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House Flags of U.S. Shipping Companies: A

Last modified: 2006-07-08 by rob raeside
Keywords: united states shipping lines |
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American Roll-On Roll-Off Carrier (ARC)

[American Roll-On Roll-Off Carrier] image by Ivan Sache

White flag bordered in blue with bold ARC in red.  Source:
Dov Gutterman, 11 October 2003

American Scantic Line

[American Scantic Line]  image by Joe McMillan

American Scantic Line, New York
One of the nicer house flags: A green field with a large white square bearing a red cross. The green, white, and red colors apparently come from the parent company, Moore & McCormack. American Scantic Line (like many other lines of similar American ------ Line nomenclature) was one of a number of companies set up by the U.S. Shipping Board to revive the merchant marine after World War I. American Scantic was the line serving Scandinavia and the Baltic, an area in which Moore & McCormack was already well established when it bought American Scantic in 1927. It is not clear how long the flag survived; Talbot-Booth records that shown (which matches the description in "The Atlantic Seaway") in 1937, but in 1934 National Geographic had already shown the flag of Moore-McCormack itself as that for the American Scantic Line.

Source: E. C. Talbot-Booth, House Flags and Funnels of British and Foreign Shipping Companies. NY & London: D. Appleton-Century, 1937

Joe McMillan, 7 September 2001

[American Scantic Line]

Maritime Timetable Images has a piece about 'American Scantic Line Inc.' at The brochure on the first picture shows a green flag with a white disk bearing a red letter 'C'. A pity the date of issue is not quite known ("undated; c. 1930"). Conjecture: the 'C' flag was in use between 1926 (or 1927) and 1934 at the latest?
Jan Mertens, 8 August 2005

American Star Line

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

One of the house flags on the Kennedy, Hunter & Co. sheet is that of the American Star Line, New York. Traces are found on the ‘net concerning ships bought in 1918 and 1921, plus a 1926 court case. Then there is a gap till we get to the ‘eighties. See a Federal Maritime Commission ruling, 1990 reachable via, i.e. “American Star Line, Inc. National Transatlantic Lines of Greece S.A.,  and Dimitri Amminos - Possible Violations of Passenger Vessel Certification  Requirements - Initial Decision” where we learn that Mr Dimitri Amminos was President of both American Star Line (incorporated Delaware, 1986) and the National Maritime Line of Greece S.A. (inc. Panama, 1986), later named National Transatlantic Line of Greece, firms which were to operate and market cruises on a passenger vessel to be named the ‘Betsy Ross’ with a capacity of more than 300. ASL represented NT, which also used ASL as a trade name. Both advertised cruises in 1987 but none were forthcoming. At last the ship – at least that one existed – was chartered to Star Lauro in 1989.

My somewhat shaky conclusions: there must have been two American Star Lines…And supposing – with some reason - Kennedy, Hunter & Co. to have been agent to the modern one, its house flag was white, bearing a horizontal middle stripe divided, again horizontally, red-white-blue; and a large white star over all. The star is rendered visible using black holding lines and it slightly encroaches upon the upper and lower white stripes.
Jan Mertens, 1 February 2006

American Steamship Co. (American Line)

The American Steamship Company, known as the American Line, was established by the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1873 to attract traffic to Philadelphia away from the New York terminals of its archrival, the New York Central Railroad. It operated under several different ownerships until about 1925.

First Flag (1873-84)

 [American Steamship Co.]  image by Joe McMillan

First Flag (1873-84) A red burgee with a white keystone, which was the trademark of the railroad. It derives in turn from Pennsylvania's nickname as the "Keystone State" and is a widely used symbol of the state.

(Source: description in North Atlantic Seaway III:920)

Joe McMillan, 22 August 2001

Second Flag (1884-93)

[American Steamship Co.]  image by Joe McMillan

Second Flag (1884-93)
A red star was added to the keystone after the company was sold to the Red Star Line, the Belgian-flag subsidiary of the US holding company International Navigation.

