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House Flags of U.S. Shipping Companies: W

Last modified: 2003-03-01 by rob raeside
Keywords: united states shipping lines |
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Wait & Pierce

[Wait & Pierce]  by Joe McMillan

Wait & Pierce, Salem
One of the sailing lines operating out of Salem, Massachusetts, in the early 19th century. I don't know anything more about it, but the flag was distinctive: burgee-shaped with a deep swallowtail, the hoist yellow as far as the fork with the blue letters WP, the upper tail red and the lower tail blue.
Source: painting at

Joe McMillan, 30 November 2001

Ward Line

[Ward Line]  by Joe McMillan

Ward Line (New York & Cuba Mail Steamship Co), New York (1856-1959)
The Ward Line was formed by James E. Ward of New York in 1856 as a scheduled cargo and passenger service using sailing vessels. When the line began shifting to steam after the Civil War, it officially became the New York & Cuba Mail Steamship Company, but was always known as the Ward Line.  After Ward's death in 1894, his successors carried on until 1907, when they decided to sell the company to Charles W. Morse's Consolidated Steamship Company. Consolidated collapsed a year later, and Ward Line passed to the Atlantic, Gulf & West Indies Lines, within which it operated under its own name. The line's reputation went downhill and was severely tarnished by the shipwreck of the cargo-passenger ship Morro Castle in 1934, the worst ocean disaster ever to occur to a U.S.-flag merchant vessel. The Ward Line briefly regained its independence after World War II. When AGWI went into liquidation in 1954, a group of outside investors bought the Ward Line subsidiary. However, the new owners did not want to accept the conditions imposed by the U.S. Maritime Administration for the receipt of government subsidies, so they began shifting the Ward Line away from the U.S. flag. In addition, as they diversified the company's businesses, forming Ward Industries as a holding company, they paid less and less attention to shipping, and in 1956 sold the name and assets to the Cuban company Cia Naviera Garca, which renamed itself Ward-Garca. Ward-Garca kept the name alive until 1959, but the combination of declining demand and the Cuban Revolution soon put it out of business. The Ward Line flag was always a white swallowtail with a black W inside a black ring.
Sources: Lloyds 1912, Wedge (1926), National Geographic (1934), Talbot-Booth (1937), US Navy's 1961 H.O.

Joe McMillan, 1 December 2001

Thomas Wardle & Co.

[Thomas Wardle & Co.]  by Joe McMillan

Thomas Wardle & Co., New York (mid-19th century)
No information on this company. The flag was a blue burgee-shaped pennant with a white disk.
Source:  chart of "Private Signals of the Merchants of New York"

Joe McMillan, 1 December 2001

Warren Petroleum Co.

[Warren Petroleum Co.]  by Joe McMillan

Warren Petroleum Co., Houston (1922-present?)
Warren Petroleum was established by William K. Warren in Oklahoma in 1922. It became a subsidiary of Gulf Oil in 1956 and seems to still be in operation as a division of Chevron, which merged with Gulf in 1984. I do not believe it still operates ships, however, as it seems to be mainly in the natural gas distribution business in the Midwest and Southwestern U.S. The house flag was green with a white W circumscribed by a white ring.
Source: US Navy's 1961 H.O.

Joe McMillan, 1 December 2001

Waterman Steamship Corporation

[Waterman Steamship Corporation]  by Joe McMillan

Waterman Steamship Corporation (Mobile, later New York, now New Orleans)(1919-present)
Until the 1970s, Waterman was exclusively in the business of providing ocean transportation between the Gulf of Mexico and the Mediterranean. Since then it has diversified its services. It was founded by John Waterman as the Mobile, Miami & Gulf Steamship Company, with the motive of building up the port of Mobile, which had long been overshadowed by New Orleans. Waterman got his start managing war surplus ships that belonged to the U.S. Shipping Board. Because of good management and effective lobbying in Washington, it flourished despite vicious competition from Lykes Brothers. After World War II, Waterman became the third largest fleet under the U.S. flag, with 55 ships in service in 1949. Malcolm McLean bought the company in 1955 and put it into danger of bankruptcy by drawing on its assets to fund other shipping ventures, but it was rescued by new buyers in 1965, survived reorganization under bankruptcy court protection. It now focuses on servcie from the U.S. east coast to the Middle East and South and Southeast Asia. The flag as shown on the company website is a slightly tapered blue swallowtail, with a black W on a white lozenge. Other sources show the same design on a rectangular field, and Talbot-Booth (1937) shows a red field.
Sources: Stewart (1953), US Navy's 1961 H.O.;

