A chronology of the White Star Line from 1845 to 1873

1845
January

Realizing the profit potential in the timber trade and emigration between Europe and North America, John Pilkington and Henry Threlfall Wilson establish “Pilkington & Wilson” a ship brokerage company in Liverpool, England.

February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
Novermber
December
1846
January
February

26th: In their first venture for themselves, Pilkington & Wilson charter the brig “Elizabeth” to Montreal.

March
April
May
June
July
August

Pilkington & Wilson relocate their headquarters to 20 Water Street, Liverpool.

September
October
Novermber
December
1847
January

Josire Carter and James Baines venture into shipowning (perhaps for a second time), when they purchase half the shares of the 421 ton Charles Brownell, a full-rigged ship and immediately mortgaged their shares for £1800. There are finacial concerns brewing and talk of widespread market failure.

February
March
April
May

12th: The Belfast Commercial Chronicle lists under Ship News the “Elizabeth” having arrived at Warrenpoint, N. Ireland from Philadelphia, and “Nelson Villiage” departed Belfast for Quebec.

June

Carter and Bains pay off their debt, and borrow more money the same day.

July
August

Carter and Baines borrow more money.

September
October
November

5th: The financial panic of 1847 had set in by the fall, and W. & J. Lockett, the merchants and shippers that Carter & Baines had borrowed the money from, foreclosed on the “Charles Brownell” and she was sold to Thomas Ismay, the future owner of the White Star Line.

 

23rd: Carter and Baines enter bancruptcy.

December

3rd: Notices of Certificate issuances to Carter and Baines appear in several newspaper.

1848
January
February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September

Henry Threlfall Wilson marries Anne Chambers at Whitehaven, Cumbria, UK.

October
November
December
1849
January

Pilkington and Wilson are listed as being at 55 Waterloo-road, Liverpool.

 

20th: An ad in the Liverpool Journal announces the ship “Henry Ware” of 540 tons, Captain Nason entering for loading and bound for New Orleans. Also entering is the “Faneuil Hall” of 678 tons, Captain Sears, and bound for Boston. Both ships are under Pilkington and Wilson.

February

7th: The “Henry Ware”, under the command of Captain Edward Nason, departs Liverpool for New Orleans carrying 226 Latter-day Saints (Mormons).

 

23rd: Belfast Newspaper ad announced the following ships sailing from Liverpool: “J. C. Calhoun” - 1,300 tons and under the command of Captain Melcher for New York, and “Herbert” - 1,200 tons and under the command of Captain Linnell for Boston.

March

2nd: Belfast Newspaper ad announced the ships “Harvard” - 1,000 tons, under the command of Captain Conlin; “St. Lawrence” - 1,000 tons, under the command of Captain Bowes, and “Ward Chipman” - 1,300 tons, under the command of Captain Bilton, sailing from Liverpool to New York. The ships “Cromwell” - 1,600 tons, under the command of Captain Barker; “Milton” - 1,200 tons, Captain unassigned, from Liverpool to Boston, and “Emblem” - 1,300 tons, under the command of Captain Cammett, from Liverpool to New Orleans.

 

5th: The ship “Hartley”, under the command of Captain Stephen Cammet, departs Liverpool for New Orleans carrying 220 Latter-day Saints (Mormons).

April

9th: The “Henry Ware” arrives at New Orleans.

 

28th: The ship “Hartley” arrives at New Orleans.

May
June

Pilkington and Wilson purchase the new 879 ton barque “Iowa”. They establish the red swallowtail with a white star as the company flag, and commence sailing as the “White Star Line of Boston Packets” to Boston, New York, Charleston, Mobile, New Orleans, and Galveston. Daniel Pilkington is the New York agent for the White Star Line.

 

28th: English newspapers carry the first advertisements for the “White Star Line of Boston Packets”.

July
August
September
October
November
December
1850
January

27th: Edward J. Smith is born at Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.

February
March

2nd: The ship “Hartley”, of Boston, Maine, chartered by the White Star Line and under the command of Captain Charles M. Morrill, departs Liverpool for New Orleans carrying 109 Latter-day Saints (Mormons).

April

19th: The “Rockaway” is jointly chartered by Pilkington & Wilson, and J. W. Shaw & Co. and departs Liverpool for New York.

May

3rd: The “Hartley” arrives at New Orleans.

June
July

20th: The “Rockaway” arrives in New York.

August
September
October
November
December
1851
January
February
March

4th: The Barque “Olympus”, chartered by the White Star Line and under the command of Captain Horace A. Wilson, departs Liverpool for New Orleans carrying 245 Latter-day Saints (Mormons).

April

7th - 12th: John Hardman Lister and James Tom recover about 120g (4 oz) of gold at the junction of Lewis Ponds Creek and Summer Hills Creek, later to become the site of the Township of Ophir, New South Wales.

 

4th: The Barque “Olympus” arrives at New Orleans.

May

22nd: Official announcement of the discovery of gold not far from Bathurst, NSW.

June
July
August

9th: Victoria has its first gold strike at Sovereign Hill near Ballarat.

September

30th: Approximately 10,000 people are digging for gold near Ballarat.

October
November
December
1852
January
February

10th: The “Ellen Maria”, of Richmond, Maine, chartered by the White Star Line and under the command of Captain Amherst Whitmore, departs Liverpool for New Orleans with 369 Latter-day Saints (Mormons) aboard.

March

6th: The “Rockaway”, chartered by the White Star Line and under the command of Captain G. Preble, departs Liverpool for New Orleans with 30 Latter-day Saints (Mormons) aboard.

April

5th: The “Ellen Maria” arrives at New Orleans.

 

24th: The “Rockaway” arrives at New Orleans.

