Inman Line

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Inman Line house flag.
City of Glasgow of 1850 established that steamships could operate on the Atlantic without subsidies.

The Inman Line was one of the three largest 19th-century British passenger shipping companies on the North Atlantic, along with the White Star Line and Cunard Line. Founded in 1850, it was absorbed in 1893 into American Line. The firm's formal name for much of its history was the Liverpool, Philadelphia and New York Steamship Company, but it was also variously known as the Liverpool and Philadelphia Steamship Company, as Inman Steamship Company, Limited, and, in the last few years before absorption, as the Inman and International Steamship Company.

By embracing new technology, Inman Line became the first to show that unsubsidized ocean liners could profitably cross the North Atlantic. With its first steamer, City of Glasgow of 1850, Inman led the drive to replace wood-hulled paddle steamers with iron-hulled screw-propelled ships. In 1852, Inman established that steerage passengers could be transported in steamships. Inman's City of Paris of 1866 was the first screw liner that could match the speed of the paddlers. By 1870, Inman landed more passengers in New York than any other line.

In 1886, the US-owned International Navigation Company bought the company. The new owners began updating the express fleet with two Blue Riband winners, City of New York and the second City of Paris, ushering in the double-screw era that ended the need for auxiliary sails.[1]



William Inman (1825–81)

The Inman Line had its roots in a line of sailing packets owned by John Grubb Richardson and his brothers along with their young business partner, William Inman (1825–81). In 1850, Inman persuaded his partners to form the Liverpool and Philadelphia Steamship Company and buy an advanced new ship, City of Glasgow.[2] She proved profitable because her iron hull required less repair, and her screw propulsion system left more room for passengers and freight. City of Glasgow's moderate speed considerably reduced coal consumption.[1] The ship's first voyage for her new owners departed for Philadelphia on 17 December 1850.[3] The next year, she was joined by a larger edition, City of Manchester.[1]

In 1852, the Inman broke new ground by transporting steerage passengers under steam. As Irish Quakers, the Richardsons were concerned about the poor conditions experienced by U.S.-bound emigrants, who traveled by sailing ship with unpredictable passage times.[4] Steerage passengers were required to bring their own food, and often ran short. In 1836, Diamond lost 17 of her 180 steerage passengers to starvation when the ship required 100 days to make the crossing. From the beginning, Inman provided better steerage quarters and adopted the recommendation of a Parliamentary Committee to provide cooked meals to emigrants. As a result, Inman was able to charge steerage rates of 8 guineas, while the fastest sailing packets charged 4 to 6 guineas. During the period, Inman liners typically carried 500 passengers, 80 percent in steerage.[1]

Disaster struck the new firm in 1854 when the company lost both City of Glasgow with all hands and the brand new City of Philadelphia, albeit with no loss of life.[2] The remaining liner, the City of Manchester, was chartered to the French government for the Crimean War, along with three more liners that were completed or bought in 1855. The Richardsons withdrew from the firm because of its involvement with the war, and William Inman assumed full control.[1]

At the end of the war, Inman resumed service to Philadelphia. However, New York was now the primary gateway to the west, and Inman decided to alternate between the two ports. The firm's name was changed to the Liverpool, Philadelphia and New York Steam Ship Company, but all ships were routed to New York after its SS Kangaroo was trapped by ice in the Delaware River.[1] Until 1857, the firm ran a fortnightly service from Liverpool. That same year Collins Line collapsed, and Inman succeeded it as the mail contractor for the United States Post Office. In 1859, a call at Queenstown was added to pick up Irish emigrants. The next year Inman ran a weekly service, increasing in 1863 to three sailings every fortnight, and twice a week during summer in 1866.[2]


City of Paris of 1866 was Inman's first liner that matched the speed of Cunard Line's express ships

