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House Flags of U.S. Shipping Companies: A

Last modified: 2006-03-18 by rob raeside
Keywords: united states shipping lines | atco | aasc | ab | acs | bdsc | ael | ah | aml | ap |
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Admiral Line

[Admiral Line] image by Joe McMillan

Admiral Line, Tacoma (1910-38)
From 1920 to 1938, Admiral Line was the largest company in the coastwise trade on the US Pacific Coast. It also conducted a trans-Pacific service from 1917-1922. Admiral Line was a trade name given by Hubbard F. Alexander to various steamship companies he owned and operated out of Tacoma. The Admiral Line flag was based on that of the rival Pacific Coast SS Co, which Alexander bought and merged into the Admiral Line in 1916. To the Pacific Coast SS Co's red cross on a white lozenge, Alexander added an admiral's four white stars on a blue field.
Sources: Wedge (1926), National Geographic (1934)
Joe McMillan
, 19 August 2001

According to Talbot-Booth (1936) the 1916 merger produced the company Pacific Steamship Co., reorganized 1933 as Pacific Steamship Lines Ltd., which was known as the Admiral Line. Sources generally noted it under both the Pacific and Admiral names although Talbot-Booth usually used the official title and his flag portrayals show a much narrower cross paty, indeed looking more like a cross couped.
Neale Rosanoski, 21 January 2004

Admiral Towing and Barge Company

[Admiral Towing and Barge Company] image by Ivan Sache

Admiral Towing and Barge Company (part of the Great Lakes Group) - blue-red-blue horizontal (1:2:1) charged with four stars in the shape of a diamond on the red stripe. Based in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
Dov Gutterman, 11 October 2003

Alaska Department of Transportation

[Alaska Department of Transportation] image by Jarig Bakker, 6 January 2006

Alaska Department of Transportation, Juneau - blue flag, at hoist seven 5-pointed yellow stars in the form of Ursa Major. (I guess this is after the Alaska state flag.)
Source: Loughran (1995)
Jarig Bakker
, 6 January 2006

A press release from the Alaska Governor's office suggests that vessels of the Alaska Marine Highway operated by the Alaska Dept. of Transportation fly the regular state flag- "Governor Frank H. Murkowski has authorized the Alaska Marine Highway System to fly the state flag at half-mast on all ferries, at the AMHS headquarters building in Ketchikan, and at DOT&PF headquarters in Juneau on Sunday, December 11 in memory of Capt. Tom Reed. Flags should be lowered on Sunday morning, and returned to full staff by Monday morning."
Ned Smith, 8 January 2006

Alaska Pacific Steamship Co.

[Alaska Pacific Steamship Co.]  image by Joe McMillan

Alaska Pacific Steamship Co., Seattle
Flag blue with a white anchor bendwise sinister on a red shield.
Source: Lloyds 1912)

Joe McMillan, 23 September 2001

Alaska Packers Association

[Alaska Packers Association] image by Joe McMillan

Alaska Packers Association (Source: [ruh09])
Swallowtail with a blue border and diagonal stripes dividing the field into a black hoist and red upper and lower triangles, with a white "A" in the hoist triangle. Talbot-Booth (1937) shows this without the letter A.
Source: 1909 update to Flaggenbuch 1905
Joe McMillan
, 23 September 2001

[Alaska Packers Association]image located by Neale Rosanoski

Other sources vary the basic design in that the two red triangles are divided by strips of the field so that with the black triangle in the hoist there are three triangles all bordered by equal widths of blue. Talbot-Booth (1936) is the only one found that does not show the "A" on the black triangle and he does make the comment in his Merchant Ships series that some vessels did show a white "A" on the black of the flag appearing on the white funnel band but he makes no such comment in respect of the actual flag.
Neale Rosanoski, 21 January 2004

Alaska SS Co

[Alaska SS Co] image by Joe McMillan

Alaska SS Co (1895-1970), Seattle
Principal line within Alaska and between Alaska and rest of US west coast. Subsidiary of Guggenheim copper conglomerate after 1907.
Flag red with a white-bordered black disk bearing a white letter "A."
Sources: Wedge (1926), National Geographic (1934)US Navy's 1961 H.O., Stewart & Styring (1963)

Joe McMillan, 19 August 2001

Alaska Transportation Co.