May

24th: Taking advantage of the growing emigration and trade to Australia, Pilkington & Wilson announce the imminent commencement of service from Liverpool to Australia by the “Liverpool White Star Line of Australian Packets”. Pilkington and Wilson place many of their vessels on this new route. Outbound voyages from Liverpool transport immigrants and supplies to the developing colony, and inbound cargoes consist of whale oil, wool, and gold.

June

20th: The “Earl of Derby”, weighing 2,000 tons, and under charter and commanded by Capt. Tweedil, departs Liverpool for Melbourne.

July

5th: The “Phoenix”, displacing 801 tons (1,700 tons burthen) and under the command of Capt. Solely, departs Liverpool for Sydney.

 

6th: The “Archer”, displacing 237 tons and under the command of Capt. Stewart, enters for loading at Liverpool with immediate dispatch to Geelong. The “Ellen”, displacing 893 tons and under the command of Capt. Phillips, enters for loading at Liverpool with immediate dispatch to Port Phillip. The “Birmingham”, displacing 1,033 tons enters for loading at Liverpool with immediate dispatch to Port Phillip.

 

13th: The “Ellen”, displacing 1,800 tons berthen, departs Liverpool for Melbourne.

 

20th: The “Dundonald”, displacing 2,000 tons, and under charter and commanded by Capt. Gillies, departs Liverpool for Melbourne and Sydney.

August

5th: The “Bhurtpore”, displacing 978 tons (1,900 tons burthen) and under the command of Capt. Bainbridge, departs Liverpool for Port Phillip.

 

8th: The “Ben Nevis” departs Liverpool under the command of Capt. William Herron on her first Austrailian trip, and bound for Melbourne.

 

20th: The “Blanche”, displacing 966 tons (1,800 tons burthen) and under the command of Capt. Rudolph, departs Liverpool for Sydney.

September

5th: The “City of Lincoln”, displacing 1,160 tons, departs Liverpool for Melbourne.

 

18th: The “Bhurtpoor”, from Liverpool bound for New Orleans, runs ashore on Holdin's Bed outside South Bay, Wexford, Ireland and shortly afterwards sinks.

 

27th: The “Ben Nevis”, under the command of Capt. Herron, departs Melbourne with 600 passengers aboard.

October
November
December
1853
January

Henry Wilson's sister marries James Chambers. Jane Guy Wilson born: Galgate, Lancashire, England. Christening: 11th November 1827 Ellel, Lancashire, England.

February

28th: The “International”, chartered by the White Star Line and under the command of Captain David Brown Jr., departs Liverpool for New Orleans with 425 Latter-day Saints (Mormons) aboard.

March

Robert Hickson opens a shipyard on Queen’s Island, Belfast, building iron-hulled ships. The company is named Robert Hickson & Co.

 

26th: Under the command of Capt. Rogers, the new “White Star” clipper “Lochiel” departs Liverpool, bound for Melbourne on her maiden voyage.

April

At age 16 Thomas Henry Ismay leaves school and begins a three year apprenticeship with shipping agents Imrie & Tomlinson in Liverpool. Another trainee in the company is William Imrie, son of the company owner. T. H. Ismay and William Imrie Jr. quickly become friends.

 

25th: The “International” arrives at New Orleans.

May

28th: Caldwell, Train & Co. in business at Melbourne - Shipping agents.

June
July

9th: An article in a Melbourne newspaper reports on the new White Star clipper “Lochiel”, a vessel of 809 tons, is on her maiden voyage from Liverpool to Melbourne under the command of Captain Rogers.

August
September
October

4th: The clipper ship “Tayleur” is launched at Bank Quay Foundry, Warrington. She is owned by Charles Moore & Co., Liverpool, and is the largest merchant sailing vessel yet built in England.

 

24th: The “White Star” ship “Tasmania” is reported due to depart Hobart in a few days.

November
December
1854
January

3rd: The “Jessie Munn”, under the command of Captain J. Duckett, departs Liverpool for New Orleans with 333 Latter-day Saints (Mormons) aboard.

 

9th: The “Mooresfort” is reported loading in Hobart and will sail in a few days.

 

19th: The “Tayleur” leaves Liverpool for Australia, under the “White Star” flag, on her maiden voyage under the command of Capt. John Noble.

 

21st: The “Tayleur”, carrying a reported 675 souls, is wrecked on her maiden voyage to Melbourne in a violent gale at noon on Lambay Island, Dublin Bay. More than 370 lives are lost as she sinks to the tops of her masts. After an investigation, blame was placed on the ship's owner, Charles A. Moore & Co., for not having the ship's compasses properly set nor conducting trial trips before putting her into service. In response to the Tayleur disaster, Pilkington & Wilson have their ships towed by steam tugs to Tuskar (at the mouth of the Irish Channel and some 300 miles out from Liverpool) when winds are adverse.

February

4th: The “Golconda”, chartered by the White Star Line and under the command of Captain Kerr, departs Liverpool for New Orleans with 464 Latter-day Saints (Mormons) aboard.

 

20th: The “Jessie Munn” arrives at New Orleans.

 

28th: Caldwell, Train & Co., agents for the White Star Line of Australian Packets, announce that the White Star Line has arranged for the survivors of the “Tayleur” to be forwarded to Melbourne aboard the new “White Star” clipper “Golden Era”, which is scheduled to depart Liverpool in March.

March

Edward Harland moves to Belfast and takes a position as General Manager at the Robert Hickson & Co. Shipyard.

 

17th: The “Golden Era” is reported loading at Liverpool and will soon sail for Melbourne under the command of Capt. James Peat.

 

18th: The “Golconda” arrives at New Orleans.

April
May

2nd: The White Star ship “Iowa” disappears without a trace on her way to Australia from Liverpool.

