Hamburg America Line

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Hamburg America Line
Native name
Hamburg-Amerikanische Paketfahrt-Actien-Gesellschaft
FounderAlbert Ballin (Director General), Adolph Godeffroy, Ferdinand Laeisz, Carl Woermann, and August Bolten
Defunct1 September 1970
FateMerged with Norddeutscher Lloyd
"Twin Screw Express Steamers" 1899 ad

The Hamburg-Amerikanische Packetfahrt-Actien-Gesellschaft (HAPAG), known in English as the Hamburg America Line, was a transatlantic shipping enterprise established in Hamburg, in 1847. Among those involved in its development were prominent citizens such as Albert Ballin (director general), Adolph Godeffroy, Ferdinand Laeisz, Carl Woermann, August Bolten, and others, and its main financial backers were Berenberg Bank and H. J. Merck & Co. It soon developed into the largest German, and at times the world's largest, shipping company, serving the market created by German immigration to the United States and later, immigration from Eastern Europe. On 1 September 1970, after 123 years of independent existence, HAPAG merged with the Bremen-based North German Lloyd to form Hapag-Lloyd AG.

1899 ad in The Mail and Express (New York City)


Ports served[edit]

Postcard of the view from the water of the Hamburg-American Steamship Lines docks in Hoboken, New Jersey, in about 1910
Postcard from the Hamburg-American Line steamship König Friedrich August, issued 1911
Advertisement for the Hamburg-American Line (1930)

In the early years, the Hamburg America Line exclusively connected European ports with North American ports, such as Hoboken, New Jersey, or New Orleans, Louisiana. With time, however, the company established lines to all continents. The company built a large ocean liner terminal at Cuxhaven, Germany, in 1900. Connected directly to Hamburg by a dedicated railway line and station, the HAPAG Terminal at Cuxhaven served as the major departure point for German and European immigrants to North America until 1969 when ocean liner travel ceased. Today it serves as a museum and cruise ship terminal.[1]

Poster by Otto Arpke (1931)

Atlas Service[edit]

The Atlas Service sailed from New York to Jamaica, Haiti, Colombia, Central America.[2] The service was described as a way to "escape the rigors of Northern winters" through taking a Caribbean cruise and was promoted to tourists.[2] The ships Altai, Sarnia, Sibiria, Alleghany, Alene, Adirondack, Valdivia, and Graecia provided this service in 1906.[2]

Notable journeys[edit]

In 1858, its liner Austria sank, killing 449 people. In 1891, the cruise of the Augusta Victoria in the Mediterranean and the Near East from 22 January to 22 March, with 241 passengers including Albert Ballin and wife, is often stated to have been the first passenger cruise. Christian Wilhelm Allers published an illustrated account of it as "Bakschisch". In 1897, its steamer Arcadia was wrecked on the rocks off Newfoundland.[3] In 1900, 1901 and 1903 its liner Deutschland won the Blue Riband taking the prize from the Kaiser Wilhelm der Grosse. In 1906 Prinzessin Victoria Luise ran aground off the coast of Jamaica. No people died by the grounding; however, the ship's captain committed suicide after getting all the passengers safely off the ship.[4] In 1912, its liner SS Amerika was the first ship to warn Titanic of icebergs.

HAPAG's general director, Albert Ballin, believed that safety, size, comfort and luxury would always win out over speed. Thus he conceived the three largest liners yet to be built, named Imperator, Vaterland and Bismarck.

First World War[edit]

The Imperator and the Vaterland were briefly in service before the First World War. In 1914, the Vaterland was caught in port at Hoboken, New Jersey at the outbreak of World War I and interned by the United States. She was seized, renamed Leviathan after the declaration of war on Germany in 1917, and served for the duration and beyond as a troopship. In 1917, its liner Allemannia was "torpedoed by German submarine near Alicante"; two people were lost.[5]

Postwar reparations[edit]

After the war, the Vaterland/Leviathan was retained by the Americans as war reparations. In 1919 Vaterland's sister ships – Imperator and the unfinished Bismarck – were handed over to the allies as war reparations to Britain. They were sold to the Cunard Line and White Star Line respectively, and renamed Berengaria and Majestic. A ship chain in Mountain Lakes, New Jersey is identified by the historic society as belonging to either the Vaterland or Imperator. It was acquired in 1921, likely during refurbishments, and now lines a portion of the Boulevard.