[Alaska Transportation Co.] image by Joe McMillan

Alaska Transportation Co.
Flag per saltire, white in the hoist and fly, red at the top and blue at the bottom, with the company initials in black across the center.
Source: Brown's Flags and Funnels (1951 edition).
Joe McMillan
, 28 September 2001

There may have been a previous flag. Talbot-Booth (1937) in his WW2 Merchant Ships books shows a panel on the funnel comprising the quarters as shown but with the black letters being shown as " A" on the hoist white, "T" on the fly white and "Co" (with the "o" raised halfway) on the bottom blue. This funnel is completely different to that shown by Brown. An article in Marine News 5/1998 notes them as a freight company, formed 1935, trying to enter the Seattle-Alaska passenger tourist trade and buying the "George Washington" in 1948 making their first trip in May but by August the ship was laid up on account of labour problems and was subsequently sold. Shipping would thus appear to have been only a part time activity.
Neale Rosanoski, 21 January 2004

Alcoa SS Co

[Alcoa SS Co] image by Jorge Candeias

Alcoa SS Co, Pittsburgh (1917-present)
Because of shipping shortages in World War I, Alcoa (formerly the Aluminum Company of America) developed its own shipping line to carry bauxite from its source in what is now Suriname and Guyana to aluminum mills in the United States and elsewhere. At first the line operated under foreign flags. From 1940 to 1969 it operated under the US flag and since then has shifted to flags of convenience. Alcoa Steamship Co appears in the 2001 Lloyd's Maritime Directory as the owner of five Liberian-flagged bulk ore carriers.
The flag before the 1970s was white with three red horizontal stripes, on the center a blue disk with a white cross between four white stars.
Source: US Navy's 1961 H.O.

[Alcoa SS Co] image by Joe McMillan

Subsequently, the line flew a flag bearing the company's new logo, a stylized "A" of red and white triangles on a blue field.
Source: Styring (1971)

Joe McMillan, 19 August 2001

According to Brown 1995 the later flag was amended with the panel becoming smaller and being placed towards the top with the black legend "ALCOA" placed underneath.
Neale Rosanoski, 21 January 2004

[Alcoa SS Co] image by Jarig Bakker, 21 February 2006

Alcoa Steamship Co., Inc., Pittsburgh PA - white flag, the firm's logo above "ALCOA" in black.
Source: Loughran (1995)
Jarig Bakker, 21 February 2006

All America Cables & Radio

[All America Cables & Radio] image by Joe McMillan

I have no information on this company other than the flag, blue with a white ring bordered in red and inscribed with the company name.
Source: US Navy's 1961 H.O.

Joe McMillan, 20 August 2001

A webpage on the history of Guantanamo Bay Naval Station at says:

"The Central and South American Cable Company changed its name to All America Cables, Incorporated, on 15 February 1920. On 22 August 1938, it was changed to its present name: All America Cables and Radio, Incorporated. "
There is an All America Cables and Radio corporation headquartered in the Dominican Republic. See its website at

Ned Smith, 21 August 2001

Allied Towing Corp.

[Allied Towing Corp. houseflag] image by Jarig Bakker, 17 September 2005

Allied Towing Corp., Norfolk, VA. - white flag, green steering wheel with an "A".
Source: Loughran (1995)
Jarig Bakker, 17 September 2005

Alsop & Co.

