The QE2 left yesterday Halifax, and they pointed out that Samuel Cunard was born in this historical Canadian harbor city.

Sir Samuel Cunard, 1st Baronet, British civil engineer, founder of the Cunard line of steamships, was born at Halifax, Nova Scotia, on the 21st of November 1787.

Samuel Cunard’s father was a descendant of German Quakers who had immigrated to Pennsylvania in the 17th century.

His mother’s family had immigrated from Ireland to South Carolina in 1773 and to Nova Scotia with the loyalists a decade later.

He was the son of a merchant, and was himself trained for the pursuits of commerce, in which, by his abilities and enterprising spirit, he attained a conspicuous position.

Although he probably attended the Halifax Grammar School, Samuel was largely self-educated. He always emphasized the importance of a plain English education for a business career, but his own sons Edward and William received a classical education at King’s Collegiate School and King’s College, Windsor, N.S.

When, in the early years of steam navigation, the English government made known its desire to substitute steam vessels for the sailing ships then employed in the mail service between England and America, Cunard heartily entered into the scheme, came to England, and accepted the government tender for carrying it out.

In conjunction with Messrs. Burns of Glasgow and Messrs. MacIver of Liverpool, proprietors of rival lines of coasting steamers between Glasgow and Liverpool, he formed a company, and the first voyage of a Cunard steamship was successfully made by the "Britannia" from Liverpool to Boston, Massachusetts, between July 4 and 19, 1840.

In acknowledgment of his energetic and successful services Cunard was, in 1859, created a baronet.

He died in London on the 28th of April 1865.

Read here a long profile of Sir Samuel Cunard by Phyllis R. Blakeley.

John Boileau has an excellent book with an illustrated biography about the founder of the Cunard company: Samuel Cunard: Nova Scotia's Master of the North Atlantic (2006).

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