Sir Samuel Cunard (1787-1865)
Canadian shipping magnate who founded the famous Cunard Line.
Samuel Cunard was born in Halifax, Novia Scotia, the oldest son of a master carpenter and merchant. He was clearly destined for business, managing his own general store as a teenager before joining the family firm. He was determined and progressive, diversifying the business successfully into shipping, tea imports, whaling and coal mining.
Samuel experimented with steam ships, running ferries locally, and soon saw the potential for transatlantic vessels. Unable to find investors in Canada, Cunard came to UK in 1837 and worked with Glasgow marine engineer Robert Napier. They established the British and North American Royal Steam Packet Company, running their first ship from Liverpool to Nova Scotia three years later. This was the beginning of the famous Cunard Line.
For most of the next 30 years, Cunard held the ‘Blue Riband’ for the fastest Atlantic voyage. The company was later famous for its superliners, Mauretania and Lusitania, (see Iris Burnside). Safety and speed were Cunard’s priorities, and his company’s record for both was impressive, particularly in the face of stiff competition from the White Star Line, owners of Titanic.