[Alsop & Co.] image by Joe McMillan

Alsop & Co., New York
The family of the journalist brothers Stuart and Joseph Alsop. The firm achieved a certain notoriety in 1851 when the first mate of its China clipper "Challenge" allegedly beat several crewmen to death en route to San Francisco; the master, Robert Waterman, helped the mate to escape before the California authorities could bring him to trial, leading to a wave of mob violence that lasted several days. The flag is parted vertically, blue and red, with a white lozenge overall, similar to the Free French naval jack without the cross of Lorraine.

Source:  chart of "Private Signals of the Merchants of New York"

Joe McMillan, 4 September 2001

American-Asiatic Steamship Co.

[American-Asiatic Steamship Co.] image by Joe McMillan

American-Asiatic Steamship Co., New York
Divided per saltire blue and white with the company initials in red on the white areas and white on the blue.
Source: Lloyds 1912

Joe McMillan, 23 September 2001

American & Cuban Steamship Line

[American & Cuban Steamship Line] image by Joe McMillan

American & Cuban Steamship Line
Blue with a white band from upper hoist to lower fly, and on the center a monogram of the letters "A" and "C."
Source: Talbot-Booth (1937)

Joe McMillan, 23 September 2001

American Banner Lines

[American Banner Lines] image by Joe McMillan

American Banner Lines, New York (1957-60)
This company was a badly timed attempt by Arnold Bernstein to start up a tourist-oriented trans-Atlantic passenger service four months before the beginning of regular passenger jet service. Bernstein, a very successful German-Jewish ship owner, used the same flag.  See National Geographic (1934) for his (non-US) companies in the 1920s and 30s before he was arrested by the Nazis and had his ships confiscated in 1937. He was released owing to his high international profile and emigrated to the US, where he resumed his shipping career. Horizontally divided blue over red with the initials AB in blue on a white lozenge.
Source: US Navy's 1961 H.O.

Joe McMillan, 20 August 2001

American Coal Shipping

[American Coal Shipping] image by Joe McMillan

American Coal Shipping, New York
The flag is a white swallowtail bordered in red and inscribed with the company initials in blue.
Source: US Navy's 1961 H.O.

Joe McMillan, 20 August 2001

American Diamond SS Corp.

[American Diamond SS Corp.] image by Joe McMillan

American Diamond SS Corp.
A subsidiary of Black Diamond SS Corp, using the same flag (black diamond on yellow) but with the initials of the name in the corners.
Talbot-Booth (1937)

Joe McMillan, 24 September 2001

American Export Lines


[American Export Lines] image by Joe McMillan

American Export Lines, New York (1919-62)
AEL was the leading US-flag company between the US east coast and the Mediterranean from 1919 to 1977. It was organized as the Export Steamship Corporation, but the word "American" was added in the 1920s to emphasize its ties to the US. For most of its history, the flag was red with a blue "E" for export on a white vertically oriented lozenge.

Sources: National Geographic (1934)US Navy's 1961 H.O., Stewart (1953)
Joe McMillan
, 21 August 2001

Although Bonsor gives the flag as being adopted 1929, which means that there was none from the time of formation in 1919, it does appear in Brown 1929 which makes me wonder as it seems rather unlikely that it would make that edition if not adopted until that year.
Neale Rosanoski, 21 January 2004


[American Export Lines] image by Joe McMillan

American Export Lines (1962 flag) (reconstructed from verbal description in North Atlantic Seaway IV:1577)
AEL was bought by Jakob Isbrandtsen, proprietor of the Isbrandtsen Line, in 1960. The purchase was approved by the US Maritime Administration in 1962, at which point the flag was changed to have the E superimposed on the outline of a globe instead of on a lozenge.
Joe McMillan
, 21 August 2001

[Alaska Packers Association] image located by Neale Rosanoski

The 1962-1964 flag was not retained when the company again became independent in 1973 as they then adopted a white flag with a narrow red band at top and a blue one at bottom with a narrow blue diamond touching both of these and charged with the white letters "AEL".
Neale Rosanoski, 21 January 2004

American Export Isbrandtsen Steamship Co.

