A Blupete Biography Page

Far-Flung Business, Part 7 to the Life & Works of
Samuel Cunard

The years between 1793 and 1815, were war years. The French under Napoleon were generally successful in the battlefields of Europe, at least up to the last of it. At sea, the British Navy was in charge. France was beaten in the economic war before she was beaten in the fields at Waterloo. Because the British were in charge of the sea lanes after 1805 (Trafalgar), they were automatically in charge of international commerce. A ticket of British Registry, in addition to the right to fly The Red Ensign (The Red Duster), is a ticket that would get the ship's captain a quick clearance if stopped by a British war ship on the high seas, and an equally quick clearance in most ports of the world. Through the war years Halifax was a British port.

Thus it can be seen why shipping lines located at Halifax did very well during the war years. With the end of war and the resultant reduction of naval ships to but a few, it was necessary for commercial operators to look around and change with the times. Some of them did not; some of them did. Samuel Cunard treated the prospect of change as an opportunity -- a governing trait of the man which led him to have a very successful and a very interesting life. He hunted up some new business: that of carrying the mail for the British government. He sailed to England and personally paid visits to the right persons. He secured a contract to run the mail to and from Bermuda on a set schedule, once a month, a service that was commenced in the autumn of 181523; it was the Cunard's first Royal Mail contract. The following year the contract was expanded to include Boston.24

After securing a contract to deliver the mail to Boston, c. 1816, the Cunards could count six vessels in their fleet consisting of three schooners, two sloops and a brig.

That Samuel Cunard was so successful, and so early in his life, should not be surprising given his attitude towards those he employed. He was of the view that the effectiveness of employees came about because of direct care given from the top. An example can be seen from a letter written by Samuel to Henry Poole, the mine manager at the Bridgeport Mine at Cape Breton.25

"Be up in the morning as early as the workmen, and show them that you are on the alert -- all things find their way to your employees and if you are attentive, it will in the end be to your advantage."26
The Mary Ann, the company brig captained by Sam's brother, John, made regular runs to and from the West Indies. The usual cargo was normally aboard. Going south, the vessels carried, if not a full load, then a sizable cargo of lumber, always an item in demand in the southern islands. Cunard's lumber came from the Miramichi, a river that flowed east and into the Gulf Of St Lawrence and which drains a great wide territory in the center of the province of New Brunswick. Cunard acquired timber rights to large sections of the King's Woods south of the Miramichi and established headquarters at Chatham. Across the river, at Douglastown, was the competition. Both Joseph and Henry were sent up to manage this important operation which extended from the woods to the docks and included the cutting, the transportation and the milling of the logs. The sawn wood was then loaded on Cunard ships headed for various ports in the world. As it happened, nature took care of the competition. In 1825 a great forest fire came down out of the north but was stopped by the wide Miramichi. On one side of the Miramichi, all was a disaster; the other side was untouched and business carried on as usual for the Cunards.27

As we have seen Samuel Cunard immersed himself not only in his various business ventures but also in municipal affairs. He could not have achieved such a level of activity, which took him away from home for periods of time, without help from his wife, Susan. Susan Cunard's

"whole life revolved around her home and family. When her husband was at home, she presided at diner parties and took part with him in the social life of the town; when he was away, often for months at a time, she had her children and a very large circle of friends and relatives to keep her occupied. She passed her own religious training on to her children. As in most Christian homes of the period, there were daily prayers and readings from the Bible, and church every Sunday, without fail."
Cunard made many trips to England. His contacts there grew and required face to face meetings, especially at London. By the 1830s, he was spending every winter there.28 He would bring his daughters with him, usually two at a time. His brother, Joe, would come down to Halifax and just after Christmas the Cunard party would sail for England. By April Joe would return; Sam and the girls in June.

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Peter Landry
2011

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