Red Star Line

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This article is about shipping line founded in 1871. For the Red Star Line founded in 1818 by Byrnes, Trimble & Co, see Robert Kermit Red Star Line.
Logo showing Red Star Line house flag
Poster of the Belgenland by Henri Cassiers

The Red Star Line was an ocean passenger line founded in 1871 as a joint venture between the International Navigation Company of Philadelphia, which also ran the American Line, and the Société Anonyme de Navigation Belgo-Américaine of Antwerp, Belgium. The company's main ports of call were Antwerp[1] in Belgium, Liverpool and Southampton[1] in the United Kingdom and New York City[1] and Philadelphia[citation needed] in the United States. The company operated until 1935 when, due to the economic depression, it ceased trading. Its assets were eventually sold to the Holland-America Line.


The company was founded by Clement Griscom, who led it from its founding until the International Mercantile Marine Co. took it over in 1902. Red Star Line survived IMM's financial crisis in 1915. In the 1930s Red Star Line was part of Arnold Bernstein Line.[1]


Red Star Line museum at Antwerp

The former warehouses of the Red Star Line in Antwerp were designated as a landmark and reopened as a museum on 28 September 2013 by the City of Antwerp.[2] The main focus of the museum is the travel stories that could be retrieved through relatives of the some two million Red Star Line passengers.[3][4] In the exhibition the visitor follows the travelers' tracks from the travel agency in Warsaw until their arrival in New York. Works of art depicting the Red Star Line emigrants made by the Antwerp artist Eugeen Van Mieghem (1875-1930) will be exhibited there, next to Red Star Line memorabilia of the collection of Robert Vervoort.[2][5]

About a quarter of the some two million Red Star Line migrants were Jews, largely from Eastern Europe until the exodus driven by the rise of Nazi Germany. Among them were many famous persons, including regular passenger Albert Einstein.[3][6] On learning of the Nazi confiscation of his possessions, Einstein chose not to return to Germany; his letter resigning from the Prussian Academy of Sciences, written on the line's stationery, is a part of the museum exhibit.[4] Other notable emigrants included the five-year-old Irving Berlin.[4]


Postcard from the Belgenland
Postcard from the Lapland
A model of the SS Friesland, on display at the Merseyside Maritime Museum.

Red Star Line ships had a black funnel with a white band bearing a five-pointed red star.[1] The house flag was a white burgee with a red star.[1]

Some Red Star ships were given names ending in "-land". Notable Red Star ships included:

