C.P.R. Steamships

In 1887 a Canadian Pacific Railway Tran-Pacific service from Vancouver to Asia was begun under the direction of Sir William Cornelius Van Horne.  The purchase of the S.S. Abyssinia, S.S. Parthia and the S.S. Batavia from Cunard was the initial step in a plan to create a fleet of luxury ocean liners built to C.P.R. specifications.  With the success of this new venture the C.P.R. adopted a new name for the division calling it the Canadian Pacific Steamship Company (CPSC).

By 1891, the first of the sleek, white, Empress Class of ocean liners were delivering mail, silk, tea, and passengers from Asia. Soon Canadian Pacific liners would cross both the Atlantic and Pacific, dominating first-class trans-Pacific travel with three of the most opulent ocean liners in the world: the Empress of India, the Empress of China, and the Empress of Japan.  These three ships would have the prefix R.M.S. before their names to signify that they were Royal Mail Ships that operated subsidized mail service between Britain and Hong Kong via Canada.

The company began operating ships on the Atlantic between Halifax, Nova Scotia and the United Kingdom in 1903 and in 1906 the Empress of Scotland and the Empress of Ireland were built in England.  The Empress of Asia and her sister ship the Empress of Russia followed in 1913.  The C.P.R. decided in 1915 to make the division into a separate entity formally known as the Canadian Pacific Steamships Ocean Services Ltd.  With the Empress of Canada being built in 1922 and when the second Empress of Britain was launched in 1929 by the Prince of Wales, it marked the zenith of the Canadian Pacific fleet.

The Canadian Pacific Steamships Ocean Services Ltd. had become both a major international cargo carrier and known globally for providing unparalleled luxury and comfort to its passengers on around the world tours.

The Chung Collection has thousands of photographs and related material on C.P.R. steamships with a particular emphasis on the Empress line ships.  Some of the related material includes pamphlets, menus, world cruise photograph albums, clippings, diaries and correspondence from both passengers and employees of these vessels. The collection also contains photographs and souvenirs gathered by two former C.P.R. steamship employees, John De Laval, and Lawrence Crawford.

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