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House Flags of U.S. Shipping Companies: W

Last modified: 2023-10-21 by rob raeside
Keywords: united states shipping lines |
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White Star Navigation Company

Image from Jan Walls, 2 December 2011

I collect shipping lines playing cards and today, I received in the post an old sample playing card book with this card in the scan. I hope you can help me with finding out something about this card as all the research I have done today doesn’t show Cunard or White Star Line having a picture with the stacked paddle steamer. If not maybe you can put me onto someone else that might be able to help?
Jan Walls, 2 December 2011

I suppose the White Star Navigation Company in question was the one active before WWII on the Great Lakes, operating from Detroit. Does anyone know on what background colour the star appeared?
Jan Mertens, 3 December 2011

You are most probably correct, but just for the record there was also a White Star Navigation Company which operated vessels on Lake Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, US. As for the Great Lakes company, an image of a piece of crockery from one of its vessels, the Tashmoo, shows a monochrome flag - light field, dark disk, and white star, with WSL in the star. However, this print of the Tashmoo shows the field red, the disk blue, and the letters red (note different placement of letters).
Ned Smith, 3 December 2011

The White Star Navigation Co. noted by Jan was based Detroit being incorporated 25.5.1925 as a successor to the White Star Line and traded until 1930 apparently on the Detroit and St. Clair Rivers. Assuming that the cards belong to this company and looking at the card image I would say that the flag was black with a white star with the vessel also flying a red pennant from the mainmast which would presumably bear the vessel's name. The funnels are white with black top.
     To me the vessel on the card looks more likely to belong to this Detroit company than the type shown on the Museum of North Idaho website as used by the Lake Couer d'Alene, Idaho company of the name which appears to have been taken over in 1908 by the Red Collar Line.
     The vessel "Tashmoo" noted by Ned with its flag is in the colours of the White Star Line of Detroit incorporated 14.4.1896 and declared bankrupt in 1925, being succeeded by the White Star Navigation Co. The lead to the print of the vessel shows yellow funnels with black tops and a blue flag at the bow with a white pennant presumably bearing the vessel name in red at the masthead and thus differs from the playing card. However the flag image shown differs slightly from that shown by Lloyds 1904 under the name of White Star Co. where the letters are "WS" over "L" unlike the print version which shows "W" over "SL". The Lloyds version is supported by a cream soup plate shown on the Restaurant Ware Collectors Network website.
     I would say that the vessel of the playing card is "Tashmoo" when comparing it with the 1907 print shown at Tashmoo (sidewheeler) on Wikipedia, thus making Jan's allocation the correct one.
Neale Rosanoski, 17 December 2011

William H. Whitlock, Jr.

[William H. Whitlock, Jr.]  image 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

William W. Whitlock Jr. The The Mystic Seaport Foundation site shows two alternatives, one being a rectangular red flag with a 5 pointed white star bearing a black "W" and the second a red tapered swallowtail with a white 6 pointed star and no letter. McKay in "South Street" gives yet another alternative with the swallowtail version shown by Joe deleting the "W".

Neale Rosanoski, 27 April 2005

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

[Weyerhaeuser Steamship Company]  image 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] image by Joe McMillan

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

[Weyerhaeuser Steamship Company] image by Rob Raeside

Weyerhaeuser Steamship Co. I have my doubts about the Brown 1951 flag going by the funnel design for around that period which is shown on a photo on the company website. It shows an ornate "W" and I suspect that the flag would be in line. The site states that the "tree in a triangle" emblem was adopted in 1959.

