Cunard Company, conceived and built by the Haligonian shipowner and entrepreneur Samuel CUNARD
. With several British partners Cunard formed the British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company in 1839, winning the British government contract and subsidy to carry mail to Canada and the US. Cunard and his Scots engineer Robert Napier built 4 side-wheelers for the North American service; the first, the Britannia
, left Liverpool 4 July 1840 and arrived at Halifax 12 days later. (It then went on to Boston, the entire trip taking 14 days, 8 hours.) Thus was established a regular, fast steam packet service which eventually led to the decline of North American shipping and the disappearance of transatlantic commercial sailing ships.
The Cunard group became a public company in 1878, adopting the name Cunard Steamship Company Limited. It ultimately absorbed Canadian Northern Steamships Ltd and its competitor, the White Star Line. Cunard dominated the Atlantic passenger trade with liners such as the Lusitania and Mauretania, and later the legendary Queen ships (including the still-active Queen Elizabeth 2 ), almost to the end of the era of the superliners.
See also SHIPBUILDING.
Samuel Cunard, politician
Samuel Cunard, 1881, lithograph, from the Canadian Portrait Gallery, Toronto (courtesy Library and Archives Canada/C-7044).
F.E. Hyde, Cunard and the North Atlantic 1840-1973 (1975).