(Source: description in North Atlantic Seaway III:920; I have also seen this flag depicted on American Line china)
Joe McMillan
, 22 August 2001

Shown by Griffin 1895 and Loughran (1979) as being a normal swallowtail it would seem that their versions are incorrect in view of the china providing there is no
Neale Rosanoski, 21 January 2004

Variant Second Flag (1880s)

[American Steamship Co.]  image by Joe McMillan

Variant Second Flag (1880s)
An 1880s poster advertising American Line service from Philadelphia to Liverpool shows this same flag with a blue field.

(Source: John and Alice Durant, Pictorial History of American Ships (New York: A. S. Barnes, 1953), p. 192)

Joe McMillan, 22 August 2001

Third Flag (after 1893)

[American Steamship Co.]  image by Joe McMillan

Third Flag (after 1893)
Finally, the blue eagle on white was adopted when the Red Star Line passed into the ownership of J. P. Morgan's International Mercantile Marine. The IMM revived this flag for the United States Lines when it acquired that company in 1931.

(Sources: [wed26], (click on St. Paul))

Joe McMillan, 22 August 2001

[American Steamship Co.] image by Ivan Sache, 3 December 2005

The house flag of this firm (not to be confused with the ‘American Line’) is the last one on the second row, here, and an enlargement here. It is a white, blue-bordered swallowtail bearing a red ‘A’ (no serifs) near the hoist.

Some history from the firm’s webpage :
Founded in 1907 by J.J. Boland and A.E. Cornelius, partners since 1903. Steady expansion, even during the Great Depression – as often happens
in a crisis - was a courageous choice (self-unloading vessels) and paid off. Further expansion occurred thanks to the opening of the St Lawrence Seaway after WWII. The firm became the property of the Oswego Shipping Co. in 1967 (see note). At that time, American Shipping operated about thirty vessels but sold off
its classic freighters in the next decade, keeping the self-unloading ships. It was bought up again, this time by GATX Corp. (leasing and financial services) in 1973. During the eighties, the steel decline resulted in ships being sold off to cut losses. But the next decade saw an expansion of operations towards the Gulf of Mexico. In 2002 American Steamship and Oglebay Norton Marine Services pooled their fleets under the name United Shipping Alliance.

Note: an expansion drive in the late sixties (
“…the era in which the American Steamship Co., under the direction of the late H. Lee White, engaged in a remarkable program of expansion, gobbling up the fleets of the Reiss Steamship Co. and the Gartland Steamship Co., as well as the smaller Red Arrow Steamship Co. and the Redland Steamship Co., and making efforts to acquire several others.”

Jan Mertens, 13 September 2005

American West African Line

[American West African Line]  image by Joe McMillan

A red-bordered blue swallowtail with a white A. No other information on the company.
Source: Wedge (1951)
Joe McMillan
, 12 October 2001

[American West African Line] located by Neale Rosanoski

According to Talbot-Booth (1936) the company was formed in 1928 and also used a pennant version which is probably that given for America-West Africa Line by Brown 1929. This version of Brown had A.H. Bull & Co. Inc. as operators and the format is similar to their flags. By Brown 1934 the plain swallow-tailed version is shown under the American West Africa Line title with the company now being operated by Barber Steamship Lines Ltd. After WW2 the trail is cold.
Neale Rosanoski, 21 January 2004

Amoco Corporation (1899 to present)

Amoco has its origins in the Standard Oil Company (Indiana), a subsidiary of John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Trust. When the trust was broken up in 1911, it became the Standard Oil Company of Indiana. In 1918 the company adopted red, white and blue as the corporate colors and in 1926 the torch as its principal trademark. (Corporate headquarters in Chicago; ships registered in New York.)
(Information on history of logos from )

1932 flag

[Amoco Corporation]  image by Joe McMillan

In 1910, a group in Baltimore formed the American Oil Company, which came under the partial ownership of Standard (Indiana) in 1923. However, the new owners did not require Amoco (as it was called for short) to give up its existing identity, and in 1932 Amoco adopted a red, white, and black oval with the word "Amoco" across the center as its trademark.

