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House Flags of U.S. Shipping Companies: B

Last modified: 2003-03-01 by rob raeside
Keywords: united states shipping lines |
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Balboa Transport Co.

[Balboa Transport Co.]  by Joe McMillan

Blue with a white disk, and thereon a blue star fimbriated red with a white "B" in the center.
Source: Wedge (1951)

Joe McMillan, 23 September 2001

Baltimore Mail SS Co.

[Baltimore Mail SS Co.]  by Joe McMillan

Baltimore Mail SS Co., Baltimore (1930-38)

Created by a group of Baltimore investors as a result of the 1928 Merchant Marine Act to provide fast cargo service to Hamburg, Le Havre, London, and Southampton. Another unsuccessful attempt by an east coast city to set up a line expressly to divert cargo away from New York, although the lack of success was more a result of government action (cancellation of all mail contracts under the 1936 Merchant Marine Act) rather than through any fault of the line's management. The flag was a variation on the Maryland state flag, white with a cross bottony per cross golden orange and black.

Source: National Geographic (1934) 

Joe McMillan, 27 August 2000

Baltimore Steam Packet Co. (Old Bay Line)

[Baltimore Steam Packet Co]  by Joe McMillan

Baltimore Steam Packet Co (Old Bay Line), Baltimore

An old company dating back, I believe, to the 19th century. Flag was red with white B.

Sources: National Geographic (1934)  US Navy's 1961 H.O.

Joe McMillan, 27 August 2000

Barber SS Line

[Barber SS Line]  by Joe McMillan

Barber SS Line

Again, not much but the flag, a fairly attractive swallowtail of blue and white stripes with a white disk bearing a red star and a white B.

Source: Stewart (1953)

Joe McMillan, 27 August 2000

W. E. Bedmont

[W. E. Bedmont]  by Joe McMillan

W. E. Bedmont, Boston
No information on the company. The flag, quarterly red, white, yellow, and blue, is from Flaggenbuch 1905.

Bermuda Line

[Bermuda Line]  by Joe McMillan

Bermuda Line
This may not be a US company, as Manning does not give home ports. Not terribly interesting in any case--the initials L.B. in white on a red burgee.
Source: Manning (1874)

Joe McMillan, 15 September 2001

Bernuth Lembcke Co.

[Bernuth Lembcke Co.]  by Joe McMillan

Bernuth Lembcke Co., New York

Likewise, only the flag--white with a red border and the black initials of the firm.

Joe McMillan, 27 August 2001

George E. Billings

[George E. Billings]  by Joe McMillan

George E. Billings, San Francisco
A vertically divided swallowtail, blue and red, with a white "H" on the center. No idea why "H."
Source: Lloyds 1912

Joe McMillan, 27 August 2001

I think George E. Billings was not the name of a shipping line, but the name of a ship - possibly the flag represented the Hall Brothers company of Washington state, who built it and who apparently also operated a fleet. According to and the George E. Billings was a five-masted schooner built by the Hall Brothers shipbuilding company of Puget Sound in 1903 and was named for the manager of the Hall Bros. fleet.

Ned Smith, 25 September 2001

Black Ball Line

[Black Ball Line]  by Joe McMillan

Black Ball Line (1818-1878), New York

The Black Ball Line, later also called the Old Line, was one of the historic endeavors in all of shipping history, the first "line" of vessels crossing the the Atlantic (from New York to Liverpool) on a regular schedule--initially monthly departures in each direction using a fleet of four ships.  I believe it is also of special vexillological interest as the name of the company came from the design of the house flag--a red swallowtailed flag with a black disk in the center.  A black ball also appeared on the foresail (the lowest sail on the foremast).  The custom of naming or nicknaming the line after the flag was picked up by many others:  the Red Cross, the Blue Swallow Tail, the White Diamond, the Black Star, etc.

Source:  chart of "Private Signals of the Merchants of New York"

Joe McMillan, 30 August 2001

There is a ferry from Washington State to Victoria BC, CA which wears a flag 'gules a pellet fimbriated argent' (a red flag with a white edged black ball). This line is sometimes referred to as the Black Ball Line. A little digging turns up that "Black Ball" is the nickname (flag-derived of course) for the WA state ferries, originally the Puget Sound Navigation System.  Some of Seattle's maritime history is at:  They use the name "Black Ball Line" for the PSNS, although not the State-owned system (from 1951).

Dean McGee, 1 September 2001

Black Diamond SS Corp.