With the celebrated City of Paris of 1866, the company ordered five express liners that matched the speed of Cunard's best.[1] In 1867, responsibility for mail contracts was transferred from the Admiralty to the Post Office and opened for bid. Inman was awarded one of the three weekly New York mail services and the fortnightly route to Halifax, Nova Scotia formerly held by Cunard.[5] While Cunard continued to receive a subsidy, Inman was paid sea postage.[5] Two years later Inman's New York contract was extended for seven years at an annual subsidy of £35,000, half that of Cunard's subsidy of £70,000 for two weekly New York mail sailings.[5] In 1870, Inman landed 44,100 passengers in New York, almost twice Cunard's 24,500, although Cunard still carried substantially more first-class passengers.[2] Throughout the 1870s, Inman's passage times were shorter than Cunard's.[1] City of Brussels of 1869 beat Scotia's eastbound record and in 1875 City of Berlin won the Blue Riband by taking the westbound record.[6]

Record breaker City of New York of 1888

In 1871 both companies faced a new rival when White Star Line joined the Atlantic ferry with the revolutionary RMS Oceanic and her sisters. The new White Star record breakers were especially economical because of their use of compound engines. Oceanic consumed only 58 tons of coal per day, compared with 110 tons for City of Brussels. White Star also set new standards for comfort by placing the dining saloon midships and doubling the size of cabins. Inman reacted quickly, bringing its express liners back to the shipyards for compound engines and other changes to match the new White Star liners, while Cunard lagged behind.[1]

The Panic of 1873 started a five-year shipping depression that strained the finances of Inman and its rivals. To raise more capital, the partnership was restructured in 1875 as a stock company and renamed the Inman Steamship Company, Limited. The next year, Inman and White Star agreed to coordinate their sailings to reduce competition. When the 1869 mail contracts expired, the UK Post Office ended both Cunard and Inman's subsidies and paid on the basis of weight, but at a rate substantially higher than paid by the US Post Office.[5] Cunard's weekly New York mail sailings were reduced to one and White Star was awarded the third mail sailing. Every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, a liner from one of the three firms departed Liverpool with the mail for New York.[7] Inman reduced its fleet so that only the express liners remained.[1]

City of Rome, built in 1881, was rejected for not meeting her contracted speed, draught and cargo capacity.

Profits still dropped in as new competitors sought the Blue Riband such as the National Line and the Guion Line, and numerous steamship concerns from mainland Europe competed for the emigrant trade.[4] To restore its fortunes, Inman ordered City of Rome, which was designed as the largest and fastest liner yet. Unfortunately the ship failed to meet her design specifications and was rejected in 1882 after only six voyages.[2]

William Inman died before the ship's maiden voyage and the company suffered without his leadership. In 1883, City of Brussels was lost in the Mersey after colliding with another steamship. Meanwhile, Cunard renewed its mail fleet with four exceptional steel-hulled liners. Needing capital to match its rivals, Inman directors agreed to voluntary liquidation so that the largest creditor, the Philadelphia-based International Navigation Company could buy Inman's assets.[1]


The line was reorganized as the Inman and International Steamship Company, and its new owners provided the capital to build two outstanding record breakers, the twin-screw City of New York and City of Paris. However, the UK government responded to the ownership change by revoking Inman's mail contract. After considerable lobbying, the US Congress agreed to replace the contract and allow Inman to register its two new record breakers in the US if International Navigation built two similar express liners in US yards.[2] Therefore, on 22 February 1893 the US flag was broken out over the two newest Inman vessels and the company merged into the American Line.[1]


The Inman fleet—all of which built for Inman unless otherwise indicated—consisted of the following ships, presented in order of acquisition. List sourced from[1]

