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The Cunard Queens

Luxury liners in Liverpool

Online exhibition

'RMS Queen Mary' commemorative brochure. Archive reference DX/1009. 'Queen Mary' made her maiden voyage from Southampton to New York on 27 May 1936, the gold embossed motif of her launch brochure a symbol of the end of the Depression, and a hint of the elegance to be found onboard. Publicity pamphlet for 'Queen Elizabeth' and 'Queen Mary'. Archive reference SAS29/8/1. The Times newspaper heralded the 'Queen Mary' to be an Art Deco masterpiece, embracing the speed and grace of the industrial age. Breakfast menu for 'Queen Mary'. Archive reference SAS29/8/16. 'Queen Mary's theme of speed and grace represented on the breakfast menu depicting an Imperial Airways aircraft racing alongside Pegasus. The anodised aluminium relief by the artist Maurice Lambert was located in the travel bureau on the main deck. Discharge book of William Curl. Archive reference DX/1715. 'Queen Elizabeth'launched on 27 September 1938 but it would be another fifteen months before she sailed on her 'secret' maiden voyage to New York, where she remained until 12 November 1940. She then sailed via Capetown to Singapore to be fitted out as a troop ship. William Curl served on the ship throughout most of the war during which time she carried over 750,000 troops and travelled approximately 500,000 miles. Bon Voyage card from the Cruise Director. Archive reference DX1459/2/1. James Gardner's visual design of 'Queen Elizabeth 2' helped give the ship a distinctive and unmistakable appearance. Twenty different funnels were built and tested before the final design was approved. Commemorative medal of the maiden voyage of the 'new' Queen Elizabeth 2. Archive reference DX1459/11/1. On 20 October 1986 'Queen Elizabeth 2' left New York on her final voyage as a steamship. Cunard's last crossing of the Atlantic under steam ended a 146 year tradition. Refitted with diesel electric engines the 'new' QE2 was reintroduced to passenger service with a second 'maiden voyage' on 29 April 1987.

When the steamer 'Britannia' left Coburg Dock at high tide on the evening of Saturday 4 July 1840 with Samuel Cunard onboard it inaugurated an association with Cunard Line and Liverpool which continues to this day, with liners such as 'Queen Victoria', 'Queen Elizabeth' and 'Queen Mary 2' visiting the city.

The collections in the Maritime Archives and Library reflect this historical connection with the port. Select the images above to view items relating to the distinguished predecessors of today's modern cruise liners.

Gore's General Advertiser 2 July 1840


The full advert reads:

"For BOSTON, Calling at HALIFAX to land Passengers, and her Majesty's Mails.
COLUMBIA Captain -.

The BRITANNIA will sail from Liverpool on the 4th July.
The ACADIA will sail from Liverpool on the 4th August.

Passage, including Provisions and Wines, to Halifax
Thirty four Guineas, to Boston, Thirty eight Guineas.
Steward's Fee, One Guinea.

The sailing of the BRITANNIA has been postponed to the 4th of July, in consequence of the Post office authorities having fixed upon the 3rd of each month for making up the North American Mails.

The steamship UNICORN plies between PICTOU and Quebec in connexion with the above vessels, carrying the Mails and Passengers.

For passage apply to J and G Burns, Glasgow; JB Foord, 52 Old Broad Street London; or in Liverpool to D and C MACIVER, 12 Water Street.

The BRITANNIA goes out of the Coburg Dock on the Friday morning and all heavy luggage should be sent on board before that time. On Saturday morning at 10 o'clock a Steamer will be at the Egremont Slip, south end of the Prince's Dock, to take off the Passengers"