Samuel Cunard was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia (Canada) on 21 November, 1787. His business and entrepreneurial skills were evident early in his life, when at the age of 17, he bought and managed a General Store in Halifax. He grew to become a prominent figure in Halifax, joining his father’s business and expanding it.
During the War of 1812 (fought between the British Empire and the United States of America), Samuel Cunard volunteered on the side of the British, and rose to the rank of Captain. Following the war he developed a reputation of being a brilliant businessman, excellent strategist and a fair-minded man.
By the 1830s, Samuel Cunard was concentrating on shipping, particularly the fledgeling steam-ship industry. To this end he was involved in pioneering steam services utilising steam powered ferries on Canada’s east coast, while also operating a pioneering ocean liner voyage aboard Royal William.
When the British Government called for tenders for a steam powered Royal Mail service, Samuel Cunard relocated to Britain and placed a bid for the work. He won this bid, and with business partners he was able to form the ‘British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company’, which quickly became known as ‘Cunard’s Line’.
Cunard’s first purpose-built steamship, Britannia, sailed on her maiden voyage in 1840.Samuel Cunard’s entrepreneurial spirit meant he saw the potential to carry passengers on his mail service. As such he included a small compliment of passengers on each voyage. The service was an immediate success; forming the backbone of what became a world-leading transatlantic shipping company.
Cunard held a strong belief in safety over speed. He instructed his Captains that they were to operate their ship’s safely, at all times. This principle would form the basis for Cunard Line’s excellent safety record.
In 1859 Samuel Cunard was created a Baronet by HM. Queen Victoria, in honour of his outstanding contribution to the British shipping industry.
Samuel Cunard died in Kensington at the age of 77, leaving control of the Cunard Steamship Company to his son, Edward Cunard.
Image source: Wikimedia Commons