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Sunday, March 26, 2017

Samuel Cunard

Posted to Maritime Musings (by on June 26, 2015

Founder of one of the most prestigious passenger lines in the world

Samuel Cunard (1787-1865) was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  His parents were American Loyalists who moved to Canada at the end of the American Revolutionary War.  His father was a master carpenter and timber merchant.  Foregoing carpentry, young Samuel worked in his father’s timber business and then expanded into coal, iron, shipping, and whaling.  He initially concentrated on trade in the Maritime Provinces and then expanded into trade with the West Indies.  After letting one of his brothers operate the timber business, he was on the verge of bankruptcy, but squeaked through.  He started operating ships from Halifax to Britain and also started introducing steamships into his small fleet.  When he heard that the British Government was about to award a new contract for regular and faster carriage of mail between Britain and Canada, he formed a new business with mostly English and Scottish investors to bid on the contract and build the ships that would be needed.  He got the contract and had the steamships built.  Initial revenue not being what had been anticipated, he almost went bankrupt a second time and had to sneak out of Britain to void service of a writ.  Eventually, though, Cunard Steamship Limited became successful and all creditors were paid in full.  His business drew competition, primarily from the American Collins Line and the British Inman Line and White Star Line.  The Collins Line had been awarded the US contract for trans-Atlantic carriage of mail, with a significantly greater subsidy than the British contract to the Cunard Line.  Cunard successfully lobbied for an increase in his subsidy.  Cunard was made a baronet in 1859.  He died and is buried in London.  His company later absorbed the White Star Line and, in 2005, became a subsidiary of Carnival Corporation.  

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