Neale Rosanoski, 27 April 2005

Williams & Guion Black Star Line

[Williams & Guion Black Star Line]  image 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

The clipper ship Adelaide (built 1854 and NOT the 1864 clipper ship "City of Adelaide" used on the Australian run) sailed the Liverpool to New York run for Williams & Guion. An image of an 1856 Currier & Ives print of this ship is available on the web at:  You'll notice that the ship is flying the blue and white Williams & Guion flag as shown here.
Mardon Erbland, 11 March 2005

[Williams & Guion Black Star Line] image by Ivan Sache

Williams & Guion. The painting lead by Mardon helps provided that the artist was being accurate. If the Jack flown at the foremast can be deemed correct then the houseflag is likely to be also. I make this point because there are differences of opinion about the houseflag and I understand that artists did not always worry about the accuracy of their flag portrayals especially when they were such a small feature. Loughran (1979) for example notes that some authorities recorded a burgee, i.e. swallowtailed flag, with a 5 pointed star, but he is emphatic that this is incorrect with the flag being rectangular and the star of 6 points. The Mystic Seaport Foundation shows the 5 pointed star rectangular flag version but notes that one of its references has a 6 pointed star. They also show that Williams & Guion operated a second line on the Liverpool run, the Patriotic Line with a diagonal white and blue flag.

Neale Rosanoski, 27 April 2005

Wilmington Transportation Co. / Santa Catalina Steamship Line

[Williams & Guion Black Star Line] image located by Esteban Rivera, 29 September 2023
Source: image from website

The Maritime Timetable Images site shows a brochure with an interesting funnel (last on page) at On the funnel of S.S. Catalina is painted a blue flag, bordered white, bearing a large initial ‘C’. We see it again here, in b/w:

In the words of above site, “The SS CATALINA and SS AVALON were called the BIG WHITE STEAMERS. These day tourist steamships operated together from 1920 into the early 1950s — except for WW 2 [when doing war service, jm]. The SS CATALINA continued running into the mid-1970s [1975, jm ]. They provided daily service throughout the summer from Los Angeles to Catalina Island. The SS AVALON lies at the bottom of the Pacific off the coast of Southern California. The SS CATALINA, after a valiant attempt to rescue it, was taken to Mexico where she is rotting in Ensenada Harbor.”

As to the company names, Wilmington Transportation became Catalina Island Steamship Line in 1948. (Santa Catalina Island Co. owned and exploited the island as a tourist destination.) “Sometime in 1950” the ‘C’ had replaced a ‘W’ for Wilmington (also white & blue) as seen here on the first photo: To complicate matters the funnel at one point showed four pennants, hoisted one above the other on the same mast, spelling out ‘MGRS’- see seventh row, left photo:

Explanation can be found at “The single house-flag motif became a series of four pennants, each a different color and bearing a [white, jm] letter of the company name: "M" in dark blue, "G" on a yellow field [really? jm], "R" on red and "S" on light blue. The letters represented the last names of the four principle shareholders in the ship.”

Additional sources:

Details from above mentioned pictures (hoping that less funnelesque items will surface in future) can be found in this Wilmington funnel image, SS Catalina poster and MGRS on funnel.
Jan Mertens, 12 March 2009

For the image above, the picture caption reads: "This W flag was possibly flown aboard a steam ferry built in 1924 that chugged to and from William Wrigley's island off the coast of Los Angeles. The flag is signed by crew members from the Wilmington Transportation Company, which operated the ships. The signatures are dated 1933. (Lucy Ruggirello / Los Angeles Maritime Museum)"
Esteban Rivera, 29 September 2023

J. S. Winslow & Co.

[J. S. Winslow & Co.]  image 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 blue W.
Source: Flaggenbuch 1905

Joe McMillan, 4 December 2001

Winsor Line

[Winsor Line]   [Winsor Line] images by Ivan Sache

The Mystic Seaport Foundation site, quoting for the Regular Line, shows a white flag with a broad yellow border bearing a red star in hoist and yellow star in fly [above left] whilst Loughran (1979), who uses the incorrect spelling of "Windsor" has a similar flag but with the red star in base and the yellow in chief [above right]. Possibly the variations, if existing, were used for the different services.

Nathaniel Winsor. Going by the clipper card of "Dashing Wave", which is the one I assume is referred to, the red star is placed towards the hoist and it is not clear whether there is anything else in the fly. This could support the two star design for there are other variations shown using this number.
Neale Rosanoski, 27 April 2005

Private Signals of the Merchants of New York confirms Neale's comments about this flag.
Joe McMillan, 16 August 2005

US shipping lines house flags - 'X, Y, Z' continued

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