The Collins Line, The Inman Company, Beginnings of the White Star Line - Ocean Passenger Travel
The Collins Line
The Collins Line vessels had not only a dining-room sixty feet long by twenty feet broad, but had a general saloon sixty-seven feet by twenty feet. These were divided by the steward's pantry.
Rose, satin, and olive woods figured prominently in the decorations; there were rich carpets, marble - topped tables, expensively upholstered chairs and sofas; a profusion of mirrors; all the panels and the saloon windows were ornamented with coats-of-arms and other designs emblematic of American freedom; all of which made, according to an English writer, a " general effect of chasteness and a certain kind of solidity."
The Collins Line obtained its share of a steadily increasing passenger traffic between the Old and New Worlds. It carried freight at from $30 to $40 a ton; it had the advantage of an immense subsidy; but to all intents and purposes the corporation was bankrupt at the end of six years. It cost too much to maintain the high rate of speed required by the Government.
Moreover, two vessels were lost; the Arctic, which went down after a collision with a French steamer off Cape Race, in September, 1854, when two hundred and twenty-two of the two hundred and sixty-eight people on board were drowned; and the Pacific, which was never heard from after she left Liverpool on June 23, 1856.
The Inman Line
Almost simultaneously with the inauguration of the Collins Line another candidate for ocean business appeared, bringing with it two innovations of great importance to all travelers.
This was the Liverpool, New York, and Philadelphia Steamship Company, better known, even in its own offices, as the Inman Line. It was the original plan of this company to establish a line between Liverpool and Philadelphia, and for several years, beginning in 1850, no calls were made at New York.
The Inman Company was successful in securing a contract from the British and Canadian Governments for carrying the mails via Halifax, and was the successor to the Cunard Line on that route; the company then settled down, with a comfortable mail contract, to carrying passengers, freight, and mail between Liverpool and New York, calling at Queenstown on every trip.
During the Crimean War the transatlantic trade received a severe check, as more than half the steamships were withdrawn and placed in the service of the British and the French Governments as transports; during that time the Collins Line and other American lines received quite an impetus by many of the vessels of both the Cunard and Inman Lines being required for transport duty.
At the close of the Crimean War, however, a reaction set in when these ships were again put in commission, with a decidedly disastrous effect on the American lines.
In 1855 Commodore Vanderbilt endeavored to get a subsidy from the American Government for a mail line to Europe, but, notwithstanding his failure to procure this contract, he placed three or four vessels on the route between New York, Southampton, and Havre, and later on the Bremen route.
The venture was more or less profitable. The last remnants of American enterprise in Atlantic passenger traffic disappeared with the steamships Fulton and Arago of the New York and Havre Line, which were withdrawn in 1868.
Two innovations introduced by the Inman Line became prominent features of ocean business, and it may be left an open question as to which was the more important.
One was the use of the screw-propeller, and the other was the carrying of , or third-class, passengers. Previous to 1850 all steamships built for transatlantic voyages had been side-wheelers, and even as late as 1870 there were steam-vessels that came into the port of New York with the walking-beam, familiar to patrons of modern ferry-boats and river steamers.
The principle of the screw-propeller had been known and utilized for many years; but it was not believed that a steamship could cross the ocean in safety unless side-paddles were employed.
The SS City of Glasgow (1850) of the Inman Line. History of the Anchor Line, 1911. GGA Image ID # 1d28dbe221
The first iron transatlantic screw steamship was the City of Glasgow, built on the Clyde by Tod & McGregor. She made four successful voyages between Glasgow and New York before she was purchased by the corporation that afterward became known as the Inman Line. This innovation, although it did not result at first in any marked increase of speed, soon found approbation in the policies of rival companies for reasons of economy and space, and other considerations that need not be mentioned here.
The other innovation was equally long in finding acceptance among oceanic steamship companies, but it eventually prevailed, even to the extermination of the clipper ship as a passenger carrier.
It may be remarked just here that the introduction of the screw-propeller added to the discomforts of the cabin passengers; for in the first vessels of the Inman Line the state-rooms and saloons were retained in the after part of the ships, where the motion of the sea and the noise of the screw were most apparent.
Leaving this matter for the present it is worth noting that the steady increase in passenger traffic between the two continents led to the organization of many other companies that tried to find a share in the carrying business.
The Glasgow and New York steamship Company was started in 1854 by Tod & McGregor, shipbuilders; the service was fortnightly. In 1859 they decided to confine their business to shipbuilding, and the fleet and good-will were then sold out to the Inman Line, who continued the service for a year or two, but finally withdrew the fleet from Glasgow and concentrated their entire business between Liverpool, Queenstown, and New York.
