User:Maralia/SS Arctic

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Name: SS Arctic
Owner: United States Mail Steamship Company
Operator: Collins Line
Port of registry: New York City
Route: New York City–Liverpool
Builder: Wm H. Brown
Laid down: 1849
Launched: January 28 1850
Fate: Sank following collision with SS Vesta off Cape Race on September 29 1854
General characteristics
Tonnage: 2,860 GRT
Displacement: 6,200 tons
Length: 285 feet (87 m)
Beam: 45 ft (14 m)
Draft: 31 ft 5 in (9.58 m)
Propulsion: side-lever steam engines powering two paddle wheels
Speed: 12 knots (22 km/h)
Capacity: 280 passengers
Complement: 130
Notes: Blue Riband for fastest transatlantic passage, February 17 1852

The SS Arctic was a sidewheel steamship, the third of the Collins Line, that operated as an ocean liner on the Atlantic Ocean in the 1850s. She was one of four new American ships built to compete with the Cunard vessels. They were designed to be larger, faster, and more luxuriously appointed than their British counterparts and set new speed records during their time in service. Arctic spent only four years in service however before sinking with considerable loss of life on September 27 1854 off Cape Race, Newfoundland, Canada following a collision with the French ship SS Vesta.

Design and construction[edit]

Arctic was designed by the naval architect George Steers, renowned for designing fast pilot boats and racing yachts, and later famous for designing America, the first winner and namesake of the America's Cup.[1] Arctic was built in the yards of W. H. Brown of New York, and was constructed chiefly of oak, with pitch-pine planking.[2] The design of her machinery was considered of paramount importance by the company's government backers and a careful study was made of the designs used by Cunard.[3] The engines were subsequently designed by a government engineer named Faron, and they were built by the the Novelty Iron Works and Allaire Works.[4] Three masts, with square-rigged sails on the fore and main-masts, were also fitted. The resultant ships had straight bows and rounded sterns, and were considered to be "by far the handsomest vessels that had yet been built for the Transatlantic service."[5]

The final touch was to fit them out with more luxurious fittings and furnishings than her British rivals.[6] The four new Collins Line ships were the first to have straight sterns, and to be fitted up with smoking-rooms, specially set apart for the purpose. They were also fitted with spacious bath-rooms and barbers' shops.[7]Arctic eventually ended up costing $700,000.[8] This high cost was considered acceptable, so long as the ships performed better than the Cunarders.[9]


Arctic was launched on 28 January 1850 to great public acclaim. E. K. Collins, the owner of the Collins Line, had sent invitations to the press, and had even docked the Arctic's sister ship Atlantic nearby in order to sell tickets to spectators watching the launch from her decks. Brown's shipyard also launched two other steamships that day, becoming the first New York shipyard to launch more than one ship in a day.[10] It was later estimated that over 20,000 people had viewed the launching.[11] On entering service the Arctic was considered the the finest ship of the Collins Line.[12]


The Collins Line ships soon established themselves in the transatlantic packet service, sailing between Liverpool and New York. Their high speed allowed Arctic to make the fastest eastbound passage across the Atlantic in February 1852, setting a record time of nine days, 17 hours and 15 minutes.[13] This achievement secured her the Eastbound Blue Riband, which she held for four years before it was taken by the Cunard's Persia in 1856. Arctic had a minor incident in May 1854, when her captain accidentally ran her onto Tuscar Rock off the south coast of Ireland.[14] During the time the Collins Line's steamers were in operation the price of freight from Liverpool and the United States fell from £7 10s per ton in the later 1840s to £4 just two years after the Collins Line entered the trade.[15] Further success came when the Crimean War caused eleven of Cunard's liners to be requisitioned as transports. The Collins Line now had a greatly increased share of the transatlantic trade, their ships sailing on alternate days with the Cunarders.[16] Despite this the Collins Line ships were much more expensive to operate. Charles McIver wrote to Mr. Cunard: "The Collins Company are pretty much in the situation of finding that breaking our windows with sovereigns, though very fine fun, is too costly to keep up".[17]


Over 300 lives were lost, including every single woman and child that had been aboard.


News of Arctic's sinking did not reach New York until two weeks after the accident.[18]

The transatlantic packet trade[edit]

At a time when transatlantic shipping was largely dominated by the United Kingdom, American shipping magnate E. K. Collins established the Collins Line with four ships that were larger, faster, and more luxuriously appointed than most ocean liners of the time.

Arctic won the Blue Riband in February 1852 for the fastest eastbound transatlantic crossing to date.

The ESSE Stoves Connection[edit]

James Smith was a passenger on the SS Arctic on its final voyage. He was sailing back to the States to sell his Stove business in Jackson to his brother Robert A Smith. He survived the accident and spent three days and two nights on a makeshif raft with basket for refuge before being resuced by the Cambria. This was all in the year that James Smith had set up his new business in Scotland making Essestoves. <The History of Smith and Wellstood Ltd Ironfounders by Alastair Borthwick>


  1. ^ Fry, History of North Atlantic Steam Navigation, p 69
  2. ^ Cornewall-Jones, p 135
  3. ^ Fry, History of North Atlantic Steam Navigation, p 69
  4. ^ Fry, History of North Atlantic Steam Navigation, p 69
  5. ^ Cornewall-Jones, p 135
  6. ^ Fry, History of North Atlantic Steam Navigation, p 69
  7. ^ Maginnis, p 46
  8. ^ Fry, History of North Atlantic Steam Navigation, p 69
  9. ^ Maginnis, p 47
  10. ^ Morrison, History of New York Ship Yards, p 122
  11. ^ Morrison, History of New York Ship Yards, p 122
  12. ^ Fry, History of North Atlantic Steam Navigation, p 69
  13. ^ Maginnis, p xv
  14. ^ Shaw, p 87
  15. ^ Cornewall-Jones, p 137
  16. ^ Fry, History of North Atlantic Steam Navigation, p 73
  17. ^ Fry, History of North Atlantic Steam Navigation, p 73
  18. ^ Whitney, Ralph (February 1957). "The Unlucky Collins Line". American Heritage Magazine 8 (2). Retrieved on January 23 2008.