 

4th: The “Red Jacket”, under the command of Capt. Reed, makes her first voyage for the White Star Line, from Liverpool to Melbourne. She is on charter from Seacombe and Taylor, and is fully armed.

June

13th: The “Golden Era” arrives at Melbourne.

July

5th: The “Golden Era” departs Melbourne for Liverpool on the return leg of her maiden voyage.

 

13th: The “Red Jacket” arrives in Port Phillip at 11am.

August

7th: The partnership of Caldwell, Train & Co. is dissolved. George Francis Train continues as agent for the White Star Line of Australian Packets as George F. Train and Co. George F. Train will become instrumental in the success of “White Star” through his innovations of establishing a rail line from the wharf to his warehouses, which make for easy transport of goods and people. G. F. Train makes Melbourne a modern city.

 

31st: Legal action is taken against Pilkington & Wilson in the Supreme Court of the Colony of Victoria by one John Wynne to recover one thousand pounds, the value of forty five tons of slates, shipped on board the ship Red Jacket.

September
October

Wilkinson, Brothers and Co., are agents for the “White Star” Line at Sydney.

 

15th: The “Red Jacket” returns to Liverpool. Pilkington & Wilson are so pleased by her that they buy her for £30,000.

November

11th: Pilkington & Wilson apply to the Post Master General to carry the mails.

December
1855
January

6th: The “Rockaway”, chartered by the White Star Line and under the command of Captain S. Goodwin, departs Liverpool for New Orleans with 24 Latter-day Saints (Mormons) aboard.

 

9th: The “Neva”, chartered by the White Star Line and under the command of Captain T. Brown, departs Liverpool for New Orleans with 13 Latter-day Saints (Mormons) aboard.

February

22nd: The “Neva” arrives at New Orleans.

March
April

30th: The “White Star” makes her first Liverpool-Melbourne trip.

May

9th: Pilkington & Wilson are given a contract to carry mail between Liverpool and Melbourne. The company becomes the “White Star Line of Liverpool and Australian Royal Mail Packets.”. Conveyance of mails from Liverpool to Adelaide, Sydney, and Melbourne by specified monthly sailing's, June-Dec. 1855, to take not more then 68 days outwards and 68 days returning by Cape of Good Hope, or 70 days by Cape Horn. Penalties for delay £100 and £30 a day outwards and inwards respectively, to maximum of £250 per ship.

June
July
August

31st: The “White Star” departs Port Philip on her return leg of her maiden voyage. She carries 80,000 ounces of gold.

September
October
November

27th: The “White Star” returns to Liverpool at the conclusion of her maiden voyage to Australia. Her trip takes 70 days and does not meet the contractual obligation to deliver the mails in 68 days. As a result, the company incurs penalties for late arrival.

December
1856
January
February
March
April
May

Arthur Brooks Bilbrough, aged 16 years, becomes an apprentice with the “White Star” Line in Liverpool.

June

Gustav Wolff becomes junior manager at Robert Hickson & Co Shipyard.

July

20th: The “Mermaid”, under the command of Captain Dewey, departs for Melbourne. The “Miles Barton”, under the command of Captain Kelly, also departs for Melbourne.

August
September

4th: The contract for the White Star Line to convey the mail is terminated. White Star uses the term “ex-Royal Mail Packets” in its name.

October
November

The White Star Line establishes a house in London under the name Wilson, Cooke & Co., and immediately starts laying on ships for the route from Melbourne. The “Mermaid” is the pioneer.

December

20th: The “Cyclone”, displacing 1,198 tons and under the command of Capt. George Kerr, departs Liverpool bound for Melbourne.

1857
January

Troubled by Wilson's business practices, John Pilkington withdraws from the company.

 

Thomas Henry Ismay partners with retired Captain Phillip Nelson forming the ship brokerage firm “Nelson, Ismay & Co.”

February
March

Geo. F. Train & Co. ceases most activities. H. T. Wilson & Co. becomes the agent for the White Star Line.

 

25th: The “Cyclone”, displacing 1,198 tons and under the command of Capt. George Kerr, arrives at Hobson's Bay.

April
May
June

Edward Harland appoints Gustav Wolff as his personal assistant at Robert Hickson's Shipyard, Queen's Island, Belfast

July
August

James Chambers becomes a partner with his brother-in-law H. T. Wilson. The company is now H. T. Wilson & Chambers. H. T. Wilson & Co. is the agent for the White Star Line in Melbourne.

September
October
November
December
1858
January

7th: On his 21st Birthday Thomas Henry Ismay starts a Ship Broking firm with Philip Nelson. Nelson, Ismay & Co have their offices in the Drury Buildings, 21 Water Street, Liverpool.

February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November

1st: With £5,000 loaned to him by G.W. Schwabe, Gustav Wollf's uncle, Edward Harland buys Robert Hickson's Belfast shipbuilding business and renames it Edward James Harland & Company. Gustav Wolff, who has been Harland's personal assistant for the past year, is appointed chief draftsman.

 

5th: The former offices and store belonging to George Francis Train are advertised as for sale in a Melbourne newspaper.

December
1859
January
February
March
April
May
June

7th: H. T. Wilson & Chambers begin a monthly line of packets for the leading ports of New Zealand.

July

30th: Edward James Harland & Company's first ship the “Venetian”, built for Bibby Line, is launched. She is a 4-masted barque-rigged steamer of some 1,507 tons, and 175 feet 5 inches in length.

August

14th: The “Venetian” is delivered.

September
October
November
December
1860
January

Arthur Brooks Bilbrough moves to London becoming a partner with Albert Cook and Henry Threlfall Wilson in a brokerage firm named H. T. Wilson, Cook & Co.

