Black Ball Line, The
DESCRIPTION: "I served my time on the Black Ball line, To me way-ay-ay, Rio... Hurrah for the Black Ball line." "The Black Ball ships are good and true" and fast. They will lead you to a "gold mine." The listener is advised to travel to Liverpool and see the Yankees
EARLIEST DATE: 1914 (Sharp-EFC)
KEYWORDS: shanty sailor work
REFERENCES (7 citations):
Hugill, pp. 131-133, "Hooraw for the Blackball Line" (1 text plus several fragments, 3 tunes) [AbEd, pp. 107-108]
Colcord, p. 53, "Black Ball Line, The" (1 text, 1 tune)
Harlow, pp. 105-106, "Black Ball Line, The" (2 texts, 1 tune)
Sharp-EFC, XXIII, p. 26, "Black Ball Line, The" (1 text, 1 tune)
Lomax-ABFS, pp. 489-490, "The Black Ball Line" (1 text, 1 tune)
ADDITIONAL: Captain John Robinson, "Songs of the Chantey Man," a series published July-August 1917 in the periodical _The Bellman_ (Minneapolis, MN, 1906-1919). "Blackball Line" is in Part 2, 7/21/1917.
NOTES [204 words]: According to Fox, p. 3, "A group of textile importers in New York started the first [transatlantic] packet line. The main founder, Jeremiah Thompson, was an English immigrant from Yorkshire" who was 17 years old when he came to America as a representative of a family business.
Fox, p. 4, credits Thompson with the key idea behind the packets: They would sail on time whether they had a full cargo or not. This, for the first time, allowed receivers to count on passengers and cargo arriving on a fairly regular schedule. In 1817, Thompson and his associates announced regular packet service between New York and Liverpool.
Thompson's line started with four ships, "For identification they showed a large black ball on their fore topsail, at the highest point of the first mast. The 'Black Ball Line' at once earned a tight reputation for minding the calendar" (Fox, p. 4).
An interesting side effect of this was the first serious attempt to create luxury on shipboard. The packets were regular enough that the rich might travel on them just for the sake of travel -- and that meant that they had to be pampered. By 1823, Black Ball had packets with fine wooden tables, cabins with skylights, and silk curtains (Fox, p. 5). - RBW
Last updated in version 2.6
- Fox: Stephen Fox, Transatlantic: Samuel Cunard, Isumbard Brunel, and the Great Atlantic Steamships, Harper Collins, 2003
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