[Black Diamond Line]  by Joe McMillan

Black Diamond SS Corp. (1918-ca. 1955), New York
Originally called the American Diamond Line, this company carried cargo between New York and Rotterdam and Antwerp.  It was hit very hard by the restriction imposed by US neutrality in the early stages of World War II.  During the war, the company sold off all its ships--which were under government control for the time being anyhow--then tried unsuccessfully to get back into business after the war, ceasing operations in the mid-1950s.  The flag was a black horizontally arranged diamond on a yellow field.
Source: Stewart & Styring (1963)

See also: American Diamond SS Corp.

Joe McMillan, 30 August 2001

Black Star Line

[Black Star Line]  by Joe McMillan

Black Star Line (Manning 1874)
I believe from verbal descriptions I have seen that this is the Black Star Line that was a major force in Irish immigration via Liverpool to the United States in the mid-19th century. As best I can figure, a variety of New York lines operated from New York to Liverpool under their own names, but on the return trip flew the red pennant with black star of the Black Star Line. It was, in effect, a consortium, or at least that's what I make of the characterization of various companies' ships as "clearing from Liverpool in the Black Star Line." On the other hand, Williams and Guion were one of the companies so characterized, and their own flag featured a black star on a blue-white-blue horizontal triband, which will be forwarded when I get to the W's. Maybe others know more about this history.
Source: Manning (1874)

Joe McMillan, 15 September 2001

I found several on-line sources that make it clear to me that the Liverpool "Black Star Line" was the Williams & Guion company (US flagged) before 1866 and the Guion Line (British flagged) after 1866. The flag for this company under both names was blue with a white lozenge and a black star on it. Most pictures have a five-pointed star but I've seen some with six points. In any case, I now don't know what "Black Star Line" would have flown a red swallowtail with a black star, but I did find it in the source I mentioned, without explanation as to its use.

Joe McMillan, 20 September 2001

See also: Taylor and Merrill's Black Star Line

Bloomfield SS Co.

[Bloomfield SS Co.]  by Joe McMillan

Bloomfield SS Co., Houston (1946-1968)

Founded to take advantage of the supply of cheap surplus vessels after World War II with the intention of operating between the Gulf of Mexico ports and Europe and the Mediterranean.  It faced bruising opposition from Lykes Brothers SS Co, which had ruthlessly suppressed competition in that market for decades.  Korean War business kept Bloomfield afloat, but it was soon taken over by the much larger States Marine Corporation, which stopped using the Bloomfield trade name in 1968.  The flag was a blue swallowtail with a white star superimposed on a red "B."

Sources: US Navy's 1961 H.O., Stewart & Styring (1963)

Joe McMillan, 30 August 2001

Boland and Cornelius

[Boland and Cornelius]  by Joe McMillan

Boland and Cornelius, New York
Messrs Boland and Cornelius founded what is now the American Steamship Co in 1907. American SS Co, now a subsidiary of GATX Corporation, operates one of the largest fleets on the Great Lakes.
Stewart (1953)

Joe McMillan, 12 October 2001

[Boland and Cornelius]  by Joe McMillan

Boland and Cornelius
A white flag with a large red "A" and a blue border--I take it that the "A" is for American and that what Stewart (1953) calls Boland and Cornelius is in fact American Steamship.
Stewart (1953)

Joe McMillan, 15 September 2001

I speculated above that this was actually the flag of the American Steamship Co, then a Boland and Cornelius subsidiary and now the shipping arm of GATX Corporation. I have since found this additional source from the same general period that shows a different Boland and Cornelius flag: a white burgee with red upper and lower edges and the initials B&C in blue. Clearly this was the flag of the parent company and the A flag probably, as I had suggested, that of the subsidiary.
Source: Talbot-Booth (1937)

Joe McMillan, 12 October 2001

Boston & Philadelphia SS Co.

[Boston & Philadelphia SS Co.]  by Joe McMillan

Boston & Philadelphia SS Co., Boston

Oddly enough, the house flag of this coastwise line was, for all practical purposes, the same as the modern Japanese national flag, a red disk on a white field.


Joe McMillan, 1 September 2001

Boyd & Hincken

[Boyd & Hincken]  by Joe McMillan

[Boyd & Hincken]  by Joe McMillan

Boyd & Hincken, New York (by 1823 to at least 1851)

Boyd & Hincken was one of the major firms of sail packet operators in New York in the mid-19th century. Its ships displayed an unusual triple tailed flag consisting of a red hoist with a white ring (or letter "O") and three tails of yellow, white, and yellow. The ship's of the firms New York & Havre Line (also known as the Second Line of Havre Packets) had the same flag but with the letter "B."

