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Sir Samuel Cunard & Cunard Cruise Line!
Sir Samuel Cunard, the man
whose name is born by the renowned Cunard Cruise Line, never owned -
outright - the shipping company. And more-over, he was not an Englishman,
but a Canadian, born in Halifax Nova Scotia in 1787.
While Samuel was alive, the shipping company was never officially named "Cunard
Line". The company formed with a number of partners was the British and
North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company. His negotiation power and
position as a prominent businessman enabled him to win trans-Atlantic mail
contracts with England. These contracts were to provide mail service from
England to Halifax twice every month and then on to Boston. It was the
Bostonians who first "unofficially" called the line the Cunard Steam Ship
Company or the Cunard Line of Packet Steam Ships. It wasn't until 1878 that
the company was incorporated as the Cunard Steamship Company - about
thirteen years after Samuel Cunard had passed away.
There was fierce competition for mail deliveries crossing the ocean which
forced the Cunard company to keep upgrading and expanding. Because of a few
shipwrecks of other companies' ships, Samuel Cunard started marketing the
shipping line's safety record. This expanded the traveler base of the line
as more people wanted safe transportation to the new world. Thus, the
beginnings of the Cunard Line as the premier ocean liner company and later
as the famous luxury cruise line.
Samuel Cunard was a noted Halifax businessman, merchant and respected
politician. His story is like so many before and so many since. His father
was a carpenter, but was able to expand his horizons - so to speak- and in
1812 founded the firm of A. Cunard and Son. With little education, Samuel,
at an early age, proved to be a shrewd trader. He would buy goods on the
docks and then sell them in town. Early in the 1820's Samuel became the
virtual head of his father's firm. This was just the beginning.
Samuel Cunard and his brothers had numerous business ventures including land
acquisition, timber trade, shipping and ship trading. Samuel had used his
influence in the Halifax merchant and political communities to build
somewhat of an empire. However, becoming over-extended, that empire appeared
to be crashing down on him. His shrewd business sense along with his
reputation and his friends - in Halifax and England - ensured that his
legacy would not be that of a bankruptcy. It is stated that his estate was
valued somewhere between 350,000 and 600,000 British Pounds.
Throughout his later life, Samuel Cunard lived extensively in England where
most of his financial partners were. He maintained his home in Halifax as
well, traveling back and forth on his company's ships.
Sir Samuel was remembered as a man who looked after his fellow men. He could
be a ruthless adversary, but would reward a job well done. In the hard times
of the thirties, he "circulated" his money to keep the economy going when
there could have been poverty and mercantile stagnation. In the opinion of
one of his acquaintances, he was remembered as "the ablest man I have ever
known as a merchant in Halifax". By staying true to the family motto "By
perseverance" he became an English merchant prince.
For more information regarding the life of Sir Samuel Cunard, check out his
biography on the Dictionary of Canadian Biography website. For more
information regarding the Cunard Cruise Line, look at our article map of
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