The birth of Trans Atlantic travel

Did you know that Samuel Cunard, the founder of the Cunard Steamship Company, in 1833 part owned the first ship to cross the Atlantic entirely under steam power, SS Royal William.

On this date, 18th August in 1833, SS Royal William left Pictou, Nova Scotia on carrying a little bit of freight and a lot of coal.  25 days later she arrived at Gravesend on the River Thames, the first steam powered ship to achieve this crossing, where eventually she was sold to the Spanish Navy, where she became the first steamship to fire in anger. She kept being the first at something!

Originally the SS Royal William was built as a side paddle steamship in Canada, it was the largest steamship of its time.  Samuel Cunard was one of the original investors in the Quebec and Halifax Steam Navigation Company, who paid for her to be built.

Originally registered on 22nd August 1831 it was  employed between Quebec and the East Coast colonies of the new United States.  The route was not profitable, the owners went bankrupt, with the result that she was brought by a consortium of the original investors (Samuel Cunard being one) to be sent across the Atlantic to be sold.

Samuel Cunard, a successful Halifax entrepreneur, had an ambition to capitalise on the lessons he had learnt from the SS Royal William. He realised that as there was a growing railway network in England, he could extend that network by creating a Transatlantic bridge with steamships crossing the Atlantic, running regularly as trains. Therefore, in 1837 he went to England and put in a bid to run a transatlantic mail service between the UK and North America. This was the start of what eventually became the Cunard Line.

Finally, in 1840 he achieved his dream when SS Britannia, sailed from Liverpool to Halifax, Nova Scotia, and then on to Boston, Massachusetts, with 64 passengers.  The start of a regular service across the Atlantic.

It could be said that Samuel Cunard our love of ocean liners, in the face of many potential rivals who lost ships and fortunes.

His company and his ships continue today, continuing to provide luxury trans-oceanic cruises across the world.

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