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 became manager of a General Store in Halifax.
Cunard matured 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, and rose to the rank of Captain. Following the war he developed a reputation of being a shrewd yet honest and generous businessman.
In the 1830’s, Samuel Cunard concentrated on shipping. To this end he was involved in the steam pioneering services aboard Royal William. Samuel Cunard also ran a steam powered ferrie service on the East Coast of Canada.
When the British Government called for tenders for a steam powered Royal Mail contract, Samuel Cunard relocated to Britain and placed a bid for the work.
Cunard won this bid, and with business partners he was able to form the ‘British and North American Royal Mail Steam Packet Company’, which was soon known as ‘Cunard’s Line’.
Cunard’s first ship, Britannia, which sailed on her maiden voyage in 1840, was an immediate success; forming the backbone of what became the world’s leading transatlantic shipping company. 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.
Cunard held a strong belief in safety over speed. He instructied 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 Cunard Line to his son Edward Cunard.
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