 

10th: The Government emigrant vessel “Grand Trianon”, displacing 1,049 tons, belonging to Messrs. Wilson and Chambers of Liverpool, and under the command of Capt. H. Clark, departs Birkenhead for Adelaide, South Australia.

February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December
1861
January

John Cunningham becomes an associate of H. T. Wilson & Chambers.

February
March
April

11th: Edward J. Harland (owner of Edward James Harland & Company, Belfast) and Gustav W. Wolff enter into a partnership agreement which creates Harland and Wolff.

May
June
July
August
September
October
November

15th: The “Prince of the Seas” catches fire in the Port of Melbourne and is lost.

December

18th: The “Empress of the Sea”, chartered by the White Star Line from Black Ball Line, catches fire. Twelve passengers and 20,000 ounces of gold are saved.

1862
January

Albert Cook dies and Arthur Brooks Bilbrough becomes the sole partner with H. T. Wilson in London. Wilson, Cook & Co. is renamed Wilson, Bilbrough & Co.

 

Harland & Wolff shipyard is registered.

February
March
April

1st: Phillip Nelson of Nelson, Ismay & Co. retires, finding Ismay's ideas incompatible with his conservatism, and the company is dissolved. Thomas Henry Ismay buyes out Nelson's interests in the ships, and goes in business alone as "T. H. Ismay & Co." at 10 Water Street, Liverpool.

May
June

23rd: At age 15, William James Pirrie becomes an apprentice at Harland and Wolff.

July

11th: The discovery of gold in British Columbia creates a rush of prospectors. Wilson and Chambers take out loans with the Liverpool Royal Bank to have larger and faster ships built. “Silistria”, chartered by the White Star Line, is one of the first ships offering passage to Victoria. The British Columbia Service proves to be unprofitable as the rush soon wanes. This route by “White Star” soon ends and the ships purchased for it are placed on the Australian and New Zealand route where ships weren’t needed. The debt taken on by Wilson and Chambers for a failed British Columbia route begins the collapse of the “White Star” Line.

August

25th: The “Shalimar” departs Liverpool for Melbourne and New Zealand.

September
October

10th: The “S. S Mavrocordatos” arrives in Montreal, under charter to the “White Star Line of Steamships”.

November
December

12th: Joseph Bruce Ismay is born at Enfield House, Great Crosby.

1863
January

The partnership of Nelson and Ismay is formaly dissolved in 1863.

February

23rd: The White Star Line ship “Lord Raglan” departs Liverpool for Melbourne with 300 people on board.

March

23rd: The “Lord Raglan” crosses the equator and passes letters home to England by a passing ship. The “Lord Raglan” is never seen again.

 

25th: Owen Cosby Philipps, later Lord Kylsant, is born at Warminster, Wiltshire. He would go on to “purchase” the White Star Line in 1927 and with the help of his wife, ruin it and other businesses connected to it.

April
May
June
July
August

1st: The “Royal Standard” is launched at Palmer Bros. & Co., Howdon-on-Tyne. The “Royal Standard” has a 2-cylinder engine of 165 horsepower which qualifies her to be a steamship. The property of Messrs. Wilson and Chambers, she is the first screw steamer built for the White Star Line of Australian packets.

September
October
November

23rd: The “Royal Standard”, displacing 2,000 tons and under the command of Capt. E. J. Allen, departs Liverpool for Melbourne on her maiden voyage.

December

Construction of the Lune Shipbuilding Company is started. Henry T. Wilson, who had attended school in Lancaster and still having friends in the area, suggested months prior a company be created in Lancaster which would build ships for the White Star Line. £50,000 was raised in £5 shares to finance the construction of the shipyard at Lancaster Marsh on the banks of the Lune River.

1864
January

The iron barque “Pampero” is launched at T. Royden & Sons, Liverpool, for T. H. Ismay & Co.

14th: Captain Allen of the “Royal Standard” dies aboard ship. White Star Line, Black Ball Line, and Eagle Lines agree to merge and form the “Liverpool, Melbourne and Oriental Steam Navigation Company Limited”. Accusations are soon made that selected clients receive preferred shares. After an investigation by the Stock Exchange Committee, the process of a merger is terminated.

February

9th: The “Royal Standard” arrives at Melbourne, under the command of her Chief Officer Hamilton.

March

15th: The “Royal Standard” departs Melbourne, under the command of Capt. George H. Dowell. She heads east across the Pacific, on the return leg of her maiden voyage.

April

4th: The “Royal Standard” strikes an iceberg at about 11 a.m., in dense fog, midway between Melbourne and Cape Horn in the South Pacific. Although she suffered extensive damage to her masts and structures above the water line, no leaks were found after the event. She proceeds on to Rio de Janeiro for repairs and refitting.

May

The White Star Line, Black Ball Line, and Eagle Line attempt to merge again under “The Liverpool, Melbourne and Oriental Steam Navigation Co.” After the scandal in January the public has no confidence in the plan and it fails.

 

Wilson & Chambers order construction of “Sirius” from C. W. Earle & Co., Hull. She is to have a length of 203ft 6in, a beam of 26ft 1in, and gross 620 tons.

 

9th: The “Royal Standard” arrives at Rio where the iceberg damage is repaired.

June

19th: The “Royal Standard” arrives at Liverpool.

July

27th: T. H. Ismay & Co. and G. H. Fletchter & Co., both based in Liverpool, announce a line between Liverpool and San Francisco.

August
September
October
November
December
1865
January
February

The “Sirius”, built for Wilson & Chambers, is launched. Her planned service is for the Mediterranean, but she is chartered to other companies as Wilson & Chambers cannot afford to operate her.

