Transatlantic travel: Samuel Cunard and shipping

colourful illustration of an ocean liner

The name Cunard is now known for sailing, with large liners crossing seas and oceans around the world.

Its origins stem to shipping magnate Samuel Cunard, who was born in 1787 in Halifax, Canada.

Emigration was part of Samuel Cunard’s family. His mother’s family were originally Irish and, on his father’s side, he was descended from German Quaker emigrants to the United States.

Cunard later mirrored their journey by moving from Canada to London, and through his companies, contributed to making transatlantic travel more comfortable for future generations.

Cunard’s father was a master carpenter. He joined his father in the family business, having already started in business in his teenage years. This enterpreneurial spirit led to Cunard expanding the family’s enterprise into shipping.

From the 1830s onwards, the company moved into steam shipping, having managed a mail service for post along the east coast of North America. Increasingly, the company moved into Transatlantic travel, with regular passenger and freight services.

In 1838, when he was travelling to London, he discovered an advert calling for the management of the postal transport between the United Kingdom, Halifax and New York. The company he set up with several other businessmen won the right to run this mail service.

The Cunard company made ocean liners a success, with a good reputation for speed and safety – winning awards for fastest Atlantic voyages across several decades.

During the 1840s, Cunard moved from Canada to London permanently, where he lived until his death in 1865. The Cunard line went on to become a leading shipping company worldwide.

By Adrian Murphy, Europeana Foundation

This blog is part of Europeana’s Discovering Europe season featuring cultural jewels and hidden gems from across the continent.

Feature image: Cunard Line, Sjöhistoriska museet, Public domain

2 thoughts on “Transatlantic travel: Samuel Cunard and shipping

  1. Did you know that the only life jacket in the EU from the Titanic is in the Maritime History Museum in Rijeka. He was brought by my great-grandfather.

  2. Cunard held a strong belief in safety over speed. He instructed his Captains that they were to operate their ship’s safely, at all times.

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