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House Flags of U.S. Shipping Companies: S

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

[Sabine Transportation Co.]  by Joe McMillan

Sabine Transportation Co., Port Arthur, TX
The Sabine Transportation Company, from its flag and stack design nicknamed the "Diamond S," was founded in 1908 and has long been a substantial presence in the tug and barge business on the Mississippi-Missouri river system and the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Since 1998 it has been a subsidiary of the Stickle Group of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The company currently operates six ships, plus a number of tugs and barges. The flag is a red burgee with a white S inside a white diamond.
Sources: Stewart (1953), US Navy's 1961 H.O.

Joe McMillan, 18 November 2001

Sampson & Tappan

[Sampson & Tappan]  by Joe McMillan

Sampson & Tappan, Boston (mid-19th century)
Sampson and Tappan was originally a China trading firm that joined in the thriving business carrying gold rush traffic to California in the 1850s.  It was also apparently one of the most active lines in bringing Chinese immigrant laborers ("coolies") to both California and South America in the 1850s. Its most famous ships were the fast clippers Stag Hound (built 1850) and Westward Ho (1852). The flag was divided horizontally, white over blue, with a red disk on the center.
Source: paintings of clippers Stag Hound in Greyhounds of the Sea and Westward Ho in "The Clipper Ships")

Joe McMillan, 18 November 2001

Scott and Morrell

[Scott and Morrell]       [Scott and Morrell]  by Joe McMillan

Scott and Morrell, New York (mid 19th Century)
I have nothing on the company, except that from the names of the lines it obviously specialized in coastwise shipping from New York to the American South, probably dealing in cotton. The flags are very similar to those of the well known Grinnell and Minturn, and there may have been some kind of business ties between the two companies. The New Orleans Line used a white and blue swallowtail divided by a horizontal V paralleling the cut of the fly. The Savannah Line was the same in white and red.
Source:  chart of "Private Signals of the Merchants of New York"

Joe McMillan, 19 November 2001

Seabulk International

[Seabulk International]  by Joe McMillan

Seabulk International, Port Everglades, FL
Seabulk International specializes in three core business areas: support to offshore oil facilities, tugs and towing on US Gulf coast (in which it is a leading company with 30 tugs in operation), and specialty chemical and refined product tankers (10 tankers in service). It was founded as Hvide Marine in 1958 and just recently changed its name. The flag is a dark blue burgee with a white disk in the hoist bearing a blue S superimposed on a gold anchor and encircled by a gold chain. Hvide Marine used the same flag, but with an H instead of an S.

Joe McMillan, 19 November 2001

Sea-Land Services, Inc.

[Sea-Land Services, Inc.]  by Joe McMillan

Sea-Land Services, Inc. (1956-1999) and CSX Lines (1999-present)
Founded in 1956 as a subsidiary of Waterman Steamship Company by Malcolm McLean, a trucking magnate who pioneered  the concept of containerized shipping. McLean, with financial support from the billionaire shipowner Daniel K. Ludwig, built Sea-Land into one of the largest merchant shipping companies under the United States flag, but never made it profitable. He sold it--virtually bankrupt--to the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in 1969. Then, with RJR about to shut it down, CSX Corporation (the intermodal parent company of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad) stepped in to rescue Sea-Land in 1986. Sea-Land's international services were bought by A. P. Mller's Maersk Line in 1999 to form Maersk Sea-Land under the Maersk flag (making Maersk in part a US-flag company). Sea-Land's US domestic services were retained by CSX under the name CSX Lines, which kept the Sea-Land flag, a stylized S-L logo in black and red on a white field.
Source: Styring (1971)

