I. Traffic to North America:
- Line of fast-steamers from Bremen to New York via Southampton and Cherbourg, Steamers employed on this line: Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse, Kaiser Friedrich, Havel, Spree, Zahn, Alter, Trave, Saale, Departures from Bremen Tuesdays and Saturdays, from Southampton or Cherbourg Wednesdays and Sundays.
- Line of fast-steamers from Genoa and Naples via Gibraltar to New York with occasional callings at Algiers. Steamers running on this line- Kaiser Wilhelm II, Werra, Fulda and Ems.
- Line of twin screw mail - steamers from Werra, to New York (steamers of the Barbarossa type).
- Line of mail-steamers from Bremen to Baltimore (steamers of the München type). Weekly, Thursday.
- Line of mail-steamers from Bremen to Galveston.
II. Traffic to South America:
- Bremen -- Brazil via Antwerp, Oporto, Lisbon to Pernambuco, Bahia, Rio de Janeiro and Santos by the steamers Coblenz, Mainz, Trier.
- Bremen-- River Plate via Antwerp, Southampton, Corunna to Montevideo and Buenos Aires. Saloon-steamers: Mark, Pfalz, H. H. Meier and Wittekind.
- Bremen --Eastern Asia via Antwerp, Southampton, Genoa, Naples, Port Said, Suez, Aden, Colombo, Singapore, Hong kong Shanghai. Steamers: Prinz Heinrich, Preussen, Sachsen and Karlsruhe.
- Bremen--Australia via Antwerp, Southampton, Genoa, Naples, Port Said, Suez, Aden, Colombo, Adelaide, Melbourne to Sydney, Steamers: Prinz Regent, Luitpold, Barbarossa, Friedrich der Grosse, Königin Louise, Bremen etc.
- Branch Line from Hong kong to Japan, Hong kong, Yokohama. Hiogo, Nagasaki and return to Hong kong Steamer : Hohenzollern.
- Branch Line from Singapore to German New Guinea. Singapore, Batavia, Soerabaya, Friedrich Wilhelmshafen, Stephansort, Finschhafen, Herbertshohe and Matupi. Steamer: Stettin.
IV. Branch Line in Asia:
- From Singapore to Deli Sumatra). Steamer: Sumatra.
V. European Lines:
- Tow-boat service from Bremen to Hamburg.
- Saloon-steamer service during the bathing-season from Bremen to Norderney and Borkum.
- Saloon-steamer service (luring the bathing-season to Heligoland,
For the carrying on of the service on 311 these lines the North German Lloyd now owns a fleet of 82 steamers and 84 lighters of a total tonnage of over 300 000 including the steamers in course of construction.
The crews of the fleet represent a force of about 5500 men, One of the tables at the end of this article shows of how many persons in each grade this number is composed.
The maintenance of so many lines and of so numerous a fleet, of course, rendered it necessary that the arrangements on shore should be of a proportionate character, First of all we should mention the extensive docks and workshops for the execution of repairs at Bremerhaven, These comprise a graving-dock and other works with all modern appliances for marine engineering. The number of men constantly employed in the workshops of the North German Lloyd at Bremerhaven is about 1000. The repair works at Bremerhaven are supplemented by an establishment of a similar kind at Bremen but of a less extensive character,
The considerable traffic of passengers by the steamers of the North German Lloyd has further developed an institution for the provisioning of the steamers which in its arrangements and extent surpasses all similar establishments of other companies. The consumption of provisions and beverages on the steamers of the Lloyd annually reaches a value of more than 6 1/2 millions of marks. The annual consumption of coal is about 750 000 tons. Connected with the establishment for the provisioning of the steamers is the steam-laundry in which the whole ship's-linen is washed and disinfected after the return of the steamers to Bremen.
The North German Lloyd also possesses its own piers in New York. The whole of this powerful organism is controlled from the head- office of the company at Bremen. -- In order to simplify the service and to secure a prompt despatch of business the following departments have been created: Central Office, Passage Department, Freight Department. Provisioning Department. Insurance Department and River Navigation Department.
The company has provided for the welfare of its seamen and other employés, as well as for the widows and orphans of its servants by the creation of a pension-fund which has been in existence for a number of years and now possesses a capital of two millions of marks. On the 1st. January 1893 this institution was extended to include a separate pension-fund with increased endowments for the widows and orphans.
The majority of the seamen of the North German Lloyd have spent many years in the service of the company. Of the total number of 4874 seamen employed on the steamers only a portion not amounting to 25% are in their first year of service, whereas 18% are between their tenth and thirtieth year of service in the Company; as shown by the affixed table all important posts are in the hands of tried and experienced men, The numerous reports of successful cases of rescue effected at sea by the crews of the North German Lloyd are a proof of the excellent spirit which animates them.
In conclusion we beg to give a translation of a letter addressed to the Company by His Majesty the German Emperor in recognition of its services.
"During my voyage to-day from the mouth of the Weser to Wilhelmshafen on board of the fast-steamer „Lahn", I have had an opportunity to inspect the vessel in all her parts and to minutely observe how the service is carried on. I have pleasure to express to the management of the Company my full satisfaction with what I have seen on board of this steamer. In remembrance of the voyage and as it is the first time that my standard has been hoisted on board of a German merchantman, I will present this standard to the North German Lloyd with a desire that the good spirit which rules on its steamers may always be maintained."
On board of the Express Steamer „Lein".
Wilhelmshaven, 22nd April 1890.