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Ships That Sail No More

Ships That Sail No More: Marine Transportation from San Diego to Puget Sound 1910--1940

Giles T. Brown
Copyright Date: 1966
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Ships That Sail No More
    Book Description:

    This chronicle of coastal shipping in the western United States forms an important but hitherto neglected part of the history of transportation in America. From the beginning the seaways were a vital link among the developing West Coast settlements, and even after the completion of a north-south rail line sturdy steamers continued to serve as the major carriers of freight and passengers along the Pacific Coast and as the chief economic and cultural contact of this region with the rest of America.

    Here, Giles T. Brown surveys this transportation system at the height of its activity and in particular he traces the history of the Admiral Line which dominated West Coast shipping during the early decades of the twentieth century -- and whose decline mirrored that of the industry.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-6225-6
    Subjects: Transportation Studies, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Foreword
    (pp. vii-viii)
    Harold Whitman Bradley

    The history of the West Coast is inextricably tied to the history of shipping along that coast. American ships traded there before 1800, and the first Americans to settle in California and Oregon were dependent upon shipping for much of their contact with the outside world and with each other. In later years, the spectacular career of the railroads in the economy and politics of the Far West diverted public attention from maritime trade. Ships still plied the seas along the coast, however, offering some advantages to both shippers and passengers and providing stiff competition for the railroads. In this...

  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Table of Contents
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  5. ONE The Beginning of an Era
    (pp. 1-16)

    Where it dips under the waters of the Pacific Ocean, the continental shelf of the United States creates a long jagged coastline of almost two thousand miles. Expressive names brighten the map of this area. Sister Rocks, Crooks Point, Dragon Rocks, The Turtles, Devils Gate Rock, Hunters Cove, and a host of others quicken the imagination. Cape Disappointment, Cape Shoalwater, and Cape Foulweather remind one of the treachery of the sea. Cape Flattery and Destruction Island, though close geographically, are distant in connotation. These place names also reveal the mixture of peoples who dared the elements to settle the West...

  6. TWO The Admiral Line Becomes Supreme
    (pp. 17-38)

    On the route from California to Seattle, the Pacific Coast Steamship Company was faced with opposition furnished by a man who was later hailed as the “monarch of Pacific shipping.” This was Hubbard Foster Alexander, who liked to be known as simply H. F. Alexander. Born in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in 1879, young Alexander was brought to the coast by his parents who settled at Tacoma, Washington. The panic of 1893 swept away the family fortune and, as his father had become an invalid, H. F. Alexander at the age of fourteen obtained a job on the docks of Tacoma...

  7. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  8. THREE World War I and Coastwise Shipping, 1917-1920
    (pp. 39-64)

    The entry of the United States into World War I brought serious difficulties to the shipping industry. Speculation was rife concerning the fate of the larger coastwise vessels, most of which, particularly theGreat Northern, Northern Pacific, Yale,andHarvard,were suitable for governmental requirements. One trade journal pessimistically estimated that about thirty thousand tons might be withdrawn for use on the Atlantic routes. As early as March 1914 the Department of the Navy had requested permission of the “Big 3” to examine theBeaver, Bear,andRose Cityin order to determine their adaptability for military service. Though by...

  9. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  10. FOUR The Strike and After, 1921-1924
    (pp. 65-100)

    The events which led to the bitter strike in the spring of 1921 had cast their shadows before them. For years the struggle between capital and labor had been a source of unrest along the waterfronts of the West Coast. Strikes, although of short duration, were frequent. In 1920 the agreement between the unions and the operators, which expired on January 1, 1921, was not renewed and by mutual consent its provisions were temporarily continued until either party gave notice of abrogation.

    By April 1921 all steamship companies had served such notice and requested a conference for the purpose of...

  11. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  12. FIVE The Postwar Decade: Three Problems
    (pp. 101-130)

    The strike of 1921 and its aftermath brought into focus three related problems which closely involved the shipping industry. The first was the field of labor relations, which had been violently shattered by the events of 1921. The second was the importance of freight revenues in the maintenance of a coastwise transportation system. The third was the realm of governmental control, which had proved somewhat ineffectual during the strike. As the steamship lines adjusted themselves to the problems of the postwar decade, each of these areas proved to be important.

    Maritime labor unions had suffered a disastrous defeat in 1921....

  13. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  14. SIX The Crest of Prosperity, 1925-1929
    (pp. 131-154)

    To meet the challenge of potential competitors, the Admiral Line early in 1925 took three steps to place itself in a firmer position. On the first day of January it mortgaged, for $5,000,000, its entire fleet of fourteen steamships, four motorships, one tug, and two barges. When the mortgage bonds were offered on the investment market, the prestige of the Admiral Line was sufficient to cause the amount to be over-subscribed. Under the terms of the mortgage, the bonds were to be retired in twenty sharply increasing annual payments. By 1943, the payments were to be more than three times...

  15. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  16. SEVEN Passenger Travel
    (pp. 155-180)

    “People prefer something better than they are accustomed to. They cheerfully pay for the privilege of getting it. The business which sets about giving them something better, making them realize that it is available, and still holding the price within reason that business is almost sure to prosper .... There in a paragraph is summed up the one outstanding fact from our experience.” Thus H. F. Alexander summarized in 1925 the factors which had brought success to his companies.¹

    In line with that policy, thousands of dollars were spent in reconditioning the ships of the Admiral Line. The Alexander vessels...

  17. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  18. EIGHT The Last Struggle, 1930-1936
    (pp. 181-217)

    The financial crash in the fall of 1929 did not immediately affect the position of the steamship lines. Because of the disastrous rate war which had just been brought to a close, the financial condition of the steamship companies had been seriously weakened. As a result, a great deal of cargo had been moved by shippers which would have normally been spread over a longer period of time. In May 1929 the common stock of the Admiral Line had hit a record low of $24.27 as compared with the 1925 average of $62.46. Robert C. Hill, ship broker and former...

  19. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  20. NINE The Passing of an Era
    (pp. 218-241)

    The men who controlled the steamship lines were realists. Some effort was made to encourage the popular concept that people who followed the sea were living in a realm of dreamy adventure; and one marine journal, in 1917, declared that “commercialism is calling them, but it is a commercialism that is softened and chastened by the mysticism and romance of the great deep. It is a commercialism that possesses a soul.”¹ Sober evidence suggests, however, that while their commercialism might be softened by mysticism, it was not over-whelmed.

    The need to widen the basis of ownership in the industry was...

  21. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  22. Appendix
    (pp. 242-257)
  23. Bibliographical Essay
    (pp. 258-266)

    A comprehensive listing of the available materials for Pacific maritime history is not intended here. Rather I have noted those which were most useful for this study. One of the problems in surveying these sources is the somewhat paradoxical situation that there is both a dearth and an abundance of materials—a dearth of reliable sources and an abundance of printed information, mostly secondary, which has been written with little or no documentation. Exceptions do exist. Among them are Eliot Grinnell Mears’ Maritime Trade of Western United States (Stanford University, California: Stanford University Press, 1935), Paul S. Taylor’s The Sailors’ Union...

  24. Index
    (pp. 267-287)