The era of regular transatlantic passenger steamship service may be said to begin and end with the Cunard company, from the sailing of its first ship, Britannia, in 1840, to the retirement of the first Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth at the end of the 1960s.
By the time Arthur Rostron joined the company as a fourth officer in 1895, its principal British competitor was the Oceanic Steam Navigation Company (est. 1868), better known as the White Star Line because of its house flag.
International competition during Rostron’s thirty-five years with Cunard included two German lines and one French firm: the Hamburg-American Line or HAPAG (Hamburg-Amerikanische Paketfahrt-Aktien-Gesellschaft, 1847) out of Hamburg; Norddeutscher Lloyd (1857), based in Bremen; and the French Line (Compagnie Générale Transatlantique, 1861), sailing from Le Havre.
First comes the launching, followed by the fitting out and the maiden voyage, in this case of Queen Mary. Launched in 1934, with her initial voyage in 1936, her keel was laid two months after Rostron’s final voyage in November 1930. She was thus not of his era, but instead was Cunard’s decisive answer to a new generation of transatlantic challengers. However Rostron would have been all too familiar with the scenery, as well as the hazards, of her Hudson River arrival that appears at the end of this excerpt.