OTD: Samuel Cunard dies in England

On today’s date in 1865, Samuel Cunard, a Canadian-born British shipping magnate, died in London, England.

In 2004, Canada Post featured Cunard alongside fellow shipping magnate Sir Hugh Allan on a se-tenant pair of 49-cent commemorative stamps (Scott #2041-42). The stamps honour the duo who transformed history with their trans-Atlantic mail service using ocean-going steam vessels. They were released June 28 as part of the “Pioneers of Transatlantic Mail Service” issue. Printed by the Lowe-Martin Group on Tullis Russell Coatings coated paper, the Cunard stamp (SC #2041) has general tagging along each side.

The stamps’ designs depict the growing 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. Portraits of both Cunard and Allan are illustrated in a popular formalized period style and present the two shipping magnates in a heroic fashion. Images of the two ships – Cunard’s Britannia and Allan’s North American – are depicted on route, as they determinedly brave the rough Atlantic seas. The cancellation marks represent the dates of the arrival of Cunard’s Britannia in Halifax and the departure of Allan’s North American from Liverpool.

Fellow shipping magnate Sir Hugh Allan is also featured on a 49-cent stamp issued as part of the se-tenant pair.

According to Design Manager of Stamp Products Danielle Trottier, these commemoratives “not only depict history, but are themselves a piece of history in that they are part of Canada Post’s first self-adhesive perforated pane.”

The stamps were created by illustrator Bonnie Ross as well as designers Dennis Page and Oliver Hill, of Page&Wood Creative Strategies in Halifax.


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, Cunard co-founded the Halifax Banking Co. A decade later, he was commissioned to start a regular trans-Atlantic mail service using a steamship between Liverpool, England and Halifax, Quebec and Boston at a cost of £55,000 a year for 10 years.

Cunard’s first crossing was made in May 1840, and regular mail service began in July, when the Britannia sailed from Liverpool to Halifax and then on to Boston in 14 days and 8 hours.

For more information about Cunard, visit cunardsteamshipsociety.com.

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