Joe McMillan, 1 December 2001

Webb & Knapp

[Webb & Knapp]  by Joe McMillan

Webb & Knapp, New York
Webb and Knapp is a New York real estate development and architectural firm, and I have no idea why they would have had a shipping fleet, but this flag--white with a wide blue horizontal stripe bearing a white diamond with a red P--shows up in the U.S. Navy's 1961 house flags book. The initial "P" suggests that this may have been a successor to some other line that W&K bought for diversification purposes, but I really have no idea.
Source: US Navy's 1961 H.O.

Joe McMillan, 1 December 2001

Benjamin Webster

[Benjamin Webster]  by Joe McMillan

Benjamin Webster, Portland, Maine
No information on this company. Flag was a blue trapezoid with a white star in the hoist.
Source: Flaggenbuch 1905

Joe McMillan, 2 December 2001

West Coast Line

[West Coast Line]  by Joe McMillan

West Coast Line, New York
No information on this line, either. The flag was red with a white H, clearly shown as shadowed in black in Wedge (1951). I don't know what the H might have stood for.
Source: Wedge (1951)

Joe McMillan, 2 December 2001

West Coast Steamship Co.

[West Coast Steamship Co.]  by Joe McMillan

West Coast Steamship Co., Portland, Oregon
An earlier line by this name was apparently bought out by Pacific Coast Steamship, which later became part of the Admiral Line in the early 1900s.  This is obviously a different company given the source, but I have found nothing about it. The flag was blue with a large white disk bearing a red W.
Source: US Navy's 1961 H.O.

Joe McMillan, 2 December 2001

Western Transportation Co.

[Western Transportation Co.]  by Joe McMillan

Western Transportation Co., Buffalo
This company appears in New York state documents on shipping and canal boat companies as early as 1859, when it was operating 14 steamships, 2 sailing ships, and 164 canal boats on Lake Erie and the Erie Canal and had 1,000 employees. Obviously it was still in business in the early 1900s. The flag was red with a white W.
Source: 1909 supplement to Flaggenbuch (1905)

Joe McMillan, 2 December 2001

Western Union Telegraph Co.

[Western Union Telegraph Co.]  by Joe McMillan

Western Union Telegraph Co., New York (1856-present)
For all practical purposes, Western Union has been the U.S. equivalent of a national telegraph company. It was originally founded as the New York and Mississippi Valley Printing Telegraph Company of Rochester, New York, and changed its name to Western Union Telegraph Co in 1856. In 1861, Western Union completed the first transcontinental telegraph link, introduced the stock ticker machine for the New York Stock Exchange in 1866, and established the first consumer credit card in 1914. With changes in communications technology, telegrams are no longer an important source of business, but Western Union still  operates the world's largest electronic money transfer service. Western Union's shipping fleet was, of course, cable laying and cable repairs ships. These included the C.S. Minia, which was contracted by White Star Line to search for debris from the Titanic, and the 130-foot sail schooner Western Union, launched in 1939 and still engaged in cable maintenance in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico until 1974. It is now a separately owned cruise ship. I don't find anything listed under Western Union in Lloyd's Register for 2001, however. The Western Union house flag was interesting, a blue burgee-shaped pennant with a white border. Horizontally across the center was a horizontal band thinly striped diagonally in blue and yellow, fimbriated white, between the white letters W and U. I take it that the horizontal band was intended to suggest a coaxial cable. Unfortunately, I can't find the source for this flag; it was one of the numerous "flags and funnels" books. I will send the source when I track it down in my notes.

