The Britannia-class was the Cunard Line's initial fleet of wooden paddlers that established the first year round scheduled Atlantic steamship service in 1840. By 1845, steamships carried half of the transatlantic saloon passengers and Cunard dominated this trade. While the units of the Britannia class were solid performers, they were not superior to many of the other steamers being placed on the Atlantic at that time. What made the Britannia’s successful is that they were the first homogeneous class of transatlantic steamships to provide a frequent and uniform service. Britannia, Acadia and Caledonia were commissioned in 1840 and Columbia in 1841 enabling Cunard to provide the dependable schedule of sailings required under his mail contracts with the Admiralty. It was these mail contracts

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  • The Britannia-class was the Cunard Line's initial fleet of wooden paddlers that established the first year round scheduled Atlantic steamship service in 1840. By 1845, steamships carried half of the transatlantic saloon passengers and Cunard dominated this trade. While the units of the Britannia class were solid performers, they were not superior to many of the other steamers being placed on the Atlantic at that time. What made the Britannia’s successful is that they were the first homogeneous class of transatlantic steamships to provide a frequent and uniform service. Britannia, Acadia and Caledonia were commissioned in 1840 and Columbia in 1841 enabling Cunard to provide the dependable schedule of sailings required under his mail contracts with the Admiralty. It was these mail contracts that enabled Cunard to survive when all of his early competitors failed. Cunard’s ships were reduced versions of Great Western and only carried 115 passengers in conditions that Charles Dickens unfavorably likened to a "gigantic hearse". Mean 1840 – 1841 Liverpool - Halifax times for the quartette were 13 days, 6 hours (7.9 knots) westbound and 11 days, 3 hours (9.3 knots) eastbound. The initial four units were insufficient to meet the contracted sailings, and an enhanced unit, the Hibernia was commissioned in 1843. When Columbia was wrecked in 1843 without loss of life, Cambria was ordered to replace her. In 1849 and 1850, the surviving original units along with Hibernia were sold to foreign navies after completing forty round trips for Cunard. Cambria remained in the Cunard fleet for another decade. (en)
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  • The Britannia-class was the Cunard Line's initial fleet of wooden paddlers that established the first year round scheduled Atlantic steamship service in 1840. By 1845, steamships carried half of the transatlantic saloon passengers and Cunard dominated this trade. While the units of the Britannia class were solid performers, they were not superior to many of the other steamers being placed on the Atlantic at that time. What made the Britannia’s successful is that they were the first homogeneous class of transatlantic steamships to provide a frequent and uniform service. Britannia, Acadia and Caledonia were commissioned in 1840 and Columbia in 1841 enabling Cunard to provide the dependable schedule of sailings required under his mail contracts with the Admiralty. It was these mail contracts (en)
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  • Britannia-class steamship (en)
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