OTD: Cunard’s first steamer reaches Halifax

On today’s date in 1840, Samuel Cunard arrived in Halifax, N.S., on his first steamship, Britannia.

The RMS Britannia – a paddle steamer – was the first flagship of the British North America Royal Mail Steam Packet Company, which was later known as the Cunard Line. She left Liverpool, England, on her maiden voyage on July 4, 1840.


In 2004, Canada Post featured Cunard alongside fellow shipping magnate Sir Hugh Allan on a se-tenant pair of 49-cent commemorative stamps (Scott #2042a) honouring the duo who introduced a transatlantic mail service with their ocean-going steam vessels.

The stamps were released as part of Canada Post’s “Pioneers of Transatlantic Mail Service” issue. Printed by the Lowe-Martin Group on Tullis Russell Coatings coated paper using five-colour lithography and two varnishes, the Cunard stamp (SC #2041) has general tagging along each side. An official first-day cover was also cancelled in Halifax.

The official first-day cover was

An official first-day cover released as part of the 2004 Cunard issue is serviced with a Halifax cancel.


Created by designers Dennis Page and Oliver Hill and illustrator Bonnie Ross, the stamp celebrates the 19th-century milestone of fast and consistent trans-Atlantic postal service by depicting the increasing volume of mail that began to cross the Atlantic by steamship at this time.

Photographs of actual letters from these trips fill the lower portion of the frame. Cunard’s portrait is illustrated in the popular formalized period style alongside an image of Britannia on the rough Atlantic seas. The cancellation mark represents the date of the arrival of Cunard’s Britannia in Halifax in 1840.

The series

The se-tenant issue featured Cunard alongside fellow shipping magnate Sir Hugh Allan.

CUNARD: 1787-1865

Cunard was born in Halifax on Nov. 21, 1787.

He first partnered with his father in the timber trade but amassed a great personal fortune in various frontier industries during the 1830s. In 1825, he co-founded the Halifax Banking Company.

A decade later, he was commissioned to start a regular transatlantic mail service using a steamship between Liverpool, England, and Halifax, Québec and Boston at a cost of £55,000 a year for 10 years.

He later died on April 28, 1865, in Kensington, London.

Leave a Reply

Canadian Stamp News


Canadian Stamp News is Canada's premier source of information about stamp collecting and related fields.

Although we cover the entire world of philatelics, the majority of our readers are Canadian, and we concentrate on the unique circumstances surrounding collecting in our native land.

Send Us Your Event

Running an event? Send it to us and we will display it on Canadian Stamp News!

Submit Event →

Subscribe To 26 Issues For Just $59.99/year

Subscribe today to receive Canada's premier stamp publication. Canadian Stamp News is available in both paper and digital forms.

Subscribe Now