[American Export Isbrandtsen] image by Joe McMillan

American Export Isbrandtsen Steamship Co, New York
In 1964, Jakob Isbrandtsen merged AEL with his other properties to form American Export Isbrandtsen, although the AEL name continued to be more commonly used. The flag added the 1962 AEL logo to the lower fly of the old Isbrandtsen flag. After heavy losses and unable to meet crippling debt payments, AEL went into bankruptcy in 1977, with Farrell Lines buying its remaining ships.

Source: Styring (1971)

Joe McMillan, 21 August 2001

American-Hawaiian SS Co.

[American-Hawaiian SS Co.] image by Joe McMillan

American-Hawaiian SS Co. (1899-1956)
Despite the name--and the original focus on the Hawaiian Islands, most of this company's history was spent primarily providing intercoastal (i.e., US Atlantic-to-US Pacific coast) and foreign services. Its owners shifted it away from the islands in 1916 to take advantage of high freight rates in the wartime North Atlantic and lost the confidence of the major sugar planting companies as a result. Captured by the billionaire shipping magnate Daniel K. Ludwig in a hostile takeover in 1955, after which the ships were sold off and the company closed down. Flag simply the white initials A-H on blue.
Sources: Wedge (1926), National Geographic (1934)Stewart & Styring (1963)

Joe McMillan, 20 August 2001

American Independence Line

[American Independence Line] image by Ivan Sache, 4 February 2006

One of the flags shown on the Belgian firm of Kennedy, Hunter & Co.s list of agencies is that of the American Independence Line, New York. (There seems to be no connection with another shipping company, the American Independent Line of Chicago and New York).

The flag has a strong resemblance to that of the American Star Line (same owner, perhaps?). On a white field is a middle horizontal stripe made up of red, white and blue horizontal stripes and over all, in the centre, is a white initial I in black holding lines. The I slightly overlaps the red and blue stripes.
Jan Mertens, 2 February 2006

American Mail Line

[American Mail Line houseflag] image by Jarig Bakker, based on the website of the National Maritime Museum.

From the website of the National Maritime Museum, "the  house flag of the American Mail Line Ltd, Seattle. On a light blue background, there is a yellow disc surrounded with a white band inscribed 'AMERICAN MAIL LINE'. In the centre of the disc is shown a flag striped horizontally in blue, white, red, white and blue [see American Mail SS Co, antecedent to American Mail Line]. The flag is made of a wool and synthetic fibre bunting. It has a cotton hoist with eyelet holes at the top and bottom. The flag is machine sewn and the design is printed.

H. F. Alexander's Admiral Line started a service between Seattle and the Far East under the name of the Admiral Oriental Mail Line. The company was taken over by the Dollar family in 1922 and re-named the American Mail Line. The Dollar and American Mail Lines were taken over by the government to prevent their bankruptcy in 1938 and the former was re-named American President Lines. American Mail regained its independence at this time. Following privatization after the war, the company was re-acquired, by American President Lines in 1954. The use of the American Mail Lines name and flag ended in 1973."
Jarig Bakker, 2 September 2004

American Mail SS Co

[American Mail SS Co.] image by Joe McMillan

American Mail SS Co (1917-73), Seattle
Service between Seattle and the Far East, begun by H. F. Alexander's Admiral Line under the name of Admiral Oriental Mail Line, in an attempt to diversify beyond the coastwise trade. Taken over by the Dollar family in 1922 and renamed the American Mail Line. Regained independence when the Dollar Line was taken over by the government to prevent its bankruptcy in 1938. Ownership went to American President Lines in 1954; APL merged AML into its own operations in 1973 and ended the use of the AML name. Flag five horizontal stripes of blue-white-red-white-blue, the same as the "C" flag of the International Code of Signals and the reverse of the swallowtailed flag of the old Pacific Mail Line, which the Dollars also took over in the 20s.
Note: Stewart & Styring (1963) shows a different flag, blue with a logo consisting of the five-striped flag on a yellow disk surrounded by a white ring bearing the name of the line.
Sources: National Geographic (1934)Stewart & Styring (1963), US Navy's 1961 H.O.