Ship Built In service for Inman Type Tonnage Notes
City of Glasgow 1850 1850–54 iron, screw 1,600 GRT missing 1854, no survivors
City of Manchester 1851 1851–71 iron, screw 1,900 GRT sold and converted to sail 1871
City of Philadelphia 1854 1854–54 iron, screw 2,100 GRT wrecked, no loss of life
City of Baltimore 1855 1855–74 iron, screw 2,400 GRT sold
City of Washington 1855 1855–73 iron-screw 2,400 GRT wrecked 1873
Kangaroo 1854 1855–69 iron, screw 1,850 GRT built for other owners, sold 1869
Virgo 1856 1858–61 iron, screw 1,600 GRT built for other owners, sold to US Government 1861
Glasgow 1851 1859–65 iron, screw 1,950 GRT built for other owners, lost 1865
Edinburgh 1855 1859–68 iron, screw 2,200 GRT built for other owners, sold 1868
Etna 1856 1860–75 iron, screw 2,200 GRT built for Cunard, sold 1875
City of New York 1861 1861–64 iron, screw 2,550 GRT wrecked 1864
City of London 1863 1863–78 iron, screw 2,550 GRT sold 1878 to Thistle Line. Lost at sea, 1881.
City of Cork 1863 1863–71 iron, screw 1,550 GRT sold 1871
City of Limerick 1863 1863–79 iron, screw 1,550 GRT built for other owners, sold 1879
City of Dublin 1864 1864–73 iron, screw 2,000 GRT sold 1874 to Dominion Line
City of Boston 1865 1865–70 iron, screw 2,200 GRT missing 1870, no survivors
City of New York 1865 1865–81 iron, screw 2,650 GRT sold 1881
City of Paris 1866 1866–84 iron, screw 2,650 GRT sold 1884
City of Antwerp 1867 1867–79 iron, screw 2,400 GRT sold 1879
City of Brooklyn 1869 1867–78 iron, screw 2,950 GRT sold 1878 to Dominion Line
City of Brussels 1869 1869–83 iron, screw 3,100 GRT Eastbound record holder, sunk 1883, 10 lost
City of Montreal 1872 1872–87 iron, screw 4,450 GRT burned at sea 1887, no loss of life
City of Chester 1873 1873–93 iron, screw 4,800 GRT express liner, joined American Line 1893
City of Richmond 1873 1873–91 iron, screw 4,800 GRT express liner, sold 1891
City of Berlin 1875 1875–93 iron, screw 5,500 GRT Blue Riband winner, joined American Line 1893
City of Rome 1881 1881–81 iron, screw 8,413 GRT returned to builder after 6 voyages, transferred to Anchor Line
City of Chicago 1883 1883–92 steel, screw 5,150 GRT built for other owners, wrecked 1892, no loss of life
Baltic 1871 1885–86 iron, screw 3,850 GRT chartered from White Star
City of New York 1888 1888–93 steel, twin screw 10,650 GRT Blue Riband winner, joined American Line 1893
City of Paris 1889 1889–93 steel, twin screw 10,650 GRT Blue Riband winner, joined American Line 1893

See also[edit]

In 1873, Alfred E. Warren wrote a theme for the line, called the Inman Line March. Unusually, it was written in 6/8 despite being a march.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m Gibbs, Charles Robert Vernon (1957). Passenger Liners of the Western Ocean: A Record of Atlantic Steam and Motor Passenger Vessels from 1838 to the Present Day. John De Graff. pp. 112–124.
  2. ^ a b c d e f Fry, Henry (1896). The History of North Atlantic Steam Navigation with Some Account of Early Ships and Shipowners. London: Sampson Low & Marston. OCLC 271397492.[page needed]
  3. ^ Stolarik, M. Mark (1988). Forgotten Doors: The Other Ports of Entry to the United States. Philadelphia: Balch Institute Press. p. 40. ISBN 0-944190-00-6. OCLC 17480678.
  4. ^ a b Chatterton, E. Keble (1910). Steamships and their Story. London: Cassell & Co. OCLC 2046170.[page needed]
  5. ^ a b c d Bacon, Edwin M (1911). Manual of Ship Subsidies.[page needed]
  6. ^ Kludas, Arnold (1999). Record breakers of the North Atlantic, Blue Riband Liners 1838–1953. London: Chatham.
  7. ^ Preble, George Henry; Lochhead, John Lipton (1883). A Chronological History of the Origin and Development of Steam Navigation. Philadelphia: L.R. Hamersley. OCLC 2933332.[page needed]

External links[edit]