The original Black Ball packet line existed between 1818 and 1878 and seems to have orginally been referred to as the Wright, Thompson, Marshall, & Thompson Line of Liverpool Packets of New York. It came later to be known as the Old Line (or from the 1840s generally known as the Black Ball Line). The regular sailings on Liverpool were discontinued in the 1850s.
This line of Liverpool packets is sometimes confused with the Black Ball Line of Australia Clippers founded by James Baines in Liverpool in 1852 and which existed until 1871. However, no connection besides the same is known to have existed between the two lines.
It also seems that the Saint John-Liverpool Packet Line which existed during a couple of years in the 1850s and was managed by Richard Wright, St John, and William and James Fernie, Liverpool, was known as the Black Ball Line.
The Queensland Immigration Agent, John McDonnell, reported on October 18, 1866, after the arrival of the Black Ball Line clipper ship Queen of the Colony to Brisbane:
Permanent Matron-In-Charge of the single girls, Miss Barker, her 9th voyage. The Immigrants numbered 415 souls, equal to 355 Statue Adults; divided into 61 1/2 Married Couples; 120 Single Men; 72 Single Women; and 100 children; of these, 112 Statue Adults were full-paying passengers. The passenger, as a body, have been well conducted and appear to be of a superior description to those who have arrived during the last twelve months.The relevant Emmigration Acts will probably reveal if the employment of a Matron was an official requirement or just a Black Ball Line policy.
[McDonnell to Colonial Secretary, October 19, 1866, 66/2942, COL/A; QSA]
Note that there were two "Black Ball Lines", the first was the Wright, Thompson, Marshall, & Thompson Line of Liverpool Packets of New York, which later came to be known as the Old Line (or from the 1840s generally known as the Black Ball Line) and which existed between 1818 and 1878. This line is covered in Robert G. Albion: Square-Riggers on Schedule, Princton University Press, 1938.
The second line was the Black Ball Line of Australia Clippers founded by James Baines in Liverpool in 1852 and existed until 1871. For the latter line there is no better source than Michael Stammers' book.
Updated 1999-06-17 by Lars Bruzelius.
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Copyright © 1996 Lars Bruzelius.