From Guide to the Records of Merseyside Maritime Museum, volume 1: Ellerman Lines. John Ellerman was an accountant, son of a Hamburg merchant who settled in Hull. The Liverpool and London shipowner, Frederick Leyland, who had bought the Bibby Line (and renamed it after himself) in 1873, died suddenly in 1892. Ellerman (barely thirty) with Christopher Furness and Henry O'Hagan, bought Frederick Leyland and Co. Within a year Ellerman had succeeded Christopher Furness as chairman and managing director. In 1900 he took over the Liverpool firm, West India and Pacific Steamship Co. In 1901 Ellerman sold his fleet to J. Pierpont Morgan, the American financier, whose aim was to establish a worldwide shipping combine, the International Mercantile Marine. Ellerman arranged to buy back the ships serving the Mediterranean, Portugal, Montreal and Antwerp. He augmented his new fleet by the purchase of the Papayanni City and Hall Lines in 1901. These formed a new company, Ellerman Lines Ltd. Westcott and Laurance, which traded from London to the Mediterranean, was purchased in 1902 and Bucknall trading to South Africa in 1908.
The larger of the purchased lines remained distinct units after their acquisition. In 1916 the Wilson Line of Hull (with sixty-seven short-sea vessels) was purchased by Ellerman personally. The group lost ships in the First World War and weathered the financial crises of the interwar period. Ellerman died a baronet with a fortune of £37 million in 1933. By 1939 the group owned 109 ships of 919,969 dwt., of which fifty-eight were lost in the Second World War. The ships were replaced but trading became more difficult with newly independent nations, such as India, setting up their own shipping companies, and the introduction of containerisation.
In 1966 Ellerman joined the Associated Container Lines consortium and started the successful containerisation of the Mediterra-nean services. In 1973 the group, which by now had many other interests beyond shipping including hotels, brewing and printing, merged all its shipping companies into one division. Ten years later the whole business was sold to the Barclay brothers after making heavy losses. In 1985 the shipping business was purchased by its management, then sold to Trafalgar House to become Cunard Ellerman in 1987 and finally in 1991 it passed to the Andrew Weir Shipping Group.
The component lines, Hall, Papayanni and ACT, have their own entries. The University of Glasgow holds a major Ellerman Archives which is strong on the City Line but has material relating to the whole group as well.
For futher details see the attached catalogue.