During the period from 1850 to 1860 many Atlantic lines were established, several of which are in successful operation today. The new-comers during that decade, as well as in the following decade, adopted generally the innovations ventured by the Inman Line; but it was not until after 1870 that the side-wheeler disappeared from the ocean, and it was not until 1874 that clipper ships ceased to bring immigrants.
It is said that the life of an iron steamship is unlimited; that time enough has not elapsed since the first iron ships were floated to determine how long they would naturally last under good usage.
The importance, therefore, of the innovation introduced by the Inman Line may be readily inferred when it is stated that the oldest steamship belonging to any of the regular lines now in the passenger service between New York and European ports was built in 1868. Within the last year or two steel has been almost entirely substituted for iron, it being lighter and more durable.
Beginnings of the White Star Line
Although the transatlantic lines multiplied rapidly, and the business induced by foreign traffic increased steadily, there was no other marked improvement in the service until 1870, when the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company entered upon its career.
In this case also the legal title of the corporation has been forgotten in the popular adoption of a short name to designate the line; and this new enterprise has been known almost from the beginning as the White Star Line.
Their first steamship was the Oceanic, and its model and appointments throughout became the pioneer of the wonderful vessels that now ply regularly between this country and Europe.
It was not so much that the proprietors of the White Star Line endeavored to outdo their rivals in conveniences for passengers, table-fare, and the like, but that they heeded the complaints of the travelers who suffered from the noise and motion in their state-rooms in the after part of the boat.
In the old style of steamships the passenger who desired to sleep had to contend against the noise of the screw, the creaking of the steering apparatus, and the most extreme motion possible upon the vessel.
The White Star Line arranged its saloons and state-rooms so as to bring them as near as possible to the center of gravity; placing them, therefore, amidships.
It is not essential now to state what mechanical improvements this change involved. Certain it is that all the important lines found themselves under the necessity of following in some fashion the model set by the Oceanic, and the best ships of today are so arranged that the passengers who pay the highest rates are located in all their necessary movements in the central part of the vessel.
The year 1870, therefore, marks an epoch in steam navigation, and every vessel, or nearly so, built since that date has been conformed to the model set by the Oceanic.
From year to year the speed has been improved, until so many steamships are classed as racers that the rivalry has come to be centered in appointments and luxurious accommodation.
The inauguration of the Oceanic Company marked the beginning of what may be called the second epoch in transatlantic travel, and with the first voyage of the City of New York a third epoch was begun.
This last period, into which we have hardly entered, is distinguished by the twin-screw steamship. There are now seven great vessels of this class in the passenger service between European ports and New York: The City of New York and the City of Paris, of the Inman line; the Majestic and the Teutonic, of the White Star Line; the Augusta Victoria, the Columbia, and the Normannia, of the Hamburg America Line.
In addition to these there will presently be another, the Fürst-Bismarck, also of the latter line, and the French Line will have La Touraine running between New York and Havre in a few months.
These new vessels are not remarkably superior to the best single-screw steamships in the matter of speed, and any advantage gained in this respect may be attributed to their having greater horse-power.
As may be seen from the record of fast passages, the Etruria and the Umbria, of the Cunard Line, are not only very close seconds to the best twin-screw ships, but are even ahead of three of the new type of vessel.
The great merit of the twin-screw ship lies in the increased safety which its mechanism insures. It admits of avoiding obstacles that would surely wreck a single screw vessel, of better handling in case of collision, and of surer progress in the event of the breaking of a shaft.
Such steamers as the City of New York and the City of Paris of the Inman Line (which is now controlled by American capital, and may in a sense be regarded as an American enterprise), and the Etruria and Umbria of the Cunard Line, are designed so as to carry about five hundred first-cabin passengers each, but they carry less passengers than other ships, which adds greatly to the comfort of saloon passengers.
It is not probable that the $700,000 expended for the construction of a vessel of the Collins Line would much more than suffice to pay for the decorations and conveniences afforded to 'passengers on these ships.
In correspondence with modern ideas they are subdivided into twenty-four watertight compartments, and this, with due allowance for the architect's notions, has led to the supplying of bath-rooms about the ship, according to the number of passengers carried; several suites of rooms on the upper deck are arranged with bath-rooms and toilet-rooms.
Ocean Passenger Travel - 1891
- Chapter 1: Overview of Transatlantic Travel
- Chapter 2: Room on the Early Steamers
- Chapter 3: The Collins Line, The Inman Company, Beginnings of the White Star Line
- Chapter 4: The Speed of the 1890 Steamships
- Chapter 5: Transatlantic Passengers and the Buildup of Fleets
- Chapter 6: Provisions and Meals on an 1890s Ocean Liner
- Chapter 7: Procedures for processing Immigrants onboard Steamships
- Chapter 8: The Importance of the Immigrant Trade