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Printed menu card featuring the flag and insignia of shipping company McIlwraith McEacharn Ltd.

Date: 1909–1936
160 x 120 mm
Medium: Paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Gift from McIlwraith McEacharn Limited
Object Name: Card
Object No: ANMS1215[020]

User Terms

    Printed menu card depicting the McIlwraith McEacharn Limited flag insignia in the upper left hand corner and a drawing of a steamship with a tropical island in the foreground. Half of the back cover has been cut off.
    SignificanceThe London-based shipping company McIlwraith McEacharn was heavily involved with Australian maritime industries for a period of nearly 80 years. Shipboard menus such as these were often collected as souvenirs by passengers and crew as a memento of their travels. The Australian National Maritime Museum holds a variety of shipboard menus that represent the journeys of both the individuals who collected them and the vessels that produced them.
    HistoryMcIlwraith McEacharn Limited originated in London in 1875, however it went on to become one of the largest and most successful companies operating in Australia throughout the following century. The company was formed in early 1875 when shipbroker Malcolm McEacharn joined with shipowner Andrew McIlwraith offering services as insurance and shipping agents.

    Malcolm McEacharn was a Scottish shipbroker and the son of a master mariner who had died in 1854 when his ship was wrecked in Bass Strait. Andrew McIlwraith was born into a family of shipowners and two of his brothers were well established businessmen and politicians based in the Australian colonies of Queensland and Victoria. Within a year of forming, McIlwraith McEacharn had won a major contract with the Queensland Government to provide six ships for two years, transporting British migrants to Australia. On their way back to England, the ships would sail to the USA, Chile or the Philippines and collect resources for shipment back to Britain.

    When the contract between McIlwraith McEacharn and the Queensland Government ended in the 1880s, the company's ships instead conveyed wool and passengers. Around this time McIlwraith McEacharn gained some notoriety as pioneers of frozen and refrigerated sea transport. On a visit to Australia, Andrew McIlwraith had inspected local experiments with refrigerated transport. McIlwraith was able to improve upon the technology he had seen and in 1879 he chartered the SS STRATHLEVEN, commissioning a Glasgow-based firm to fit the ship with freezing works. SS STRATHLEVEN collected her frozen cargo in Australia and arrived in London on 2 February 1880 with 40 tons of intact produce such as meat and butter. The venture, while not financially profitable, was a complete success for the company and earned them widespread acclaim.

    Throughout next few decades, McIlwraith McEacharn became involved in mining and transportation services, and strengthened its hold on passenger shipping. In the mid–1950s, as passenger travel moved to rail and road, the company became involved in bulk shipping and entered partnerships with several other large organisations such as P&O. But by the 1980s coal had become the major focus of McIlwraith McEacharn and the company sold its remaining shipping interests. In 1992 the remainder of the business was traded to a US company and lost the 19th century name.

    Malcolm McEacharn had gone into Australian politics serving as Lord Mayor of Melbourne, and was knighted in 1900. McEacharn retired to England and died suddenly in Cannes in 1910, of heart failure brought on by pneumonia. Andrew McIlwraith retired to Devon, England and died in 1932.
    Additional Titles

    (not entered): McIlwraith McEacharn Limited documentation and correspondence relating to SS "Katoomba".

    Web title: Printed menu card featuring the flag and insignia of shipping company McIlwraith McEacharn Ltd.

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