Documents from John Bonus & Sons re the Black Ball Line (James Baines & Thomas MacKay)



From the Guide to the Records of Merseyside Maritime Museum, volume 1: Black Ball Line of Australian Packets. The Liverpool Black Ball Line of Australian Packets was started in 1852 by James Baines and Co. to carry emigrants and cargo at the height of the gold rush to Melbourne. Its first large vessel, Marco Polo, made a record breaking roundtrip voyage in 1852 and the Line's reputation for fast passages. Its large clippers, built by Donald Mackay at Boston, attracted national attention. The Gold Rush traffic declined after 1856 and the Line diver¬sified by starting a service to Queensland and ran a joint service with the British and Australian Steam Navigation Co. In 1864 there was an unsuccessful attempt to merge with White Star and Gibbs, Bright and Co. of Liverpool. A year later the firm was involved in floating as a public company the bank from which it had borrowed heavily. In 1866, in one of the worst banking crises of the nineteenth century, the bank suspended payment. The Black Ball Line was one of its major debtors and was forced to sell many of its vessels, relying on chartered ships to maintain its sailings. By 1871 the Line had declined into financial ruin and there was an unsuccessful attempt to revive it in 1873. This Line took its name from the Liverpool New York Black Ball Line of 1818. For further details see the attached catalogue or contact The Archives Centre for a copy of the catalogue.