Joe McMillan, 19 November 2001

Seatrain Lines

[Seatrain Lines]       [Seatrain Lines]  by Joe McMillan

Seatrain Lines, New York (1928-1981)
Seatrain was established to specialize in carrying loaded railroad cars in the U.S. Atlantic coastwise trade and between the US and Cuba. It was a considerable success and soon expanded into other geographic regions and other areas of shipping such as tankers. The loss of the Cuba trade after the Cuban Revolution hurt the company, as did competition from the railroads. As a result, Seatrain decided to focus on the tanker trade and was one of the most innovative companies in the business, fitting the supertanker Manhattan as an icebreaker and using it to open the Northwest Passage to ship Alaska oil directly to the US east coast. Although technically successful, the venture was not profitable, so Seatrain instead decided to focus on containerships. It pioneered the "landbridge" concept across the United States, cutting 10 days off travel time from Europe to the Far East, and was in position to become a dominant force in the industry despite a heavy debt burden. However, its owners decided to get into the shipbuilding business, which sucked off more resources, then to diversify into oil and coal  production, and eventually drove it into bankruptcy. The company was finally liquidated in 1982. I have found two flags for this company:
Source: US Navy's 1961 H.O.: White with a red rail-line running from upper hoist to lower fly.
Source: Styring (1971): White with two curved blue arrows forming a letter S.

Joe McMillan, 19 November 2001

Seaways Shipping Corp.

[Seaways Shipping Corp.]  by Joe McMillan

Seaways Shipping Corp.
No information. Flag blue with a white triangle.
Source: Styring (1971)

Joe McMillan, 19 November 2001

Seven Seas Shipping Corp.

[Seven Seas Shipping Corp.]  by Joe McMillan

Seven Seas Shipping Corp.
No information. Flag black with a large red 7.
Source: Styring (1971)

Joe McMillan, 19 November 2001

Arthur Sewall & Company

[Arthur Sewall & Company]  by Joe McMillan

Arthur Sewall & Company, Bath, ME (1854-?)
The Sewalls were a prominent shipping family in Bath from at least the 1820s, when Arthur Sewall's father William established a building yard.  The firm of E. & A. Sewall was formed in 1854, took over the other family ventures in 1875, and changed its name to Arthur Sewall & Co in 1879. The company was one of the last to operate square-rigged steel-hulled sailing ships, well into the 20th century, specializing in traffic out of New York around Cape Horn. It continued to build as well as operate ships and apparently built the last square rigger produced on the U.S. east coast.  The flag was simply blue with a white S.
Source: Lloyds 1912

Joe McMillan, 19 November 2001

Shenango Furnace Co.

[Shenango Furnace Co.]  by Joe McMillan

Shenango Furnace Co. (1906-1969)
The Shenango Furnace Company was an iron and steel foundry in Pittsburgh which established a small fleet of ore carriers on the Great Lakes in 1906. It sold the last of its ships to Pickands Mather Steamship Co. in 1969. The flag was a white swallowtail bordered in blue with the diamond-shaped company logo in red and white on the center.

Joe McMillan, 19 November 2001

Siffkin & Ironsides

[Siffkin & Ironsides]  by Joe McMillan

Siffkin & Ironsides, New York (mid 19th century)
Nothing on the company. The flag was interesting, six horizontal stripes of red and blue, with a white canton bearing a black A. No idea what the A stood for.
Source:  chart of "Private Signals of the Merchants of New York"

Joe McMillan, 19 November 2001

Benjamin W. Silsbee

[Benjamin W. Silsbee]  by Joe McMillan

Benjamin W. Silsbee, Salem, Mass. (1790s-1893)
This firm, later known as Silsbee, Stone and Pickman, was one of the longer lived sailing ship owners based in Salem, Massachusetts, the first home of the U.S. China trade. The house flag was white with a large blue triangle with its apex at the center of the hoist and its base at the fly.
Source: 1848 painting of Sooloo at

Joe McMillan, 20 November 2001

Sinclair Refining Co.

