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Maritime Capital

Maritime Capital: The Shipping Industry in Atlantic Canada, 1820-1914

Copyright Date: 1990
Pages: 320
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  • Book Info
    Maritime Capital
    Book Description:

    Sager and Panting describe in detail the growth of the shipping industry and the economic context in which the shipping merchants operated. Shipowning and shipbuilding were a central part of the mercantile economy of the Atlantic colonies of British North America. But, following a slow and incomplete transition in the region from commercial to industrial capitalism, the shipping industry collapsed: by 1900 the local fleets were a third of their size a mere two decades earlier.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6251-6
    Subjects: Transportation Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Illustrative Material
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
    Eric W. Sager and Gerry Panting
  5. Illustrations
    (pp. xix-2)
  6. CHAPTER ONE Sailing Ships and Regional History
    (pp. 3-22)

    The story of the shipbuilding and shipping industries of Atlantic Canada has been written before. Among our parents and grandparents were many who loved to read about the old sailing ships and many who mourned the lost industry of “wooden ships and iron men,” a lament that began with Frederick William Wallace in the 1920s.¹ The golden age of sail was a source of pride for a people whose region was in decline. And in the passing of the sailing fleets there was consolation: the decline of the shipping industry was the inevitable result of iron, steel and steam, technological...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Rise of an Enclave Industry
    (pp. 23-46)

    Long before the industrial revolution came to the northern half of North America, colonists were building and owning ships along the eastern shores of the continent. The earliest records of European activity along these coasts tell of the discovery of great timber forests. Norsemen used the forest resources and may have been the first Europeans to build boats on these shores. By the sixteenth century Basque whalers built boats in Labrador, and we do not know how many fishermen from many European nations used the timber of Newfoundland to build fishing boats. The first recorded shipbuilding occured in the Maritimes...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Colonial Argosy
    (pp. 47-77)

    Shipping is a service industry, and ships are waterborne containers that perform the service of transportation. Demand for this service may come from a variety of sources, and ships may carry many things, including people, goods, and information. Although ships built in the northern half of North America very often carried passengers, especially in the westward passage across the North Atlantic, their primary function was to carry goods. In carrying goods, ships become part of the costs of production in the goods-producing sectors of the economy.

    In both neo-classical and Marxist economic analysis, transportation has a dual role: it is...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Maritime Merchants in the Old Colonical System
    (pp. 78-87)

    In the first half of the 19th century, shipping tonnage was deployed by people of many occupations, living in a few large commercial centres and many small outports. To analyse these shipowners, we focus on those who are listed as owners on the registries of eight major ports of registry in the region. In the British registration system, shares in ships were measured in 64ths, and a single shareholding might consist of only one or two shares, or as many as 64 shares in a vessel. The dispersal of ownership is indicated by the fact that there were some 40,000...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Rise and Decline of the Ocean Fleets
    (pp. 88-127)

    The “golden age” of sail began in the mid-nineteenth century. For five decades thereafter sailing ships from eastern Canada held a prominent place in many of the world’s carrying trades. Merchants sent their great barques and ships to compete in international shipping markets, and “Bluenose” masters and men were known in every major port in the world. The industry was impressive in its scale and its international dimensions. It has rightly become part of the folklore and memory of our Atlantic peoples.

    Impressive as it was, however, the industry was remarkably short-lived. It lasted for little more than a generation:...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Capital, Labour, and Profits
    (pp. 128-146)

    In the autumn of 1863 John B. Dickie and his brother James purchased eight shares each in a new brigantine, theSharonof Halifax.¹ “She is a splendid ship – faithfully built – and has, I think, a first rate captain.”² John Dickie’s pleasure in his new vessel did not last. It took more than a sound hull and a good master to survive in so risky a business, and theSharonwas not a lucky ship. She made little money for her owners, and in 1870 she was lost at sea somewhere off the east coast of the United States.


  12. CHAPTER SEVEN Merchant Shipowners in the Industrial Era
    (pp. 147-155)

    The age of sail was also the final stage of merchant hegemony. As the sailing fleets grew, ownership was increasingly concentrated in fewer hands. Independent smallholders were undercut and displaced. Technological change allowed larger units of production, operated increasingly by a “Free” and highly mobile labour force hired in international labour markets. In shipping, as in other industries, there was a more clear distinction than ever before between those who owned means of production and those who owned none. More commonly than ever before, ships were capital, and those who responded to filling rates of return were a diminishing number...

  13. CHAPTER EIGHT A Culture of Entrepôt Growth
    (pp. 156-171)

    Why were so many shipowners and their sons shifting capital into landward sectors? It is tempting to say that sailing ships were inefficient, profits were higher in other industries, and that capital was thereby pulled out of shipping and into the expanding landward economy. Disinvestment in shipping would then be a simple consequence of the wealth-maximizing tendencies of capital, allowing for some delays caused by imperfections in the market or in the flow of information. “A powerful insight of neoclassical theory, with fundamental implications for economic history, is that under conditions of uncertainty it is impossible for individual profit, or...

  14. CHAPTER NINE Maritime Capital and Economic Development
    (pp. 172-202)

    Did it matter that the shipping and shipbuilding industries collapsed? In the depression of the 1920s and 1930s many Maritimers had no doubt, and Harold Innis, writing about New Brunswick, echoed their nostalgia:

    Nothing that has occurred in this Province for the last half century has done has been more to create difficulty, has been a more serious blow to the development of that section of the Dominion than the decay of the industry of shipbuilding ... The competition of iron and steel destroyed a magnificent achievement, an integration of capital and labour, of lumbering, fishing and agriculture, on which...

  15. CHAPTER TEN Postscript: A Comparative Perspective
    (pp. 203-210)

    The decline of Atlantic Canada’s merchant marine took place within the specific historical conditions of development in British colonies that had recently become provinces of Canada. This is not to suggest that the development of shipping industries in other countries has no place in our story. At one level, the growth of shipping elsewhere, and the long-term decline in international freight costs, were necessary conditions — although hardly sufficient – for the decline of Canada’s merchant marine: obviously, if a supply of ocean-going tonnage had not been available from elsewhere, the incentive to maintain a larger tonnage in Canada would have been...

  16. APPENDIX A Sample Gross Revenue Calculation, 1863, 1873 (Chapter 6)
    (pp. 211-213)
  17. APPENDIX B Average Gross Revenue, Selected Commodities (Chapter 6)
    (pp. 214-215)
  18. APPENDIX C Returns on Six Nova Scotia Vessels, 1867—92 (Chapter 6)
    (pp. 216-222)
  19. Notes
    (pp. 223-282)
  20. Index
    (pp. 283-289)