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Armement Dominique Bordes & Fils (Shipping company, France)

Last modified: 2005-12-24 by ivan sache
Keywords: bordes | letters: adb (blue) |
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House flag of Bordes, after Brown (left), Lloyds (middle) and Randier (left) - Images by Jarig Bakker & Ivan Sache, 4 September 2005

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History of Bordes

The company was founded by Antoine-Dominique Bordes (1815-1881). Aged 18, Bordes went to Valparaiso (Chile), where he founded a shipping agency for Captain Le Quellec, a ship owner from Bordeaux. In 1847, he signed an agreement with Le Quellec for transporting saltpeter, copper and guano from Chile to France and coal from France to Chile. The two associates owned the iron sailing ship Blanche et Louise and six wooden sailing ships. Two years later, they inaugurated the Valparaiso-Bordeaux line; duration of the journey was 170 days.

Le Quellec died in 1869. Bordes went back to Bordeaux and purchased Le Quellec's shares from his son. He settled in Paris, rue du Conservatoire, where he stayed until his death. Bordes ordered from the Clyde shipyard, in Scotland, 14 iron three-masters and ten smaller three-masters, then operating 24 ships. In 1870, Bordes opened lines to Liverpool (England) and Glasgow (Scotland). In 1870, he organized the importation of saltpeter to France, with agencies in Dunkirk, Nantes, La Rochelle and Bordeaux. Until 1880, he ordered 27 new ships and its first four-master, La Union. Several of his ships had Chilean names.

In 1880, an economical crisis hit the shipping market and several companies had to sell their goods; Bordes purchased 11 sailing ships from his competitors. When Antoine-Dominique Bordes died, in 1881, the company owned 41 ships. He was succeeded by his sons Adolphe, Alexandre and Antonin. In 1890, they purchased the five-master France (110m, 6,200 tons), then the biggest sailing ship in the world.
In 1905, Bordes was the first sailing shipowner in the world, with 33 ships. In 1910, the Valentine, the most rapid ship ever owned by Bordes, travelled from Iquique (Chile) to the Isle of Wight in 56 days. At that time, there was a strong competition between Bordes and the German shipowner Ferdinand Laeisz, which operated the famous P line and launched in 1895 the Potosi, and in 1902 the Preussen, even bigger than the France.
In 1914, Bordes operated 46 ships and employed 60 captains, 170 officers and 1400 seamen. Half of the saltpeter imported to Europe was transported by Bordes, which made 75% of the freight of the port of Dunkirk.

During the First World War, saltpeter transportation, required by the war effort since saltpeter was a component of gun powder, was not stopped. The Bordes company was renamed by the state Compagnie d'Armement et d'Importation des Nitrates de Soude. In 122 transatlantic journeys, the 46 ships operated by Bordes resupplied the French ports. Bordes lost 18 sailing ships. The Valentine was captured on 4 November 1914 by the German corsair ship Prinz Ertel Friedrich and burnt down on 19 November near Easter Island; the crew was rescued by the American steamer Sacramento. The steel four-master Jacqueline was sunk on 25 September 1917 by a German submarine. In 1917, the British cruiser Mantua mistook the Quillota, owned by Bordes, for the German corsair ship Seeadler and sunk it.

Bordes ceased its activity in 1925. From 1848 to 1925, the company operated 127 sailing ships. The Bordes brother died in the 1940s. They bequeathed the scale models of their ships to the Musée de la Marine in Paris in 1935.


Ivan Sache, 4 September 2005

House flag of Bordes

The house flag of Bordes is with a red border and the blue letters ADB. Randier shows dots after the letter, Brown and Lloyds do not.

Jarig Bakker, Dominique Cureau & Ivan Sache, 4 September 2005