In 1939, the HAPAG liner St. Louis was unable to find a port in Cuba, the United States, or Canada willing to accept the more than 950 Jewish refugees on board and had to return to Europe. On 9 April 1940, when German warships attacked Kristiansand, Norway, during Operation Weserübung (the opening assault of the Norwegian Campaign), the HAPAG freighter Seattle sailed into the crossfire between the warships and Norwegian coastal artillery. She was holed and sunk, and her crew briefly became prisoners of war.

Later years[edit]

According to a 1940 US intelligence report compiled by the US War Department, Louis Classing, general manager of the Hamburg-America in Havana was identified as a "well-known nazi agent" who "imported moving pictures for propaganda purposes to be shown at local theaters".[6][7]

The Hamburg America Line lost almost the entirety of its fleet twice, as a result of World Wars I and II. In 1970, the company merged with its longstanding rival, Norddeutscher Lloyd of Bremen, to establish the present-day company Hapag-Lloyd.

In the post-war years, HAPAG rebuilt its fleet and focused on cargo container transport. In 1970, the container shipping companies HAPAG and North German Lloyd (NGL) merged into Hapag-Lloyd AG to form one of the world's biggest container shipping companies. In 2008, Hapag-Lloyd was acquired by the City of Hamburg and a group of private investors, the Albert Ballin Consortium.[8]

Fleet List[edit]

Name(s) Entered HAPAG service Notes
Austria 1858 Caught fire and sank, 1 September 1858.
Teutonia 1858 Sold to Henry Flinn, 1877. Scrapped 1894 as Mentana.
Silesia 1869 Sold 1887. Wrecked 1899 and subsequently scrapped.
Suevia 1874 Sold to Schiaffino, Nyer & Siges and renamed Quatre Amis, 1896. Scrapped 1898.
Augusta Victoria 1889 Rebuilt 1897. Sold to Imperial Russian Navy, 1904, and converted into auxiliary cruiser Kuban. Scrapped 1907
Columbia 1889


Sold to Spanish Navy, 1898, and converted to auxiliary cruiser Rapido. Sold back to HAPAG and reverted to Columbia, 1899. Sold to Imperial Russian Navy as auxiliary cruiser Terek, 1904. Scrapped 1907.
Scandia 1889 Sold to US Army Quartermaster Department, 1898, and renamed USAT Warren. Scrapped 1929.
Normannia 1890 Sold to Spanish Navy, 1898, and renamed Patriota. Scrapped as Compagnie Générale Transatlantique's L'Aquitaine, 1906.
Fürst Bismarck 1891 Sold to Imperial Russian Navy, 1904, and converted into auxiliary cruiser Don. Scrapped as Regia Marina's San Giusto, 1924
Georgia 1891 Sold to Housatonic Steamship Corporation and renamed Housatonic, 1915. Torpedoed and sunk 1917.
Stubbenhuk / Sicilia 1892 Built 1890 for Hansa Line. Acquired by HAPAG during merger with Hansa. Renamed Sicilia, 1894. Sold to Shinyei Kisen Goshi Kaisha and renamed Komagata Maru, 1913. Wrecked as Kabafuto Kisen KK's Heian Maru, 1926.
Persia 1894 Sold to British Transport Company and renamed Minnewaska, 1897. Scrapped as USAT Thomas, 1929.
Ceres / Suevia 1896 Renamed Suevia, 1898. Seized by United States Shipping Board, 1917, and renamed Wachusett. Scrapped 1924.
Valdivia 1896 Built 1886 as Tijuca for Hamburg Süd. Bought by HAPAG and renamed Valdivia, 1896. Sold to Peter R Hinsch of Hamburg and renamed Tom G Corpi. Scrapped as Flandre, 1927.
Pennsylvania 1897 Seized by United States Shipping Board, 1917, and renamed Nansemond. Scrapped 1924.
Arcadia 1897 Seized by United States Shipping Board, 1917. Sold to California Steamship Company, 1923. Scrapped 1927
Pretoria 1898 Surrendered to US government, 1919, then transferred to British government. Scrapped 1921.
Bulgaria 1898