  • Abbotsford chartered from Gourlay Brothers, Dundee, in 1874.
  • Adria chartered from the Hamburg America Line in 1899.
  • Arabic chartered from the White Star Line from 1926-1929.
  • Belgenland (1878) sold to Italy in 1905 and renamed SS Venere.
  • Belgenland (1914) completed as troopship Belgic for White Star Line. Transferred to Panama Pacific Line, renamed Columbia.
  • Berlin chartered from American Line for 7 voyages 1895-1898.
  • Cambroman chartered from the Dominion Line for 4 voyages 1907.
  • Conemaugh was the SS Sacrobosso. Purchased in 1890 after salvage. 1897 transferred to New York - Seattle trade, 1904 went missing at sea.
  • Finland
  • Friesland Sold to Italy in 1911 and renamed La Plata.
  • Gothland Bought in 1908 from White Star Line, renamed from Gothic. Transferred in 1911 to White Star Line's Australia service and name reverted to Gothic. Transferred again in 1913 to Red Star Line and name changed to Gothland. Scrapped in 1913.
  • Kroonland
  • Lapland
  • Pennland Launched in 1922[1] for American Line as SS Pittsburgh. Sold to Red Star Line in 1935 and renamed Pennland. Served as Allied troop ship in the Battle of Dakar in 1942.
  • Rhynland Sold to Italy in 1906, renamed Rhyna and scrapped.
  • Rusland, built as Kenilworth in 1872 for American Line. Purchased in 1877, ran aground on Long Island on 19 March 1877, subsequently broke in two and declared a total loss.[7]
  • Vaderland (1872). Sold to France in 1879 and renamed Geographique.
  • Vaderland (1900). Renamed Southland in 1915. 1917 torpedoed and sunk off Irish coast; loss of 4 lives.
  • Waesland (1880). Built by J. & G. Thomson, Ltd., Clydebank, Glasgow, Scotland. Tonnage: 4,752. Dimensions: 435' x 42'. Single-screw, 14 knots. Compound engines. Four masts and one funnel; Passengers: 100 first and 1,000 third. Re-fitted with triple expansion engines in 1890. Vessel was transferred to American Line's Liverpool-Philadelphia service in 1895. Lost in collision with Houstan steamship Harmonides off Anglesey in March 1902. Ex-Russia (1880).
  • Westernland (1884). Built by Laird Bros. in Birkenhead, England; steel hull; tonnage: 5,736; 440 feet in length and 47 feet in width; single-screw propeller; compound engines; 4 masts and 2 funnels; speed: 14 1/2 knots. An early steamship to be built of steel. She sailed in Antwerp, Belgium to New York service. In 1901 she was transferred to Liverpool to Philadelphia service for the American Line. She was scrapped in 1912.
Edward Spears and Charles de Gaulle en route for Dakar aboard Westernland
  • Westernland (1918) Launched in 1918[1] for White Star Line as Regina. Transferred to Red Star Line in 1930 and renamed Westernland.[8] Albert Einstein traveled to the United States aboard Westernland in 1933 and remained after learning Nazis had confiscated his possessions.[4] Transferred to Bernstein Red Star Line of Hamburg in 1935. Served as Allied troop ship in the Battle of Dakar in 1940.[8]
  • Zeeland (1865). Bought as SS Java from Cunard Line in 1878. Sold to France in 1889.
  • Zeeland (1901). Launched 1900 and remained at Red Star until World War I 1914.

Funnels of the «Red Star Line»'s steamers

The pictures shown below are from a Red Star Line brochure that agents based in the United States and Canada gave out to potential passengers.

Red Star Line offices:

  • Main Office - 9 Broadway, New York
  • Boston - 84 State Street
  • Chicago - 90-96 Dearborn Street
  • Minneapolis - 121 S. Third Street
  • Montreal - 118 W. Notre Dame Street
  • New Orleans - 219 St. Charles Street
  • Philadelphia - 1319 Walnut Street
  • Portland, Maine - 1 India Street
  • San Francisco - 319 Geary Street
  • Seattle - 709 Second Avenue
  • St. Louis - 900 Locust Street
  • Toronto - 41 E. King Street
  • Washington - 1306 N.W. F Street
  • Winnipeg - 205 McDermot Avenue

In popular culture[edit]

The Red Star Lines appear in the Mario Puzo's The Godfather Part II when the young Vito Corleone arrives in New-York. His identification badge is from the Red Star Lines company.

The Paris football club Red Star FC are named after the Red Star Line, on which the club's founder Jules Rimet's English housekeeper had travelled.



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Harnack, 1938, page 566
  2. ^ a b "The Red Star Line Museum: History". Retrieved April 16, 2014. 
  3. ^ a b "The Red Star Line Museum in a Nutshell". Retrieved April 16, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c d "Museum tells of ships that took Jews to US". Retrieved April 15, 2014. 
  5. ^ "The Red Star Line Museum: Why Visit". Retrieved April 16, 2014. 
  6. ^ "The Red Star Line Museum: Stories Now and Then". Retrieved April 16, 2014. 
  7. ^ "Belgian Merchant H-O" (PDF). Belgische Koopvaardij. Retrieved 31 October 2010. 
  8. ^ a b "SS Regina". Retrieved April 15, 2014. 


External links[edit]