Sir Samuel Cunard

(1787 - 1865)


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Sir Samuel Cunard (1787 - 1865)
The Founder of Cunard Line

Sir Samuel Cunard was born in 1787. He was a successful merchant of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada (then part of the British Empire) and owned a number of sailing ships. By the 1830s the Industrial Revolution had progressed far enough to make the idea of transatlantic communication by means of a fleet of steamships plausible. In 1838 the desire for dependable delivery of the "Royal Mails" on which imperial communication and commerce depended prompted the British government of HM Queen Victoria to invite tenders for a service of steamships to replace the transatlantic mail brigs, Cunard travelled to Britain, and joined forces with Robert Napier (one of the foremost marine engineers of the day), and put in a tender for the mail service. In the terms of his tender he agreed that he would build four ships and would guarantee to operate two voyages to America and back every month, winter and summer. On the 4th May 1839 the contract to deliver the mail across the North Atlantic from Britain to North America was signed. With his tender for the service accepted, Cunard formed the British & North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company with the shipowners George Burns of Glasgow and David MacIver of Liverpool. He then placed orders for four wooden paddle steamers, and began transatlantic operations in 1840, sailing from Liverpool to Boston.

Thus was born Cunard Line. The passenger and mail service which Sir Samuel Cunard created all those years ago has held a leading position in the transatlantic passenger trade ever since. Sir Samuel Cunard was created a baronet in 1859 for his outstanding services to the British shipping industry. Sir Samuel Cunard died on the 28th April 1865.

In 1981 Sir Samuel Cunard was inducted into the ASTA Travel Hall of Fame for his contribution to the development of transatlantic travel. Recently in 2004 to honour the maiden visit of the new RMS Queen Mary 2 to Halifax on the 25th September 2004 a project was set up to honour the legacy of Sir Samuel Cunard, when Commodore Ronald Warwick (Master of the RMS Queen Mary 2) suggested the creation of the Sir Samuel Cunard Memorial Project. This project is now being taken forward by the Halifax Foundation supported by Cunard Line. The project aims to erect a commemorative monument to Sir Samuel Cunard on the Halifax waterfront in the autumn of 2006.  The project recognises the far reaching impact of Sir Samuel Cunard's contributions to the city of Halifax, the province of Nova Scotia, Canada and the world. Now recognised as the most renowned businessman in the Atlantic Provinces, Cunard revolutionised commerce and communications between continents nearly two centuries ago back in 1840. He was a true visionary who foresaw the day when steam power would replace sailing on the North Atlantic, changing the course of maritime history and creating the "ocean highway".

Related Websites:

Carnival Corporation & PLC or

Cunard Line (UK website)

Cunard Line (USA website)

The Halifax Foundation

The Cunard Steamship Society

The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada

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