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Royal William of 1838 City of Dublin Steam-packet Company

There were two early steamers named Royal William. This article is about the second, built in 1837, but the first , built in 1831, is also mentioned. (Source: The Atlantic Ferry, by Arthur J. Maginnis, 1892, pp 5-6)

(This follows discussion of the 1819 crossing of the Savannah)

The next vessel to cross the Atlantic was a Canadian steamer named the Royal William, which was built at Three Rivers, near Quebec, in 1831.

She was 160 feet long, by 44 feet broad, and 17 feet deep, of 363 tons burden. The Royal William sailed for London from Quebec on August 5th, 1833, and arrived at Gravesend on September 16th following a passage of over 40 days.

In June, 1838, another Royal William was chartered from the City of Dublin Steam-packet Company, and despatched from Liverpool by the Transatlantic Steamship Company to New York. She was built at Liverpool, by Wilson. The engines were made by the firm of Fawcett, Preston and Co., of the same place, and were side-levers of 276 nominal horse-power, having cylinders 48 inches in diameter, and 5 feet stroke. The paddle-wheels were 24 feet diameter, and her speed was about ten knots an hour. This was the first real passenger steamer to cross the Atlantic, and also the first steamer to sail from Liverpool (on July 5th, 1838). She was also the first to be divided into watertight compartments by iron bulkheads, of which she had four. When in New York, on the first voyage, she was advertised for the homeward passage in the papers as follows:

BRITISH STEAMSHIP ROYAL WILLIAM, 617 tons.* Captain Swainson, R.N.R., Commander

This fine steamer, having lately arrived, will be dispatched again to Liverpool on Saturday, August 4th, at 4pm. She is only 16 months old, and from her peculiar construction (being divided into five sections, each watertight) she is considered one of the safest boats in England.

Her accommodations are capacious, and well arranged for comfort. The price of passage is fixed at $140, for which wine and stores of all kinds will be furnished. Letters will be taken at the rate of 25 cents for a single sheet, and in proportion for larger ones, or one dollar per ounce of weight. For further particulars apply to Abraham Bell and Co., or Jacob Harvey, 28 Pine Street.

After making a few passages across the Atlantic, she was returned to her owners, in whose possession she remained as a coal hulk until about four years ago (1888), when she was sold for the sum of 11. Some idea of this vessel's size may be found from the following table, giving her dimensions as compared with one of the powerful English tugboats of today:

Royal William, 145 feet by 27 feet broad, and 17 feet deep and 817 tons *(540 horse-power)

Tugboat, 1890, 212 feet by 30 feet broad, and 15 feet deep, and 712 tons (1,000 horse-power)

The Royal William steam ship on her first voyage to New York, on the 14th of July, 1838, a colour lithograph ca.1840 by T. Fairland (National Archives of Canada C-000003)

royal william 1838

* The 617 tons mentioned in the advertisement must be a typographical error, as Maginnis quotes 817 tons in his comparison between the Royal William and the tugboat, and in addition in The History of North Atlantic Steam Navigation by Henry Fry, 1896, p. 42, Fry states, of the Royal William "She belonged to the City of Dublin, Packet Company, was 817 tons, built by Wilson & Co., 175 x 27 x 17.6 feet with engines of 276 H.P., by Fawcett & Preston. She was a failure in point of speed, having occupied 19 days going west, and 14 going east.


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