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The American Line: 1871-1902 (2000)

Front Cover, The American Line: 1871-1902 (2000)

ISBN 0-393-04710-5
$39.95 USA $55.00 CAN

The American Tine tells the story of the first successful American steamship line after the Civil War to rival the great European transatlantic companies—an important and glorious chapter in the history of the American Merchant Marine.

Back Cover, TThe American Line: 1871-1902 (2000)

In the years between the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, American sailing ships carried the Stars and Stripes around the world with honor to the nation and profit to their owners. But the success of Confederate commerce raiders during the Civil War and the concurrent change from sail to steam and wooden hulls to iron brought disaster to many American shipping companies.

By 1870 there was not a single American-flag passenger line on the North Atlantic—a sad blow for a nation that a short time earlier had boasted one of the finest merchant fleets in the world.

1873 saw the first attempt at establishing a new American-flag steamship line to carry passengers and cargo across the North Atlantic from Philadelphia to Liverpool: the American Steamship Company, which began with the financial backing of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company and the Philadelphia Quaker com-munity.

It would eventually evolve into the great American Line (1893), which succeeded in restoring American prestige on the North Atlantic, and became the founding unit of the International Merchantile Marine, the giant shipping trust of 1902.

At the same time, if the task of operating a fleet under the American flag seemed too difficult, other American Quaker merchants (also in Philadelphia and also with the backing of the PRR) sought to establish another steamship line under a flag-of-convenience. Thus the International Navigation Company, more familiarly known as the Red Star Line, began operations in 1873, flying the Belgian flag, using British-built ships, and running them with toreign crews between Antwerp and Philadelphia.

Focusing on the largely unknown but highly eventful early history of the American Line and the Red Star Line, this book offers insight into both the triumphs and the setbacks of American shipping companies in the last three decades of the nineteenth century.


  • Foreword 7
  • Acknowledgments 9
  • 1. The Origins of the American Line of Philadelphia 15
  • 2. Uncertainty and Discontent 39
  • 3. The Centennial Celebration and a Russian Offer 63
  • 4. The International Navigation Company—Red Star Line 79
  • 5. The Red Star at Sea 91
  • 6. Inman Steamship Company Limited—Inman and International Navigation Company 113
  • 7. The American Line of 1893 137
  • 8. The Birth of the Great American Line 147
  • 9. And the “Saints” Came Marching In 171
  • 10. The Best-Balanced North Atlantic Service 195
  • 11. Perils of the Sea 225
  • 12. Shipwrecks and Rescues 247
  • 13. The Spanish-American War 259
  • 14. A Triumphant Return 281
  • 15. The Beginning of a New Century 305
  • 16. The International Mercantile Marine (IMM) 315
  • 17. The Pyrrhic Victory 337
  • Notes 355
  • Bibliography 373
  • Index 381

About the Author

William Henry Flayhart III is the coauthor of Majesty at Sea and the first edition of QE2, both published by Norton. He is also the author of Counterpoint to Trafalgar: The Anglo- Russiati Invasion of Naples 1805—1806 for which he received the “Legion of Merit” of the International Napoleonic Society. Flayhart has a B.A. from Lycoming College and an M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Virginia. He is professor of history at Delaware State University, where he has taught since 1970.

Jacket design byJonValk
Author photograph: © 2000 by Youngs Studio
Printed in Singapore November 2000

Library of Congress Catalog Listing

  • Personal name: Flayhart, William H., 1944-
  • Main title: The American Line (1871-1902) / William Henry Flayhart III.
  • Edition: 1st ed.
  • Published/Created: New York : Norton, c2000.
  • Description: 404 p. : ill. (some col.); 26 cm.
  • ISBN: 0393047105
  • LC classification (full): HE945.A4 F58 2000
  • LC classification (partial): HE945.A4
  • Subjects: American Steamship Company--History. Steamboat lines--United States--History. Shipping--United States--History.
  • Notes: Includes bibliographical references (p. 355-379) and index.
  • LCCN: 98038743
  • Dewey class no.: 387.5/0973/09034
  • Geographic area code: n-us---
  • Type of material: Book
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