Sold to Unione Austriaca di Navigazione and renamed Canada, 1913. Returned to HAPAG and reverted to Bulgaria later that same year. Seized by United States Shipping Board, 1917, and renamed USAT Hercules and later USAT Philippines. Scrapped 1924.
Titania 1898 Built 1879 for Adamson & Ronaldson as Mercedes. Bought by HAPAG from Hamburg Pacific Dampfschiffs Linie. Sold 1898. Sunk as USS Marcellus, 1910.
Sibiria 1898 Built as Hertha for Kingsin Line, 1894. Sold to HAPAG, 1898. Sold to Atlantic Fruit Company, 1915. Wrecked 1916.
Graf Waldersee 1899 Laid down as Pavia, but renamed Graf Waldersee during construction. Surrendered to US government, 1919. Transferred to Britain later that year, and scrapped 1922.
Patricia 1899 Surrendered to US government, 1919. Transferred to Britain later that year, and scrapped 1921.
Hamburg 1899 Chartered by American Red Cross and renamed Red Cross, 1914. Seized by United States Shipping Board, 1917, and later renamed Powhatan. Scrapped as Dollar Line's President Fillmore, 1928.
Saxonia 1899 Seized by United States Shipping Board, 1917, and renamed Savannah. Scrapped as Orbis, 1954.
Kaiser Friedrich 1899 Built 1898 for North German Lloyd. Chartered by HAPAG, 1899. Bought by Compagnie de Navigation Sud-Atlantique, 1912. Sunk 1916.
Deutschland / Viktoria Luise / Hansa 1900 Renamed Viktoria Luise, 1910. Rebuilt and renamed Hansa, 1921. Scrapped 1925.
Kiautschou 1900 Traded to North German Lloyd, 1904. Caught fire as LASSCO's City of Honolulu, 1930, and subsequently scrapped.
Abessinia 1900 Seized during World War I. Wrecked 1921.
Prinzessin Victoria Luise 1901 Struck reef, 1906, and subsequently sank.
Athen 1901 Built 1893 for A. C. de Freitas & Co. Sold to HAPAG, 1901. Sold to Gätjens & Jarke, 1903. Sunk 1906.
Arabia 1901 Launched as Liddesdale for Mackil R. & Co., 1901. Purchased by HAPAG during construction. Seized by the British, 1919. Wrecked as Andrios, 1926.
Moltke 1902 Seized by Italian government, 1915. Transferred to Lloyd Sabaudo and renamed Pesaro, 1919. Scrapped 1925.
Prinz Eitel Friedrich 1902 Seized by United States Shipping Board, 1917, and renamed Otsego. Hulked or scrapped as Far Eastern Steamship Company's Dolinsk, 1955.
Blücher 1902 Seized by Brazilian government, 1917, and renamed Leopoldina. Sold to Compagnie Générale Transatlantique and renamed Suffren, 1923. Scrapped 1929.
Prinz Waldemar 1902 Struck reef and sank, 1907.
Prinz Sigismund 1903 Seized by United States Shipping Board, 1917, and renamed General W.C. Gorgas. Scrapped as Mikhail Lomonosov, 1958.
Prinz Adalbert 1903 Seized by Britain, 1914, and used as accommodation ship Prince and later Princetown. Torpedoed and sunk as Compagnie de Navigation Sud Atlantique's Alésia, 1917.
Prinz Joachim 1903 Seized by United States Shipping Board, 1917, and renamed Moccasin.
Odenwald 1904 Seized by United States Shipping Board, 1917, and renamed Newport News. Scrapped 1925.
Rhaetia 1905 Seized by United States Shipping Board, 1917, and renamed Black Hawk and later Black Arrow. Scrapped 1924.
Fürst Bismarck / Friedrichsruh 1905 Renamed Friedrichsruh, 1914. Surrendered to Britain, 1919. Sailed under French flag as Amboise. Scrapped 1935.
Karlsruhe 1905 Sold to Ernst Russ Reederei, 1935. Sunk by air attack, 1945.
Präsident 1905 Seized by United States Shipping Board, 1917, and renamed USS Kittery. Scrapped 1933
Amerika 1905 Seized by United States Shipping Board, 1917, and subsequently renamed America, then ceded to United States Mail Steamship Company and later United States Lines. Scrapped as USAT Edmund B. Alexander, 1957.
Kronprinzessin Cecilie 1906 Seized by British government, 1915, and renamed HMS Princess. Paid off 1917.
Kaiserin Auguste Victoria 1906 Surrendered to Britain, 1919. Ceded to Canadian Pacific Steamship Company and renamed Empress of Scotland, 1921. Scrapped 1930.
Pisa 1907

(Chartered 1903)