Joe McMillan, 20 August 2001

American Merchant Line

[American Merchant Line] image by Joe McMillan

This company was created by the US Shipping Board after WWI as a trans-Atlantic freight service. Like the United States Lines, it was sold to Paul W. Chapman in 1929, then repossessed by USSB and resold to International Mercantile Marine in 1931. It was merged into the USL in 1937.

Source: National Geographic (1934)

Joe McMillan, 23 August 2001

[American Merchant Line] image located by Neale Rosanoski

Formed as a trade name in 1924 with the ships placed under J.W. Winchester & Co. Inc. using a diagonal biband flag from upper hoist to lower fly, red over blue and overall the white letters "AML". Presumably retained after the 1929 sale to P.A. Chapman & Co. with no change until after 1931 which, after Chapmans defaulted on their payments which saw the service placed under United States Lines of Nevada in which International Mercantile Marine had an interest, controlling from 1934, saw the adoption of the United States Lines format of the 'eagle' flag, under which the letters signified which of the subsidiaries was operating a particular vessel, a format which lapsed in the 1930s. Brown 1934 and Loughran (1979) show the charges as black and have the eagle with wings displayed and inverted i.e. wing tips downwards. The colour difference may be a result of a dark blue confusion. The wings of the eagle seem to be common for portrayals of American companies and I wonder whether there is a requirement that commercial concerns differentiate in this manner or whether it is just that all the artists preferred this format.
Neale Rosanoski, 21 January 2004

No, there is no such requirement, and many commercial concerns use the American eagle with wings displayed (i.e., tips upward, not inverted). But the version with wings displayed and inverted has been popular in the US almost since the adoption of the coat of arms in 1782, including such official uses as the earliest surviving  infantry colors (1790s), military uniform buttons and belt plates, and President James Monroe's White House china. In fact, eagles with wings inverted were the norm on military colors and standards for infantry and cavalry until the early 1900s, when the army switched the pattern to the rendering on the modern die of the great seal, which was first cut by Tiffany and Co. in 1885. Even today, several government or quasi-governmental agencies use eagles with wings inverted, including the Federal Reserve and the National Gallery of Art.
Joe McMillan, 21 January 2004

American Overseas Marine Corp.

[American Overseas Marine Corp.] image by Jarig Bakker, 6 January 2006

American Overseas Marine Corp., Quincy, MA - horizontal blue-white-blue-white-broad red-white-blue-white-blue flag; in center white "A".
Source: Loughran (1995)
Jarig Bakker
, 6 January 2006

American Pacific Line

[American Pacific Line] image by Joe McMillan

American Pacific Line
No information on this except the flag--an inverted red star on a white lozenge on a blue field.

Stewart (1953)

Joe McMillan, 8 September 2001

American Pioneer Lines

[American Pioneer Lines] image by Joe McMillan

White with a green border and green AP monogram
Sources: US Navy's 1961 H.O.
Joe McMillan
, 21 August 2001

Originated 1924 as a trading name of the United States Shipping Board, later the United States Maritime Commission, originally being operated by Atlantic, Gulf & Oriental Steamship Co. Inc. and under them the flag was similar but with a blue border and conventional red letters "AP". In the 1927/28 fiscal year the service was split into two with one part later becoming the American Gulf Line whilst the other amalgamated with two other trade names as a revised American Pioneer Line under Roosevelt Steamship Co. as operators. The flag became the green version as shown and this setup continued until 1940 when the United States Lines Co. acquired the trade name which continued in use until acquired by Farrell Lines in 1965. However the flag became that of United States Lines although exactly when appears to be disputed.
Neale Rosanoski, 21 January 2004

US shipping lines house flags - 'A' continued