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Author Topic: April 22, 1838-British Ship Sirius First to Cross Atlantic On Steam Power Only  (Read 154 times)
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« on: April 22, 2007, 05:18:31 PM »

April 22, 1838

   The British steamship Sirius became the first to cross the Atlantic from Britain to New York on steam power only. The journey from Cork to New York took 18 days 10 hours.

   On April 23, 1838, the small British steamship Sirius of the British & American Steam Navigation Company arrived at New York. Just a few hours later, another British ship arrived?the Great Western of the Great Western Steam Ship Company. Thus began the era of steamship-dominated Atlantic navigation. The newspapers carried by these steamers delivered information far more quickly than those carried by sailing ships.

   Typically, sailing ships made westward crossings in an average of thirty-three days; the eastward crossings took twenty-two days. The new steamships shortened the westward crossing to an average of seventeen days and the eastward crossings to fifteen days. Though the first steamships carried only a small amount of mail, the volume grew rapidly. When Sirius departed on her return voyage to London in May 1838, she reportedly carried over 17,000 letters.

   The early steamships are called ?pioneer? steamships. Only a handful of these vessels were put into service across the Atlantic during the next few years, and almost all were British vessels. None had a contract to carry mail. That changed in 1840, when Samuel Cunard, who formed the British & North America Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, obtained a contract with the British government to carry mail. Cunard built four steamships, which made two sailings a month from Liverpool to Boston via Halifax, Nova Scotia, from spring through fall. During the winter months, they made a single voyage. Cunard?s steamship service from Liverpool replaced the government sailing packet service from Falmouth, England. The first American contract ocean steamship service began in June 1847, carrying mail between New York and Bremerhaven, Germany, and stopping near Southampton, England, to deliver mail en route.

   As steamships became more numerous on both sides of the Atlantic and governments signed numerous postal conventions to regulate postal rates, greater numbers of steamships were placed under contract to carry mail. By the mid-1860s, most steamships carried government mail. Since most mail was placed on the contract vessels, non-contract steamship letters were less often seen after this.

   Letters carried on steamships that had no mail contract were treated as ship letters with ship letter rates, the same as those carried on sailing ships. The Cunard contract mail steamers carried letters showing the higher, packet letter rates. Two details help differentiate non-contract steamship letters from those carried on the contract vessels: the name of the vessel that carried the letter (often written on the letter as a routing instruction) and the vessel?s departure or arrival dates. Each of the transatlantic contract mail voyages from 1840-1875 has been documented in North Atlantic Mail Sailings, 1840-1875, by Walter Hubbard and Richard F. Winter.


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« Reply #1 on: April 22, 2007, 06:12:30 PM »

As Britain then led the world in steam technology, this record-breaking run cannot be altogether surprising.

Replica of the SS Sirius

S.S. Sirius
Type: Side-wheel steamship rigged for sail, 2 masts, 1 funnel, 2 side-wheels
Owner: St. George Steam Packet Co. Cork, Ireland
Builder: Robert Menzies & Sons, Leith, Scotland
Year built: 1837
Engines: 1 x 2 cylinder side-lever by Wingate & Co. 600hp
Length: 200' (60.9m)
Beam: 25' (7.62m) 47' (14.3m) across wheels
Draft: 15' (4.5m)
Displacement: 1,995 703 GRT
Crew: 36
Passenger Cap: 40
Fate: Jan. 16, 1847 Wrecked and sunk off Ballycotton, Ireland with the loss of 20 lives

Mar. 28, 1838: Departed London on first trans-atlantic voyage carrying 94 passengers and 37 crew (including 1 stewardess) under charter to British & American Steam Navigation Co.

Apr. 4, 1838: Departed Cork, Ireland

Apr. 23, 1838: Arrived at New York

May 1, 1838: Departed New York

May 18, 1837: Arrived Falmouth, England

July 1837: Round trip London - New York for St. George Steam Packet Co.
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