Built 1896 for Sloman Line. Chartered from Sloman in 1903 before being bought outright by HAPAG in 1907. Seized by United States Shipping Board, 1917, and renamed Ascutney. Scrapped 1924.
President Lincoln 1907 Seized by United States Shipping Board, 1917. Torpedoed and sunk, 1918.
President Grant 1907 Built 1903 as Servian for Wilson & Furness-Leyland Line. Purchased by HAPAG, 1907. Seized by United States Shipping Board, 1917. Renamed Republic, 1920. Transferred to United States Lines, 1924. Scrapped as USAT Republic, 1952.
Konig Wilhelm II 1907 Seized by United States Shipping Board, 1917, and renamed USS Madawaska. Scrapped as USS U.S. Grant, 1948.
Ypiranga 1908 Surrendered to Britain, 1919. Transferred to Anchor Line and renamed Assyria, 1921. Sank en route to scrappers as Colonial, 1950.
Cleveland 1909


Seized by United States Shipping Board, 1917, and renamed USS Mobile. Sailed as King Alexander for Byron Steamship Company and as Cleveland for United American Lines before being transferred back to HAPAG in merger with UAL, 1926. Scrapped 1933.
Cincinnati 1909 Seized by United States Shipping Board, 1917, and renamed USS Covington. Torpedoed and sunk 1918.
Grunewald 1912 Sold to Panama Railroad Steamship Company before 1914.
Wasgenwald / Grunewald 1912


Sold to Kerr Steamship Company and renamed Shoshone, 1917. Later sailed as USS Shoshone for US Navy and Manoa for Canada Steamship Lines. Bought back by HAPAG and renamed Grunewald, 1926. Scrapped 1933.
Imperator 1913 Surrendered to US government, 1919. Transferred to Cunard Line and renamed Berengaria, 1921. Sold for scrap, 1938.
Bohemia 1913 Built 1902 as Iowa for White Diamond Steamship Company. Bought from Furness Withy, 1913. Seized by United States Shipping Board, 1917, and renamed Artemis. Transferred to British government and renamed Empire Bittern, 1941. Scuttled as blockship, 1944.
Königin Luise 1913 Sunk 1914
Vaterland 1914 Seized by United States Shipping Board, 1917, and renamed Leviathan. Operated by United States Lines. Sold for scrap, 1937.
Vogtland n/a

(launched 1916)

Launched 1916. Seized by British Government before she could enter service, 1919. Transferred to New Zealand Shipping Company and renamed Cambridge, 1919. Sunk 1940.
Rhineland / Friesland 1920 Launched as Rhineland and renamed Friesland during fitting out. Ceded to British government, 1920. Transferred to Federal Steamship Navigation Company and renamed Hertford, 1922. Torpedoed and sunk, 1942.
Bismarck n/a

(launched 1914)

Launched 1914. Surrendered to British government while incomplete. Handed over to White Star Line and renamed Majestic, 1922. Caught fire as HMS Caledonia, 1939, and subsequently scrapped.
Hagen 1921 Seized by South African Government, 1939. Transferred to UK and renamed Empire Success. Scuttled 1948.
Steigerwald 1921 Sold to Hamburg Süd and renamed Santa Fé, 1937. Sunk as Saint André, 1943.
Spreewald / Anubis 1922 Renamed Anubis, 1935. Reverted to Spreewald, 1940. Torpedoed and sunk in friendly fire incident, 1942.
Arcadia 1922 Sold to Kohlen-Import und Poseidon Schiffahrt and renamed Elbing, 1934. Wrecked as Francisco Morazan, 1960.
Ambria 1922 Sold to Deutsche Levant Linie, 1928. Scrapped as Malay, 1961.
Cattaro 1922 Sold to Bugsier Reederei & Bergungs AG, 1930, and renamed Finkenau. Wrecked as Frontier, 1957.
Thuringia / General San Martin 1922 Chartered by Hamburg Süd, 1934 before being sold outright to them, 1936. Scrapped as Empire Deben, 1955.
Albert Ballin / Hansa 1923 Renamed Hansa, 1935. Struck a mine and sank, 1945. Raised and refitted by Soviet Union as Sovetsky Soyuz around 1949. Scrapped as Tobolsk, 1982.
Deutschland 1924 Sunk by air attack, 1945. Wreck raised and scrapped, 1949.
Saarland 1924 Sold to Japanese Imperial Steamship Co., and renamed Teiyo Maru, 1940. Sunk 1943.
William O'Swald / Resolute 1926

