Above: The Britannia of 1840. ~ J. Kent Layton Collection. Originally called the British and North American Steam Packet Company, this legendary steamship line was founded by Samuel Cunard. The company's name was soon shortened to simply Cunard Company, in honor of its founder. Cunard's first ship, the Britannia, made her maiden voyage in 1840. It was one of the first regular steamship lines to be inaugurated on the Atlantic trade. Despite competition from other companies - Collins, White Star, Hamburg-Amerika, French, and others - Cunard thrived on its reputation for reliability and safety. Their motto was, "We never lost a life." Above: Samuel Cunard, founder of the Cunard Company. ~ J. Kent Layton Collection.Table 1:
Information on some of Cunard's most important ships, 1840-1906:
Above: Cunard's Saxonia of 1900, seen plowing her way through a very rough sea in this spectacular artist's depiction. ~ J. Kent Layton Collection.
Above: The Russia, of 1867, still relied heavily on sail power as a supplement to her steam engines. Her profile did, however, eschew more traditional paddlewheels in favor of a single screw propeller, something of a novelty at the time. At a service speed of just over 12 knots, the Russia was well known as one of the swiftest liners of her day. ~ J. Kent Layton Collection.
By 1902, however, Cunard found itself in a poor state; the competition had overtaken them, and it would take a masterstroke to put them back in first place. Cunard thus managed to obtain a loan from Parliament to fund the construction of two new speed-queens, which were to be named Lusitania and Mauretania. These two sister ships became legends in their own time, and remain so to this day. They were the largest ships in the world when they entered service, and held the Blue Riband between them from late 1907 until 1929.
Above: The Lusitania (left) and Mauretania (right) pass each other in the Mersey, Liverpool, England, in a pre-1912 photograph. Meetings of this nature were relatively rare, since the two ships normally were at opposite ends of the same sailing schedule. ~ Author's Collection.
Their larger sister, the Aquitania, made her debut on the North Atlantic in 1914 and remained in service until 1950, becoming one of the longest lived of the Atlantic liners. Further information on these three sisters can be found on their respective pages on this site. Detailed information can be found in the new version of my book, Atlantic Liners: A Trio of Trios. The all new volume, Lusitania: An Illustrated Biography, will be available this spring from Amberley Books. It focuses on the liner's career and technology, but also has an entire chapter on the sinking and a breathtaking amount of information (textual and photographic) that has never been published before. You may also be interested in further information on Cunard's New York terminus, Pier 54. For reference, compare the statistics from Table 1, above, with those contained below: Table 2:
Comparative Information, Lusitania, Mauretania, Aquitania:
The Cunard Line continued to operate through the 1920's, but during the early 1930's, during the Great Depression, all of the major shipping lines found themselves in difficult financial situations.
Above: A 1920's artist's conception of the three crack Cunard ships, the Mauretania, Aquitania, and Berengaria. ~ Author's Collection.
Eventually, Cunard was forced to merge with the White Star Line, forming the Cunard-White Star Line. The most immediate result of this merger was a disposal of much older tonnage, including ships like the Mauretania, Olympic, Berengaria and Majestic. The next result was more positive - the completion of Cunard's newest superliner, named Queen Mary. She and her sister, the Queen Elizabeth, worked together in peace and war, building an unparalleled reputation for excellence before they were eventually de-commissioned. Later on, Cunard commissioned the Queen Elizabeth 2, or QE2, which was of a far more modern design, and which, by the late-1990's was widely touted to be the last great trans-Atlantic liner in service. When the Carnival Cruise Line bought out Cunard, and the cruise industry began to see a tremendous upsurge in tonnage competition, the result was that Cunard drew up plans for a new behemoth, to be built more strongly than customary cruise ships for trans-Atlantic service, and to take regular cruises on other routes. The new liner, which entered service in 2004, was named the Queen Mary 2, and was, until 2006, the largest ocean liner in the world. Comparing the information from Tables 1 and 2 with that of Table 3, below, is both interesting and informative: Click here to be taken to the Queen Mary page.
Click here to be taken to the Queen Elizabeth page (pending).
Click here to be taken to the Queen Elizabeth 2 page (pending).
Click here to be taken to the Queen Mary 2 page (pending).Table 3:
Information on some of Cunard's most important ships, 1920-present:
*The Berengaria was originally built as the HAPAG liner Imperator. After the war, she was handed over to the Cunard Line as part of war reparations. She was renamed and served under that new guise until she was scrapped. The statistics given, however, concern the vessel as she was originally built.**Specifications as entered service. This figure was later raised to 70,327 tons.
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