William Inman’s name should stand alongside Brunel, Cunard and Ismay in 19th century ocean liner history. Yet Inman is a forgotten giant. The shipping line bearing Inman’s name largely forgotten, too.
Inman was born in Leicester, England, on 6 April 1825. Along with two partners, Inman founded the Liverpool, New York, and Philadelphia Steamship Company—also known as Inman Line—which from 1850 until 1893 ran passenger services from Liverpool to New York and Philadelphia. Inman Line was the first passenger shipping company to prove that unsubsidized ocean liners could profitably cross the North Atlantic. Notable Inman Line ships included City of New York (1888) and City of Paris (1888).
In 1852, Inman’s partners, both Quakers, disagreed with the company’s policy of chartering ships for trooping purposes and resigned, leaving Inman in total control. Within two years all Inman Line vessels were deployed to Crimean War service. Regular transatlantic sailings didn’t resume until April 1856.
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