Class of 1989
Sir Samuel Cunard, pioneer of ocean steam navigation and founder of the Cunard Line.
Born in 1787 in Halifax, Nova Scotia, young Sam worked on his family’s square riggers and dreamed of the day he would cross the ocean by steamer. During his young adulthood, he earned a reputation for honesty and good business sense. His personal fortune was amassed through investments in coal and iron mines and timber tracks.
By the time ocean steamers became viable, Samuel was owner of a fleet of riggers and steamers that traveled between Halifax and Bermuda. In 1830, at age 43, he purchased a part interest in a new steamer, the Royal William. With Samuel aboard, it crossed the Atlantic entirely under steam.
While in England in 1839, Samuel’s successful bid to carry mail to North America by steamship gave birth to the Cunard Line. Through a Scottish shipbuilder, Samuel ordered four ocean steamers. In 1840 the first of these, The Britannia, carried the Royal mail to Halifax under the Cunard flag.
Passenger liners were added to the Cunard Line in 1847. The move positioned Cunard as a world leader in ocean travel. By 1907 millions of immigrants to the new land were arriving on Cunard ships, including the Lusitania and the luxurious Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary.
At 61, Cunard was knighted by Queen Victoria for making Cunard steamers available for allied efforts during the Crimean War. He eventually took up residence in London, but his financial influence remained prominent within Halifax charitable societies.