History of the GRACE LINE – Part 1- One of America’s great passenger ship fleets

History of the GRACE LINE – Part 1- One of America’s great passenger ship fleets

  • In the mid-1800s, the Irish-born Gracmid-1800ss, William Russell, and Michael established a commercial and shipping business in Callao, the port of Lima, Peru.

They prospered, especially in the exporting of guano from the Chincha Islands to the United States, where this fertilizer was in considerable demand.

Excellent 16mm Silent home movies taken in the 1950s and 60s of Grace Line 52 passenger cargo ship. Sailing from New York through the Panama Canal to West Coast South American ports of Buenaventura Columbia, Guayaquil, Ecuador, Lima (Callo) Peru, Mollendo Peru, Arica Chile, Antofagasta Chile ending in Barquito (Chanaral) Chile… 

In 1865, leaving Michael in charge of their interests in Callao, William established the firm of W.R. Grace & Co., in New York. By 1880 he had become a leading citizen and was twice elected Mayor of New York, despite opposition from Tammany. In the 1890’s the company entered the steamship business with a line of freighters running from New York to the South American west coast via the Strait of Magellan flying the British flag.

Grace’s original British-flag ships had black hulls, white painted masts and booms, and a green stack with a black top. After the First World War, the ship’s successors were painted gray, with masts and booms of the normal pole color. Hulls became dark again in 1928 and masts, and booms reverted to white in 1932. (about 1959-60 Grace passenger ships again turned to 100-ton hulls).

The early British-flag freighters all had names beginning with C, such as CACIQUE, CAPAC, CHINCHA; Names which were later repeated in ships under the American flag.

Later Grace started a service from the Pacific coast of the United States to the west coast of South America, and in 1913 took delivery of the 4,826 gross ton, 400-foot Santa Cruz from William Cramp & Sons of Philadelphia for this run. She was their first American flag ship and was specially designed to carry a large deck-load of lumber, as well as 48 passengers. Three boilers provided steam for a 2400 horsepower triple expansion engine, which gave her a speed of 11-12 knots. She introduced the green funnel with white band and a black top which continued to be the Grace stack colors.

Grace established regular steamship service in 1893 with a subsidiary called the New York & Pacific Steamship Co., operating under the British flag because ships built outside the United States were banned from US registry until 1905. US-flag service began in 1912 with the Atlantic and Pacific Steamship Company. The activities of both companies and the parent firm were consolidated into the Grace Steamship Company beginning in 1916. The firm originally specialized in traffic to the west coast of South America; then expanded into the Caribbean.

COLUSA, of 5873 gross tons and 424 feet, was also built in 1913, by Hamilton of Port Glasgow, Scotland, for the same service as the SANTA CRUZ. She was Grace’s last ship for British-flag operations. Three boilers and a quadruple expansion engine of 3500 horsepower gave her a service speed of 12 knots. She too was built to carry large loads of lumber on deck. She had four masts at first, but was later given a fifth with a 100 ton boom, and handled entirely assembled steam locomotives for the South American ports. Her 36 passenger capacity was later increased to 50.

Continued: Grace Line Part 2.





About Michael L. Grace

During the mid-80s, Michael Grace worked as a writer on the TV Hit Series THE LOVE BOAT. He wrote many of the two hour special featuring great stars of the past, including Lana Turner, Claire Trevor, Anne Baxter, Ethel Merman, Alexis Smith, etc. The public’s access to these stars, in familiar dramas and comedies, made them want to go on a cruise. They could see the stars in an ordinary world as “regular” people. The phenomenally successful series was responsible for creating the cruise industry as we know it today. By the time he was writing for Love Boat, the great steamship companies and their liners were flying hand me down foreign flags, painted like old whores, scrapped or doing three day cruises to the Bahamas. He had sailed on over thirty ships and liners with his parents, aunt and grandmother in late 50s to early 70s. The very successful CRUISING THE PAST website has been an outgrowth of Michael’s strong interest in cruise and social history. Drawing on his own knowledge and a vast maritime and social history collection, he is able to produce a very successful website. Michael is part of the award winning team that created the internationally performed award winning musical SNOOPY, based on PEANUTS by Charles M. Schultz. He has written for television and films. Read more by going to "About" (on the above dashboard) and clicking "Editor"…