Joe McMillan, 2 December 2001

Wetmore & Cryder

[Wetmore & Cryder]  by Joe McMillan

Wetmore & Cryder, New York
William S. Wetmore was a prominent merchant shipping operator in New York from the 1820s until his death in 1862. He made a considerable fortune in the China trade and is famous for having been the first wealthy New Yorker to build a summer "cottage" in Newport, Rhode Island, in 1852. This particular venture was founded as Alsop, Wetmore & Cryder and was mainly engaged in the Peruvian guano trade. The flag was quartered white and red, with black Ws on the white quarters.
Source:  chart of "Private Signals of the Merchants of New York"

Joe McMillan, 4 December 2001

William H. Whitlock, Jr.

[William H. Whitlock, Jr.]  by Joe McMillan

William H. Whitlock, Jr., New York (by 1846-1853)
William Whitlock operated a line of packets from New York to Le Havre. The company was merged into the Union Line of Havre Packets in 1853. The flag was a red swallowtail with a white six-pointed star bearing a black W.
Source:  chart of "Private Signals of the Merchants of New York"

Joe McMillan, 4 December 2001

Weyerhaeuser Steamship Company

Weyerhaeuser Steamship Company, Newark, New Jersey (later San Francisco) (1900-present)
Weyerhaeuser is one of the largest lumber and paper companies in the United States. It began operating its own shipping between the US east coast and the Pacific northwest in 1923. It continued to do so until 1968, after which it relied on chartered ships to carry its products. In 1981, the company established a subsidiary, Westwood Shipping, to manage long-term charters, but I do not know if it still uses the last of these Weyerhaeuser flags:

[Weyerhaeuser Steamship Company]  by Joe McMillan
Source: Wedge (1951) shows a blue flag with a white W inside a white ring.

[Weyerhaeuser Steamship Company]  by Joe McMillan
Sources: Stewart (1953) and US Navy's 1961 H.O. show flag as blue with a yellow disk bearing a WS monogram, the W in blue and the S in white fimbriated blue.

[Weyerhaeuser Steamship Company]

Source Stewart & Styring (1963) shows flag blue with the modern corporate logo in yellow, a triangle with another triangle issuing from its base forming the outline of an arrowhead or pine tree.

Joe McMillan, 4 December 2001

Williams & Guion Black Star Line

[Williams & Guion Black Star Line]  by Joe McMillan

Williams & Guion Black Star Line, New York
This firm was established by the 1840s and began running a Liverpool line in 1851. Along with Grinnell and Minturn and the Black Ball Line, it was one of the most important U.S. companies bringing Irish immigrants to New York. The flag was blue with a white lozenge bearing a black star. The same flag (sometimes with a six-pointed star) was later used by the British-flagged Guion Line of steamships under same the ownership as the American-flagged line of sail packets. (The reason for putting the steamers under the British flag was that until 1912 only US-built ships could be placed under US registry, and the leading steamer technology during this period was being produced in Glasgow.)
Source:  chart of "Private Signals of the Merchants of New York"

Joe McMillan, 4 December 2001

J. S. Winslow & Co.

[J. S. Winslow & Co.]  by Joe McMillan

J. S. Winslow & Co., Portland, Maine (by 1884 to at least 1918)
J. S. Winslow ran sailing schooners, some with as many as six masts, between Norfolk, Virginia, and New England, carrying coal from the mines in West Virginia. One of the company's ships, the five-master Addie M. Lawrence, braved the German U-boats of World War I to transport ammunition to Europe from America. The flag was white with a red W.
Source: Flaggenbuch 1905

Joe McMillan, 4 December 2001

Winsor Line

[Winsor Line]  by Joe McMillan

Winsor Line, Boston (1840s-1907)
Established by Nathaniel Winsor in the 1840s, also known as Winsor's Regular Line, originally serving Norfolk, Savannah, Mobile, and New Orleans, and later San Francisco. The New Orleans service was also known as the Crescent Line after the nickname of New Orleans, the Crescent City. The Savannah service was also known as the Dispatch Line. The company was purchased by Merchants and Miners in 1907. The flag was white with a red star, but I have a sketch of a variant in my notes with two stars, one red in the hoist with one point down and the other black in the fly with one point up.
Source: clipper card at

Joe McMillan, 4 December 2001