[Sinclair Refining Co.]       [Sinclair Refining Co.]  by Joe McMillan

Sinclair Refining Co., New York (1916-present)
Harry Sinclair got his start selling drilling support equipment in the oil fields of Oklahoma in the first years of the 20th century. He soon got into the business of managing small, single-lease companies in return for small ownership percentages. By 1916 he had raised enough capital to buy and combine eleven small companies into the Sinclair Oil and Refining Company, which grew rapidly into the seventh largest oil company in the United States and the largest to be created after the breakup of Standard Oil. Within its first year, Sinclair Oil expanded its production operations to the Texas Gulf Coast (and soon thereafter to Mexico) and had built a crude pipeline to a new refinery at East Chicago, Indiana, on Lake Michigan. These ventures necessitated the development of a shipping fleet to carry Sinclair products to market both at sea and on the Great Lakes.  By 1917, Sinclair had 17 tankers in operation in the Gulf of Mexico alone, and by 1923 was running ships to and from New Orleans, Houston, Philadelphia, New York, Mexico, Cuba, and Europe. Sinclair survives today as an independent oil company headquartered in Salt Lake City, with three refineries and a marketing presence primarily in the U.S. west and midwest; I don't know whether it still has its own tanker fleet. I have found two flags for this company:
Source: Stewart (1953), US Navy's 1961 H.O. - Green with a white S.
Source: Stewart & Styring (1963) - White with the corporate logo, a green outlined irregular pentagon surrounding the name of the company in red above a green brontosaurus. The brontosaurus, named "Dino," was adopted as a trademark in 1930 in allusion to the geological origins of the company's products. The version inside the pentagon was registered as a trademark in 1959. Many Sinclair gasoline stations have large green concrete dinosaurs on the premises, which, given their immediate appeal to younger auto passengers, has been an enormously successful device for attracting business on the highways. I know I used to like to climb on them.

Joe McMillan, 20 November 2001

Snow & Bacon

[Snow & Bacon]  by Joe McMillan

Snow & Bacon, New York (mid 19th century)
I don't have anything on this firm. The flag was a very boring white burgee with the initials SB in black.
Source:  chart of "Private Signals of the Merchants of New York"

Joe McMillan, 20 November 2001

South Atlantic Steamship Line

[South Atlantic Steamship Line]       [South Atlantic Steamship Line]  by Joe McMillan

South Atlantic Steamship Line, Savannah, Georgia
This company seems to have operated scheduled trans-Atlantic and coastwise services out of the southern part of the United States from the late 1920s until at least the early 1950s, and was well enough established to belong to the organizations representing the leading lines. The two flags used were both rather attractive and of somewhat unusual design for a U.S. company:
Source: Wedge (1951) - A yellow swallowtail with a dark blue horizontal stripe bordered in white.
Source: Stewart (1953) - A white pennant bordered with blue and yellow, the blue on the outside edge of the pennant.

Joe McMillan, 20 November 2001

Southern Steamship Co

[Southern Steamship Co]  by Joe McMillan

Southern Steamship Co.
Not much on this company. The flag was white with a black lozenge bearing a white S. The one shown for "Southern States Line" in National Geographic (1934) has a similar design with shallow swallowtail and no "S" and I assume the companies were the same or related.
Source: Wedge (1951)

Joe McMillan, 22 November 2001

Spofford & Tileston

[Spofford & Tileston]  by Joe McMillan

Spofford & Tileston, New York (by 1845-at least 1874)
Spofford & Tileston were in business by at least 1845 running a steam packet service from New York to Charleston. In 1852 they began operating a packet service to Liverpool as well, and obviously, judging from the label on this flag in Manning, also served the West Indies.  The flag was yellow with a blue cross, the letters S and T in white on the horizontal arm.  The image here shows the letters spread out as in PSMNY; Manning shows them together at the center.
Sources: chart of "Private Signals of the Merchants of New York"; Manning (1874) as Spofford's West India Line)

Joe McMillan, 22 November 2001

Sprague, Robinson & Co

[Sprague, Robinson & Co]  by Joe McMillan

Sprague, Robinson & Co, New York (mid 19th century)
No information. The flag was blue with a white crescent moon in the hoist.
Source:  chart of "Private Signals of the Merchants of New York"

Joe McMillan, 22 November 2001

Sprague Steamship Co (C. H. Sprague and Son)

[South Atlantic Steamship Line]  by Joe McMillan

Sprague Steamship Co (C. H. Sprague and Son), Boston
All I have on this company is that it was the managing agent for government-owned ships under the title of the American Republics Line, running from the U.S. to South America in  the 1930s. It was a sufficiently well-established firm to be a member of the American Ship Owners Association, the grouping of large liner companies on the Atlantic coast, during the same period. The flag was a red burgee with a large blue triangle, its base on the hoist and its apex at the fork, a white S on the center of the triangle.
Sources: Stewart (1953), US Navy's 1961 H.O.

Joe McMillan, 22 November 2001

US shipping lines house flags - 'S' continued