March

30th: The iron clipper “Wennington”, named after a nearby village, is launched in front of a crowd of 15,000 people. She is the first iron-hulled vessel to be built in Lancaster, and displaced 882 tons.

April
May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December

31st: James Chambers withdraws from the firm of H. T. Wilson & Chambers. John Cunningham, now a major shareholder in the firm, replaces Chambers and the firm is renamed H. T. Wilson & Cunningham. Henry Wilson holds 51% of the stock in the company.

1866
January

“Sirius” is sold to a syndicate comprised of virtually the same shareholders of H. T. Wilson & Cunningham, and is renamed “Columbia”.

February
March
April
May

23rd: The “Royal Standard” departs Liverpool, under the command of Capt. Whineray. This is her only transatlantic sailing, bound for New York and calling at Queenstown . This may have been the only transatlantic voyage by a steamer owned and operated by the White Star Line, before Ismay.

June

10th: The “Royal Standard” arrives in New York.

July
August
September

27th: The “Royal Standard” makes her final voyage, Liverpool to Melbourne, under the White Star Line flag. Although she has a steam engine, she is slower than many clipper ships. She is sold the following year and converted to sail.

October
November
December
1867
January

The Lune Shipbuilding Company, having only produced 14 vessels in total, and being poorly mismanaged and in debt, is sold to the Lancaster Shipowners Co.

 

T. H. Ismay enters the transatlantic steam trade by becoming a director of the National Steam Navigation Co. (National Line)

February
March
April
May
June
July
August
September
October

21st: At 10 minutes to 3 0'clock this day the Royal Bank of Liverpool suspended payment. The Directors took this step in consequence of the London banks declining to discount paper based on security of shipping, which the Royal Bank of Liverpool largely holds. The White Star Line has accumulated debts of £527,000.

November

11th: Shareholders of the Wilson & Cunningham's White Star Line hold a meeting to determine the future of the company in light of the failure of Royal Bank. It is decided that the entire fleet will be liquidated to cover debts.

December
1868
January

William J. Pirrie, aged 15 years, becomes a gentleman apprentice at Harland & Wolff.

 

18th: The partnership of H. T. Wilson & Cunningham goes into liquidation and the assets recapitalized to pay off Royal Bank.

February
March
April

7th: The White Star Line is acquired by thirty one year old Thomas Henry Ismay for the paltry sum of £1,000. Five ships: Windsor Castle, White Star (Ex-Blue Jacket), Red Jacket, Tornado, and Dallam Tower, pass to Ismay in the acquisition. Of the flag, Ismay commented that “It seemed rather dear” but it carried the power and influence of the old White Star.

 

Thomas H. Ismay is confident that there is room for a high-class Trans-Atlantic passenger service despite four great companies already maintaining a regular weekly service between Liverpool and New York. Cunard has been established for some thirty years, the Inman Line possesses a fine fleet of clipper passenger steamers, the Guion Line a large American connection, and the National Line a fleet of large cargo carriers.

 

Gustav Schwabe holds a dinner at his estate, Broughton Hall, which is attended by Thomas H. Ismay, William Imrie, and Gustav Wolff. After dinner the men retire for a game of billiards during which Schwabe proposes that he will provide partial funding, and his expertise to finance the line if Ismay will have Harland & Wolff build the ships. Harland & Wolff are in financial trouble following the loss of an Admiralty contract, and the deals cut this night save Harland & Wolff and set the stage for a long a prosperous future for both the White Star Line and Harland & Wolff.

May
June
July
August
September
October
November
December
1869
January
February
March
April
May
June

26th: The White Star Line Clipper “Hoghton Tower”, on her maiden voyage under the command of Digby Murray, departs Liverpool for Melbourne.

July

24th: The White Star Line Clipper “Victoria Tower”, on her maiden voyage and under the command of John Kerr, departs Liverpool for Melbourne.

 

30th: Harland & Wolff receive their first order for three ships of 3,700 tons each, deemed the “Oceanic Class”, from the White Star Line under an agreement that they will build the ships at cost plus a fixed percentage. The ships are the “Oceanic (I)”, “Atlantic”, and “Baltic” with a fourth later added named “Republic”.

August
September

6th: The Oceanic Steam Navigation Company Ltd (OSNC) is registered with 400 shares in the new company offered at £1,000 each fully paid. Thomas H. Ismay and George Hamilton; the general manager, each acquire 50 shares. Other investors include Edward J. Harland and Gustav Wolff of Harland & Wolff, and Gustav Christian Schwabe. Of the 400 shares offered, only 156 are immediately sold due to concerns that the new company will be unable to compete with those already established.

October

10th: The “Royal Standard” (formerly of Wilson & Chambers' White Star Line) is wrecked near Cape St. Thomas, Brazil.

 

17th: The “Victoria Tower” comes ashore at Bream Creek, near Barwon Heads, Victoria, Australia. No lives are lost and over the course of the next few days most of her cargo and effects are saved, but the ship is a total loss.

 

27th: An inquiry into the loss of the “Victoria Tower” finds that Captain John Kerr was at fault.

November

1st: Henry Threlfall Wilson dies at Surbiton at the age of 44.

December
1870
January

William Imrie joins T. H. Ismay, and the firm was renamed Ismay, Imrie & Co.

February
March
April
May
June
July
August

27th: The “Oceanic” is launched.

September
October

4th: Joseph Hyde Sparks, White Star's first U. S. agent, meets with Postmaster General John A. J. Creswell In Washington, D.C. to submit a proposal for White Star to carry U. S. mail to England, when it begins its transatlantic service "in about six weeks." In reality, White Star will not obtain a U. S. mail contract until October 1871, and it will be for the Saturday mail rather than Monday.

