Occidental and Oriental Steamship Company and Pacific Mail Steamship Company


Dec 12, 1999
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Anyone heard of these? Occidential used to lease White Star Line ships, and use them on the Pacific Mail trade lines. The Belgic, for example, was leased, and traversed San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean under Occidental's control. R. P. Schwerin was the president and general manager. He's a person who figures in Dr. Washington Dodge's story.
 

Mark Baber

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Yep. There was a long-standing relationship between White Star and O&O.

Once Britannic I and Germanic entered service in 1874-75, White Star had more tonnage than it needed for the North Atlantic service. At the same time, US railroad executives were looking for an alternative to dealing with the Pacific Mail Line, then the only major force in the transpacific trade. So, on 28 November 1874, O&O was incorporated in California, with Leland Stanford, Charles Crocker, David Colton, Lloyd Tevis and Mark Hopkins as its initial directors.

Initially, the White Star ship used by O&O were "older" ones. The first was Oceanic I, then only 4 years old, which sailed for Hong Kong in April 1875, followed by Gaelic I and Belgic I. All ships were painted in White Star livery, with British officers and Chinese crew, but flew the O&O house flag.

By the early 1880's, White Star began building ships specifically for the Pacific routes. Arabic I (1881), Coptic (1882), Belgic II (1885)and Gaelic II (1885) were all designed for the O&O service.

By the early 1900's the service had served its purpose; the last sailing, by Coptic, took place in October 1906, although ads supposely continued to run in San Francisco. On 23 July 1908 the final meeting of the board of directors of O&O was held in San Francisco; none of the directors attended. Two days later the last advertisement was published and O&O then disappeared completely.

All sources describe the White Star/O&O relationship as a charter. However, White Star's promotional literature often made no such distinction. A White Star brochure published for the Chicago Exposition of 1893, for example, shows Oceanic, Belgic and Gaeilic as in the "Pacific Service" in exactly the same way the Teutonic, etc., are shown as being in the "Atlantic Mail Service", although O&O is identified on the final page in connection with the Pacific service.

Sources: Anderson's White Star; Oldham's The Ismay Line; Haws' Merchant Fleets; White Star Line Chicago Exposition brochure; Bonsor's North Atlantic Seaway; The New-York Times for various dates in 1874 and 1875.
 

Mark Baber

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Jan---

There wasn't a relationship between White Star and Pacific Mail, that I'm aware of. The whole point of the charter to O&O was to compete with Pacific Mail.
 
Dec 12, 1999
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The curious thing about that though, Mark, is that I looked both companies up in the San Francisco Directory from 1901 and -- what do you know -- R. P. Schwerin is the President and General Manager of both Occidental and Pacific Mail. Some competition, huh?
 

Mark Baber

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Hmmm...maybe that's why O&O gave up.

I admit, the O&O history is one I know little about; it's given fairly short shrift in all of the standard reference works.

Perhaps a trip to SF to read some microfilms is in order.

;-)
 
Dec 12, 1999
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Mark,
There is also an "Oceanic Steamship Company," which was formed in about 1880, by John D. Spreckels. It was supposed to provide trans-Pacific service. Do you have anything on that one? I found a portrait of Spreckels.
 

Mark Baber

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No, Jan. I've come across few reference to this company, but other than determining that it was unrelated to White Star or the North Atlantic trade (my two primary interests), I've never explored it further.
 
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Here's a painting of the S.S. China, a steamship of the Pacific Mail Steamship Company. http://sunsite.berke ley.edu/FindingAids/ honeyman/figures/HN0 01614aB.jpg Incredibly, the Grand Saloon from the ship still exists, at Tiburon, California. The ship was burned for scrap in 1866, but the main room had already been taken off, and preserved. It can be visited, on Sunday afternoons, in Tiburon -- which is on the peninsula just north of San Francisco's Golden Gate bridge.
 

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