Union Steamship Company collection [multiple media] / Vancouver Maritime Museum, Gerald Rushton, Arthur Twigg, Harold Cecil Biles and James Richard Southworth.

Collection number
Physical description
76.7 cm of textual records and other materials.
Administrative history / Biographical sketch

The Union Steamship Company of British Columbia was originally formed in Vancouver on July 1, 1899 by Captain William Webster and John Darling, a former director and General Superintendent of the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand. After raising enough capital, the Union company was officially incorporated on November 16, 1899, when it absorbed the Burrard Inlet Towing Company of Vancouver. Initially, the company's primary function was to deliver cargo to remote communities along the British Columbia's coastline. In 1911, the J.H. Welsford and Company, a cargo line based out of Liverpool, England, purchased controlling interests in the Union company. Under this new management, the Union company entered the day excursion and resort business by offering passenger services and then building and operating several company-owned resorts on Bowen Island, the Sechelt Peninsula and at Whytecliff. For the next quarter of a century, the Union Steamship Co. continued to remain in British hands until 1937 when a group of Vancouver businessmen, represented by M. J. K. Allen and E. E. Buckerfield, eventually purchased back the British shares. Over the next 20 years, the company continued to expand its operations by acquiring the Frank Waterhouse Company of Canada in 1939 and the Sannie Ferry Company in 1944. Between 1946 to 1950, the Union company also operated a ferry service across Howe Sound under the name of the Howe Sound Ferry Co. Ltd. before the company eventually dissolved the service and merged the vessels with the Sannie operation at Horseshoe Bay. Despite its acquisition of the Tidewater Shipping Company in 1956, the Union company faced a number of economic setbacks that were brought on by declining business in long-haul passenger traffic and increased competition on main cargo routes throughout the 1950s. To recoup its losses, the company was eventually forced to sell its entire sailing fleet to its competitor, the Northland Navigation Company, in 1959.

The various cargo and passenger ships that were owned and operated by the Union Steamship Company over the past 70 years include:

  • Camosun I (1905-1936)
  • Capilano I (1891-1915)
  • Capilano II (1920-1949)
  • Cardena (1923-1959)
  • Cassiar I (1901-1923)
  • Catala (1925-1959)
  • Chasina (1917-1923)
  • Cheakamus (1913-1942)
  • Cheam (1920-1923)
  • Chehalis (1897-1906)
  • Chelohsin (1911-1949)
  • Cheslakee (1910-1913)
  • Chilco & Lady Pam (1917-1935 as the Chilco before it was rebuilt with passenger accommodation and renamed as the Lady Pam, continuing in service from 1935-1946)
  • Chilliwack I (1919-1926)
  • Chilliwack II (1927-1954)
  • Chilkoot I (1920-1934)
  • Clutch (1890-1900)
  • Comox I (1891-1919)
  • Comox II (in service periodically between 1924-1943)
  • Coutli (1904-1909)
  • Coquitlam I (1892-1923)
  • Cowichan (1908-1925)
  • Eastholm (1939-1957)
  • Lady Alexandra (1924-1953)
  • Lady Cecilia (1925-1951)
  • Lady Cynthia (1925-1957)
  • Lady Evelyn (1923-1936)
  • Lady Rose (1937-1951)
  • Leonora (1889-1904)
  • Melmore (1914-1916, but only operated in 1914)
  • Northholm (1939-1943)
  • Senator (1889-1904)
  • Skidegate (1889-1897)
  • Southholm (1939-1950)
  • Vadso (1911-1914)
  • Venture (1911-1946)
  • Washington (1918 only)
Scope & content
The collection consists of a combination of materials relating to the Union Steamship Company of British Columbia that has been collected over the years by the Vancouver Maritime Museum as well as documents that have been donated to the museum by Gerald Rushton, author of two books on the company titled Whistle Up the Inlet and Echoes of the Whistle; Arthur Twigg, author of the book Union Steamship Remembered; Harold Cecil Biles, former employee; and James Richard Southworth, former Marine Constable. The collection includes financial reports, maps, schedule notes, special operating circulars, company memos, sailing guides, menus, brochures, research notes, correspondence, newspaper clippings, magazine articles, manuscripts, assorted ephemera, photographs and audio cassettes.
Related materials

Related records may be found in the Shipping Files Collection under the name of the individual ships and the Captain Edward Crawford Swank Fonds.