November
December 1st: The “Atlantic” is launched.
1871
January
February

24th: The “Oceanic” is delivered to the White Star Line.

 

26th: “Oceanic” arrives at Liverpool.

March

The Oceanic Steam Navigation Company buys Thos. Roydon & Sons, Liverpool.

 

1st: The first announcement of the White Star Line under Ismay, Imrie & Co is announced.

 

2nd: The White Star Line's new Trans Atlantic service begins operating with the maiden voyage of the “Oceanic” between Liverpool and New York with a call at Queenstown. She departs with only 64 passengers aboard. Experiencing mechanical problems before she reaches Holyhead, she is forced to return to Liverpool.

 

8th: The “Pacific”, a sister ship of the “Oceanic”, is launched at Belfast. When the press noted the disappearance of the paddle steamer “Pacific” in January 1856 and the superstitions of passengers, the ship is renamed “Baltic”.

 

16th: The “Oceanic” resumes her maiden voyage.

April
May
June 8th: The “Atlantic” departs on her maiden voyage from Liverpool to New York, under the command of Captain Digby Murray.
July

4th: The “Rebublic” is launched. She gained her name for being launched on America's Independance Day.

 

8th: While departing New York the “Oceanic” collides with the Ferry “Pavonia”. There are no casualties, but the Ferry is damaged extensively.

August
September

14th: The “Baltic” departs on her maiden voyage under the command of Captain Digby Murray with 207 passengers on board. She is on a Liverpool - Queenstown - New York Route. Learning from the “Oceanic” and “Atlantic” improvements have been made in the construction of the “Baltic”. She produces a higher boiler pressure, more bunker capacity, and improved passenger accommodations.

 

24th: The “Baltic” arrives at New York.

October

7th: Entering New York, the “Baltic” clips the French barque Confiance which lies at anchor. The Confiance must be towed to a shipyard for repairs.

 

17th: Arriving at Liverpool, the “Baltic” runs aground at the Jordan Flats but isn't damaged.

The “Adriatic” is launched. Sister ship to the “Celtic” she is fitted with gas-lighting, but due to frequent gas leaks, and other problems, traditional oil lamps will later be installed.

November

23rd: Arriving from New York, the “Atlantic” collides with the steamer “Alexandria” on the Mersey. Both ships suffer minor damage.

 

30th: The “Atlantic” leaves Liverpool for New York. Half an hour later Inman Line's “City of Paris” departs for the same port. The “City of Paris” is the faster ship and overtakes the “Atlantic” - crossing almost directly in front of the bow of the White Star liner. A collision is narrowly avoided.

December

26th: On the way from Liverpool to New York “Oceanic” encounters storms and heavy seas. In these adverse conditions it loses three out of four propeller blades. Her sails are torn apart by the gusts.

 

31st: Entry into the North Atlantic business was difficult as predicted. Although the White Star Line is now known on both sides of the pond, the passenger numbers are low, and accordingly the White Star Line has it's place at the bottom of the transport list.

1872
January

In response to complaints from steerage/3rd class passengers, a captain travels incognito in 3rd class to investigate. The findings cause Thomas Henry Ismay to introduce some minor but important changes:

- 3rd class accomodations are moved to higher decks so that the noise and the vibrations of the engines are less noticeable.

- Married couples are placed in cabins instead of being housed in dormitories.

- The company offers passengers linens and dinnerware which passengers previously had to supply themselves.

These changes prove to be very popular among passengers, and other carriers soon follow suit.

 

8th: The “Oceanic” sights an American brig in distress and saves the captain and crew.

 

10th: With a delay of seven days, the “Oceanic” arrives at New York.

 

13th: The “Oceanic” departs New York for Liverpool. She then travels to Belfast for her annual inspection. Her bow is structurally altered and replaced by a breakwater, this design will be maintained until 1889 on all White Star Line ships. More powerful engines are installed and her masts are shortened so that she rolls less in the water.

February

1st: The “Republic” departs on her maiden voyage to New York. Her Captain is Digby Murray. - With the commissioning of the “Republic” the quartet of ships is complete. The intended weekly Atlantic service requires the White Star Line to have five ships. - At Harland & Wolff two other transatlantic liners for the White Star Line are under construction: the “Adriatic” and “Celtic”.

 

14th: The “Republic” reaches New York. The maiden voyage encountered very heavy weather, which causes extensive damage to the vessel. Water enters through the ventilators and floods areas of the ship, waves smash the engine room skylight, and boilers are extinguished. Captain Murray calls the ship "unseaworthy" and criticizes both Harland & Wolff and the crew in a damning report to the shipping company. His report produces an important finding: Rescue boats that are firmly lashed to the deck are destroyed in heavy seas, while those that are tethered survived. This leads White Star Line to change its regulations, and Lifeboats are to be tethered so that they can move in the heavy waves.

March

The White Star Line receives a mail contract to carry the U.S. Mail.

 

12th: The “Asiatic” is chartered by Lamport & Holt.

April

11th: The “Adriatic” begins her maiden voyage from Liverpool to New York.

 

21st: “Adriatic” arrives at New York.

May

Dr. William Francis Norman O'Loughlin, at the age of 22, becomes a ship's doctor in the service of the White Star Line.

 

17th: The “Adriatic” departs Queenstown for New York.

 

25th: “Adriatic” arrives in New York. She sets a new westbound record, held by Cunard's “Scotia” since 1866, making the passage in 7 days, 23 hours and 17 minutes, and averaging 14.52 knots, winning the Blue Riband.

June

8th: The “Celtic” is launched at Belfast. She is originally named “Arctic” but is renamed on the stocks prior to being launched. A Collins Line ship with the same name foundered in 1854 with the loss of 322 lives, giving rise to the renaming. The “Celtic” also receives gas lighting.

