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Pacific Mail Steamship Company

Date: c 1873
Overall: 168 x 110 mm
Medium: Paper
Credit Line: ANMM Collection Purchased with USA Bicentennial Gift funds
Object Name: Advertisement
Object No: 00008392
Place Manufactured:Boston

User Terms

    This card depicts a vessel of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company from two different views. The ship is shown surrounded by a decorative border, featuring female entertainers and Native Americans watching it sail towards the horizon. On the card's reverse is text printed in French. This card's tropical scenery highlights the company’s presence on the Australian trade route through the Pacific Ocean after 1873.
    SignificanceClipper ship cards of the 19th century rarely survive as they were often discarded when the ship left the dock. This example represents the presence of the Pacific Mail Company on the Australian trade route during the late 19th century.
    HistoryClipper ship cards were one of the advertising methods used by ship owners to promote their vessels and transport schedules. In colourful print and bold designs they publicised the supposedly superior qualities of each vessel, often using images of maritime scenes, mythology, patriotism and women to promote their cause. The cards were largely manufactured during the late-19th century and were designed to be handed out at the docks. They were brighter and more appealing than the newspaper advertisements of the time but often used similar wording. They could be printed in up to seven different colours including blue, red, green white, black, brown, and yellow. Some printers also used gold, bronze and purple.

    The majority of clipper cards were produced when the popularity of the clipper ship was dwindling and merchants were opting for faster steam powered vessels. Clipper ships were largely active between 1845 and 1875. Their design concentrated on speed instead of cargo capacity, which was a great benefit for shipping companies eager to transport goods quickly. The sleek and graceful ships generated a sense of romance, competition, national pride and innovative technology. They were a symbol of American modernity and fundamental to the expanding global economy.

    The Pacific Mail Steamship Company was established in 1848 for the purpose of transporting mail between Panama and California. By chance their start date coincided with the American gold rush, and the company greatly profited from their ideal location near the Californian gold fields. At the height of their success in 1869 Pacific Mail was operating 23 steamships and contracts with the United States Government. However, by the 1870s their profits had decreased due to growing competition between rival shipping companies and the development of rail networks across America. It was during this stage that they began transporting mail and cargo to Australia and New Zealand. In 1893 the Pacific Mail Steamship Company was taken over by the Southern Pacific Railroad Company and then sold on to the Grace Line. They went through a number of owners but continued to operate under the same name until 1949. The Pacific Mail Steamship Company was important for Australia's commercial and economic development. In 1909 they even commissioned a series of photographs featuring Sydney, Melbourne and Newcastle to boost tourism and interest in the region.
    Additional Titles

    Primary title: Pacific Mail Steamship Company

    Web title: Pacific Mail Steamship Company

    Secondary title: Pacquebots Poste de la Compagnie du Pacifique

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