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British Industrial History

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Inman Line

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1850 The Liverpool and Philadelphia Steamship Co was formed by John Grubb Richardson, his brothers and William Inman.

They bought an advanced new ship, the SS City of Glasgow. She proved profitable because her iron hull required less repair and her screw propulsion system left more room for passengers and freight. The ship's moderate speed also considerably reduced coal consumption.

Richardson was concerned about the poor conditions experienced by immigrants travelling to America after the famine. From the beginning, he provided better steerage quarters and adopted the recommendations of a Parliamentary Committee to provide cooked meals to immigrants.

In December 1850 the ship sailed from Liverpool carrying 400 emigrants and took twenty-two days to reach Philadelphia. It was the first time that emigrants had been taken across the Atlantic by steamship. It had previously been supposed that transatlantic steamship services could only be run if subsidized by a government mail contract, while the emigrant trade was left to sailing ships. Inman believed he could run a transatlantic steamship line without government support by using the latest marine technology — the iron screw steamer — to reduce costs. The viability of the line was further promoted by his strategy of ensuring a large and constant flow of emigrant passengers by offering a faster passage and better accommodation than could be provided by sailing ships.

1852 Added steerage berths to their ships to cater for the emigrant trade.

By 1854 Inman had three steamers, with two others under construction, but then two of his ships were lost and the future of the line seemed in doubt. He was saved by the Crimean War which offered lucrative employment for steamships as transports so he stopped running the transatlantic service.

1855 Because of their opposition to war, Richardson and another Quaker partner sold their interests in the firm to Inman after he had chartered ships to the French during the Crimean War.

1856 Inman returned to the Atlantic trade with four steamers.

1857 The American terminus for most sailings was changed to New York; the name of the firm to the Liverpool, New York and Philadelphia Steam Ship Company, although it was always popularly known as the Inman Line.

By the 1860s Inman's success had attracted other steamship lines into the emigrant trade and competition was strong. Inman was now ready to take on mail contracts to reduce his costs.

1867 Inman gained the Queenstown - Halifax contract and started a feeder service between Halifax and St. John, N.B.

By 1869 Inman and his principal rivals, the Cunard, National, and Guion lines, had established a shipping conference to control rates and limit competition. The Inman Line probably reached its peak in 1870 when its eighteen ships carried 44,000 passengers, mostly emigrants, to New York.

The 1870s brought further competition, especially from the White Star Line, and Inman was forced to spend large sums on new ships.

1875 His 5500 ton City of Berlin was the largest merchant ship in the world after the Great Eastern, but cost £200,000 at a time when passenger traffic had slumped. In the hope of raising more capital, a new public company, the Inman Steamship Company, was set up in 1875.

1875 The Inman Steamship Co entered collaboration with the White Star Line.

1881 Competitive conditions were still difficult at the time of Inman's death.

By 1886 the company was in serious financial difficulties and could not raise the money to replace the ageing fleet. Voluntary liquidation in October. Assets were purchased by the American-owned International Navigation Co, which already owned the American Line and Red Star Line - presumably giving rise to Inman and International Steamship Co.

1892 The U.S. Mail contract was awarded to the company, providing that the ships were transferred to the U.S. flag.

1893 The last Inman sailing from Liverpool; the service was transferred to Southampton; all ships were U.S. flagged under the ownership of the American Line.


See Also

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Sources of Information

  • Ships List [1]
  • Biography of William Inman, ODNB