Source:  chart of "Private Signals of the Merchants of New York"

Joe McMillan, 1 September 2001

Brander & Mabry

[Brander & Mabry]  by Joe McMillan

Brander & Mabry, New York

Nothing on this 19th century sailing company except the flag, red with a white disk bearing a black "B."

Source:  chart of "Private Signals of the Merchants of New York"

Joe McMillan, 1 September 2001

Bremen Line (Ocean Steam Navigation Co)

[Bremen Line (Ocean Steam Navigation Co)]  by Joe McMillan

Bremen Line (Ocean Steam Navigation Co), New York (1847-1857)

The Ocean Steam Navigation Company, or Bremen Line, was the first U.S.-flag steamship company to offer regularly scheduled trans-Atlantic service. It was founded in response to a U.S. government decision to subsidize a steamship operation by means of mail contracts in an attempt to compete with British government subsidies to British lines. Edward Mills, a novice in the shipping business, led the syndicate that received the contract for mail delivery to Le Havre and Bremen but was unable to attract sufficient capital to carry out his original business plan and began operations with only one ship, the Washington, in June 1847. It was a poorly designed ship, slow and with insufficient cargo space, and the government soon revoked the Le Havre portion of the mail contract because of the line's poor performance. Nevertheless! , the Bremen Line survived until it was driven out of business in 1857 by Cornelius Vanderbilt's more modern fleet in 1857. The house flag of the Bremen Line was the red and white striped Bremen ensign, defaced by a white panel bearing a profile of the ship. The GIF being sent separately shows the line's first ship, the steamer Washington.

Source: description in North Atlantic Seaway I:186

Joe McMillan, 1 September 2001

S. Broom

[S. Broom]  by Joe McMillan

S. Broom, New York (Source: PSMNY)
A New York firm operating to California in the Gold Rush period of the 1850s.

Source:  chart of "Private Signals of the Merchants of New York"

Joe McMillan, 7 September 2001

Brunswick Steamship Co.

[Brunswick Steamship Co.]  by Joe McMillan

Brunswick Steamship Co., New York
Simple and effective, a red cross on blue.
Source: Lloyds 1912

Joe McMillan, 24 September 2001

Bucklin & Crane

[Bucklin & Crane]  by Joe McMillan

Bucklin & Crane, New York
In the China and California clipper trade in the mid-19th century. The flag was white with the initials B over C in red.

Source:  chart of "Private Signals of the Merchants of New York"

Joe McMillan, 4 September 2001

A. H. Bull & Co.

[A. H. Bull & Co.]  by Joe McMillan

A. H. Bull & Co., New York (1902-1963)
An early version of the flag, with the border all the way around instead of just on the upper and lower edges and fly.
Source: Lloyds (1912)

[A. H. Bull & Co.]  by Joe McMillan

Archibald H. Bull was the founder of the British-flagged New York and Porto [sic] Rico Steamship Co in 1885, which succeeded an earlier line of sailing packets on the same route that he had established in 1873. In 1900, his stake in the company was bought out by his partners in a hostile takeover, and Bull was forced to give up running steamers to Puerto Rico for 10 years. So in 1902 he set up the Bull Line to serve the US Atlantic coastwise trade and operate sail vessels to Puerto Rico. Bull's heirs eventually failed to see wave of containerization coming, sold out to American Coal Shipping in 1956. Sea-Land, the pioneer container firm wanted to buy the line in 1961, but instead it was sold to Greece's Manuel K. Kulukundis, whose companies all went bankrupt in 1963, bringing the Bull Line's history to an end. The flag was a white swallowtailed pennant bordered in red, with a blue initial B.

Sources: Stewart (1953), US Navy's 1961 H.O.

[A. H. Bull & Co.]  by Joe McMillan

In 1914, A. H. Bull bought the Insular Line, which had been established in 1904 as a successor to his old company, and renamed it the Bull Insular Line. It flew a flag similar to that of the Bull Line itself, but with a red letter I interlaced with the blue B. [wed26]

Joe McMillan, 4 September 2001

L. G. Burnham & Co.

[L. G. Burnham & Co.]  by Joe McMillan

L. G. Burnham & Co., Boston
No information on this--and a boring flag with a white B on a red field.
Source: Reed (1896)

Joe McMillan, 15 September 2001