July
August
September

With weekly departures from Liverpool to New York, the White Star Line is assigned permanent space in the West Waterloo Dock by the Harbour Board Mersey.

 

22nd: The White Star Tender “Traffic” is launched at the yard of Speakman & Company, Runcorn. She is used for supplies and luggage in Liverpool. She also has a fresh water tank.

 

26th: Thomas Cook and Son commence the first around the world tours. The company was founded in 1841, organized Eurpean tours in 1855, and in the U.S. in 1865.

October

1st: The U.S. Postmaster General signs a contract with the White Star Line to carry U.S. mails for the United Kingdom from New York each Saturday. The contract was effective from 1st October 1872 to the 31st December 1873, the date all the long term contracts expired.

 

2nd: The “Atlantic” is opened for public inspection for three days. With her next departure she will carry First Class Mail U.S. mail under a new contract.

 

4th: The “Gaelic” is launched at Belfast. She is commissioned, along with a sister ship, for the Bibby Line. As the ships are being built, the White Star Line purchases them for use as cargo vessels for their South America route.

 

5th: The “Republic” is moved to the South America service/Pacific route. She debutes as the most beautiful ship and is a real challenge for the Pacific Steam Navigation Company. However, the South America route is not a success for the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company, despite good cargo capacity.

 

15th:The “Atlantic” collides with the “Wisconsin” and damages it, near Crosby. (near Liverpool)

 

17th: The “Celtic” is delivered to the White Star Line. When leaving Belfast she runs aground. Only after high tide does she come free.

 

24th: The “Celtic” begins her maiden voyage from Liverpool to New York. - As with the “Adriatic” gas lighting will soon be replaced with traditional oil lamps.

November

5th: The “Tropic” is on the South America route.

 

During a severe gale in the Atlantic the “Baltic” sights distress signals off her port bow and Captain Kennedy decides to investigate. The “Baltic” rescues 19 men from the wrecked and sinking ship “Assyria”, which was bound from Quebec to Plymouth, England, with a cargo of timber.

December

Due to increased commitments the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company increases its capital to £750,000.

 

13th: The “Adriatic” loses two propeller blades in a storm and proceeds with reduced speed. She meets the full-rigged Windjammer “Allan”, which was caught by the same storm and is sinking. “Adriatic” saves the 20 man crew.

 

20th: The White Star Line formally asks Harland & Wolff to find the cause of the growing losses of propellor blades, as the reputation of the shipping company begins to suffer.

 

21st: After a voyage of 15 days, the “Adriatic” arrives at New York.

1873
January

With a reputation for speed, comfort and reliability, the White Star Line has now risen to the top of the list of transatlantic carriers.

 

14th: The “Belgic” is launched at Belfast. She is the sister ship of “Gaelic”.

 

19th: The “Baltic” wins the Blue Riband by setting a new speed record from Sandy Hook to Queenstown with an average speed of 15.09 knots. The White Star Line now holds the record for the fastest West Passage (set by the “Adriatic” on 25th May, 1872) and the fastest East passage.

 

29th: The “Gaelic” departs Liverpool for Valparaiso, on her maiden voyage.

February

7th: Thomas Andrews is born in Comber, County Down, Ireland. His mother is a sister of William James Pirrie.

 

25th: The “Asiatic”, back from Charter to Lamport & Holt, makes her first trip for the White Star Line in the South America service. The “Tropic” reaches Montevideo and has the survivors of the Barque J. W. Elwell, which foundered due to a fire on board. The Captain, a crewman, and a stewardess spent 71 days in a lifeboat before being rescued by the Tropic.

 

26th: The “Atlantic” is under the command of James Agnew Williams.

 

28th: William McMaster Murdoch is born in Dalbeattie, Scotland.

March

2nd: The “Atlantic” departs New York heading for Liverpool.

 

13th: The “Atlantic” arrives at Liverpool. For her next passage she takes on coal at the Bramley Moore Dock, but the amount is uncertain. It is said she is as much as 30 tons short of her maximum capacity.

 

20th: The “Atlantic” leaves Liverpool on her 19th voyage. Her Captain is J. A. Williams. It is his second trip as a Captain for the White Star Line. Previously, he had been a Captain with the Guion Line, but was dismissed in 1871 after being accused of drunkenness. He went to White Star Line and began his career there as a second Officer. In February 1872, he had been struggling to secure a lifeboat in a storm aboard the “Republic” and was severely injured when he was crushed between the lifeboat and the wheelhouse. Captain Digby Murray of the “Republic” gave Williams an excellent report, and after his recovery recommended Williams as Chief Officer aboard the “Celtic” before he was Captain of the “Atlantic”.

 

21st: The “Atlantic” makes the usual stopover at Queenstown before proceeding to New York. There are 28 passengers in the Saloon Class and 761 in the 3rd Class, of which 18 boarded at Queenstown. The crew consists of 142 members. She departs Queenstown with 931 people on board.

 

29th: The “Atlantic” has been caught in severe storms with strong headwinds. She still has not reached her destination port and Captain Williams is worried about the coal consumption. He orders coal to be conserved and the sails set, but they are destroyed within a day by the winds.

 

31st: Eleven days at sea the coal supply aboard “Atlantic” continues to worry Captain Williams. In the early morning Chief Engineer Foxley reports that only 127 tons of coal remain. Captain Williams is concerned they will use up all 127 tons before Sandy Hook. Captain Williams asks Chief Officer Firth what their position is, and Firth indicates they are about 460 miles from Sandy Hook.

 

At 1 p.m. Captain Williams decides to alter course, North 24 degrees East, for Sambro Island 170 miles distant, run on until 3 a.m., wait for daylight, and then proceed to Halifax to take on coal.