(launched 1914)

Launched 1915 as HAPAG's William O'Swald. Sold incomplete to Koninklijke Rotterdamsche Lloyd and renamed Brabantia, 1916. Transferred to United American Lines and renamed Resolute, 1922. Re-acquired in merger with HAPAG, 1926. Sold to Italian Line and renamed Lombardia, 1935. Sunk by air raid, 1943, and subsequently scrapped.
Johann Heinrich Burchard / Reliance 1926

(launched 1915)

Launched 1915 as HAPAG's Johann Heinrich Burchard, then placed in lay-up. Sold to Koninklijke Hollandsche Lloyd and renamed Limburgia, 1916. Transferred to United American Lines and renamed Reliance, 1922. Re-acquired in merger with HAPAG, 1926. Damaged by fire, 1938, and subsequently scrapped.
Gera 1926 Launched 1923 for German Australian Line. Acquired by HAPAG, 1926. Seized by Britain and renamed Empire Indus. Sunk as Pan Ocean, 1958.
Hamburg 1926 Struck a mine and sunk, 1945. Raised by Soviets and converted to whaler Yuri Dolgoruki, 1950-1960. Scrapped 1977.
New York 1927 Sunk 1945.
Oceana 1927 Built 1913 as Sierra Salvada. Acquired from Società Servizi Marittimi by HAPAG, and renamed Oceana, 1927. Seized by British and renamed Empire Tarne, 1945. Scrapped as Sibir, 1963.
Kulmerland 1928 Scuttled 1944. Subsequently raised and scrapped.
Seattle 1928 Sunk 1940.
Palatia 1928 Sold to Soviet Union and renamed Khasan, 1940. Captured by Kriegsmarine and reverted to Palatia, 1941. Sunk by air attack, 1942.
Milwaukee 1929 Surrendered to Britain and renamed Empire Waveney, 1945. Caught fire, 1946, and subsequently scrapped.
St. Louis 1929 Damaged by air raid, 1944. Subsequently repaired and used as a hotel ship. Scrapped 1952.
Kurmark 1930 Requisitioned by Kriegsmarine and converted into auxiliary cruiser Orion. Sunk by air raid, 1945.
Neumark 1930 Requisitioned by Kriegsmarine and converted into auxiliary cruiser Widder. Wrecked as Fechenheim, 1955.
Potsdam n/a

(launched 1935)

Launched for HAPAG, 1935, before being sold to Norddeutscher Lloyd before completion. Scrapped as Pan-Islamic Steamship Company's Safina-E-Hujjaj, 1976.
Antilla 1939 Scuttled 1940.
Arauca 1939 Seized by United States Maritime Commission and contracted to South Atlantic Steamship Company as Sting, 1941. Delivered to US Navy and renamed Saturn, 1942. Scrapped 1972.
Orizaba 1939 Wrecked off Norway, 1940.
Vaterland n/a

(launched 1940)

Launched 1940, then laid up incomplete. Heavily damaged in air raid, 1943, and scrapped by 1948.
Cuxhaven 1943 Seized by United States, 1945. Sunk as Danish-flagged Inger Skou, 1952.
Millerntor 1943 Seized by British, 1945, and renamed Empire Lune. Scrapped as Sapho I, 1970.
Wilhelmshafen 1943 Seized by British, 1945, and renamed Empire Douglas. Scrapped as Korsun Shevtshenkovsky, 1972.
Homeland 1951 Built as Virginian, 1904. Chartered by HAPAG from Home Lines, 1951. Scrapped 1955.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Hapag Halle Museum Cuxhaven". Archived from the original on 2016-03-04. Retrieved 2014-10-15.
  2. ^ a b c "Atlas Line Service – Hamburg-American Line – 1905". GG Archives. Retrieved 2 June 2019.
  3. ^ "The Rescue by Rossmore". 26 May 1897.
  4. ^ "Daily Event for December 16".
  5. ^ "S/S Allemannia (3), Hamburg America Line". Norway-Heritage. Retrieved 21 May 2012.
  6. ^ "Cuba: General Conditions – MID 2056-213 Thru 2056-257 (1 of 2)". US National Archives Catalog.
  7. ^ "Herald and Review from Decatur, Illinois on May 30, 1930".
  8. ^ "About Us". Hapag-Lloyd AG. Archived from the original on 1 August 2014.

External links[edit]