April

1st: At 12:20 a.m. Captain Williams makes his final course correction for Sambro Island, but the crew are unaware that “Atlantic” is approximately 12.5 miles off-course to the west. Williams orders the deck officers to call him at 3am, or sooner if needed, leaves “Atlantic’s” Second and Fourth Officers in charge of the bridge, and goes to the Chart Room ordering his steward to bring him coffee and rolls. Captain Williams then orders his Steward to call him at 2.40 a.m. bringing cocoa. Despite the captain’s order, his steward is told, by Fourth Officer Brown, not to do disturb the Captain. At 3am, the Captain was not awakened by his crew.

 

At 3:15 am the “Atlantic” runs onto Marr's Rock, Meaghers Island, Nova Scotia. She sits with her bow upon the rocks, a ruptured hull and a starboard list. The large waves destroy the starboard lifeboats and the list makes launching the portside boats impossible. Some men make it to the rocks, and ropes are secured between the ship and shore. The only way to evacuate the ship is by climbing along these ropes. Captain Williams gives the order to those unable to climb across to climb into the rigging, but many lack the strength to do so. When daylight comes, of the approximately 952 people on board, some 562 people had lost their lives. All women and children perished except for twelve-year-old, John Hindley.

5:30 p.m. Halifax: “Atlantic's” 3rd Officer; C. L. Brady, reaches the town of Lower Prospect having set out earlier on foot. He reaches the offices of the Cunard Line and from there the news of the sinking of the Atlantic spreads.

 

2nd: The news of the loss of the “Atlantic” reaches the White Star Line offices in Liverpool, in the form of a coded message from Third Officer Brady.

 

3rd: Captain Williams specifies the loss notification of “Atlantic”. Among the dead are the Paymaster, Chief Steward, 2nd Officer and the 5th Engineer.

 

5th: In Halifax an investigation begins into the causes of the wreck of the “Atlantic”.

 

16th: The “Belgic” departs on her maiden voyage. It runs on the route Liverpool - Valparaiso.

 

18th: The Halifax-Committee of Inquiry on the sinking of the “Atlantic” announced its verdict:

- The decision of the Captain to call at Halifax, was justified and proportionate.

- After the accident, the behavior of the crew was geared to save as many passengers as possible.

- The error in estimating the speed of the “Atlantic” is inexplicable, unless one assumes the charge of incompetence or carelessness.

- The behavior of the Captain to leave his ship to run for three hours at full speed, without knowing exactly where the ship is, and not taking precautions against navigation error, was culpable rashness.

- The biggest mistake was to not have taken depth readings while approaching the coast. The location of the ship could have been determined as early as eight hours before the collision. For this error, there is no excuse.

- The ship was inadequately equipped with the best quality coal causing her consumption, under adverse conditions, to increase resulting in the “Atlantic” having to call at Halifax.

- The Extra Master and Master certificate of Captain Williams should be suspended for two years. In consideration of canelling the certificate of Captain Williams, his praiseworthy behavior during the rescue operation were mitigating factors.

- The conduct of Second Officer Metcalf (perished) and the Fourth Officer Brown were an improper violation of the Captain's orders, because they prevented the Captain's Steward from calling him at 2:40 clock in the morning. In addition, Brown should have seen the light from the Sambro lighthouse, but he has not seen it. The certificate of Fourth Officer Brown, as Master, should be suspended for three months.

The White Star Line is shocked by the accusation of the “Atlantic” is not equipped with quality coal, and calls for a new investigation.

May

10th: The second investigation into the causes of the loss of the steamer “Atlantic”, and demanded by White Star Line in protest of the Canadian findings, begins in Liverpool.

June

4th: The “Tropic” makes her last trip to South America for the White Star Line. After her return, she is sold to J. Serra y Font (Bilbao) and renamed “Federico”. The “Asiatic” is sold to the African S. S. Co. The sale of both “Tropic” and “Asiatic” were needed after the loss of the “Atlantic” and to recoup capital.

 

5th: John Creswell, U.S. Postmaster General, rejected the request of the Inman Line, to withdraw White Star Line's mail contract and award it to the Inman Line. The White Star Line has missed five of the contractually agreed Saturday departure in seven months. White Star makes it clear that their fleet is large enough to satisfy the requirements of the Postal Service.

 

11th: The second committee of inquiry into the sinking of the “Atlantic” comes to the conclusion that the “Atlantic” had too little coal on board. The Investigatory Committee calls T. H. Ismay as a witness who testifies that the “Atlantic” carried 933 tons of coal on board and inventories were sufficient for 32 days. The White Star Line appeals the commissions finding.

At the end of the inquiry the committee finds that:

- The coal supply on board was sufficient.

- At the moment of the collision the ship was at full speed, and all engines and boilers were working without problems. Thus, the coal has nothing to do with the fact that the “Atlantic” ran onto the rocks on their way to Halifax.

- The Chief Engineer has the remaining coal significantly underestimated in his report to Captain Williams. When the ship's course was changed to Halifax, there was still enough coal in the bunkers to bring them to New York and still have 70 tons of coal remaining, even if the weather had not improved.

July

10th: The “Gaelic” is withdrawn from the South America route and used in freight service to New York.

August
September

12th: The “Ambriz”, formerly the White Star Line's “Asiatic”, makes her first journey under the flag of her new owner, the African Steamship Co.

October
November
December

17th: The departure of the “Belgic”, from Liverpool to Valparaiso, is the last departure of a White Star Line steam ship for this route. The service will continue with sailing ships of Ismay, Imrie & Co.

 

20th: William Roberts enters the service of the White Star Line. He begins his career as a Third Officer.

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