Source: US Navy's 1961 H.O.,

Joe McMillan, 25 August 2001

See also:

  • Pan American Petroleum & Transport Co (In 1925, Standard (Indiana) purchased the Pan American Petroleum and Transport Company, which continued to operate under its own name. Pan Am operated as a subsidiary under its own name as Standard's main transportation arm. Only in 1954 was it subsumed into Standard's corporate identity.)

1946 flag

[Amoco Corporation]  image by Joe McMillan

Standard adopted a combination of American's oval and its own torch as a logo in 1946, but American continued using the logo without the torch until 1960. In that year, all assets of Standard (Indiana) were transferred to American and the company officially became Amoco. British Petroleum recently bought out Amoco and has indicated its intention to end Amoco's separate identity, and the torch and oval emblem, within the next few years.
Source: Stewart & Styring (1963), Styring (1971)

Joe McMillan, 25 August 2001

Ann Arbor Railroad Company, Ltd.

[Ann Arbor Railroad Co Ltd]  image by Jarig Bakker

Based on Brown (1951).  a blue-bordered white swallowtail with two red letters 'A' and 'A' in a descending diagonal.
Jarig Bakker, 20 July 2004

[Ann Arbor Railroad Co Ltd] image located by Jan Mertens, 29 October 2005

Here is a different image from from a document (invitation to the presentation of the 'Arthur K. Anderson' car ferry) dated 21 May, 1959. No blue border and the company's name written out in full keeping the 'A's, but I've not seen any photos showing this flag in use yet. I haven't looked very hard for this firm's history (in shipping, that is) but the dates were 1892-1982, bankruptcy declared in 1973 and operations being subsidized from that year on till the end.
Jan Mertens, 29 October 2005

APL, Inc. (formerly American President Lines)

[APL, Inc.]  image by Joe McMillan

APL, Inc. (formerly American President Lines) (1938-), San Francisco

Formed by the US Maritime Commission in 1938 to head off the impending bankruptcy of the Dollar Line, the leading carrier between the US west coast and Asia. The flag, red with a white eagle and a white star in each corner, was intended to continue the use of the Dollar Line's red and white colors while evoking the US Presidential flag, which at the time was blue with an eagle and four white stars. The unusually long proportions are as shown on the APL website. American President Lines officially changed its name to APL, Inc., several years ago and is now a subsidiary of NOL (formerly Neptune Orient Lines) of Singapore.
Source: Stewart (1953),
Joe McMillan, 25 August 2001

The flag design was updated about 25 years ago, and features a more modern-looking eagle against a red background. The corner stars were removed. The eagle is the one in the logo at the bottom of this page:
Jahan Byrne, 25 August 2004

American SS Co

[American SS Co]  image by Joe McMillan

American SS Co, Boston (1863-67)

Company founded during the Civil War but did not begin operations until hostilities were over; an effort to draw some of the trans-Atlantic traffic away from New York and restore Boston's stature as a major center of the oceanic trade. It didn't work; the firm was undercapitalized and ran out of money before it even got a second ship into operation. House flag was a white pennant with a red border and the company initials in red.

(Source: description in North Atlantic Seaway II:1075)

American Trading & Production Corp

[American Trading & Production Corp]  image by Joe McMillan

American Trading & Production Corp, New York

No information except the flag: divided diagonally white over red, with red and blue upper and lower edges and the letters A in blue and T in white on the two halves of the field.

Sources: US Navy's 1961 H.O., Stewart & Styring (1963), Styring (1971)
Joe McMillan
, 26 August 2001

[American West African Line] located by Neale Rosanoski

Involved in the tanker trade being shown with 1 vessel, "American Trader" at 1939, being sunk 1940. Continued in business but from the early 1970s is shown as American Trading Transportation Co. Inc., ceasing operations in the early 1990s. Sources vary as to the width of the red and blue bands at top and bottom and Brown 1951 deletes them entirely.
Neale Rosanoski, 21 January 2004

American Union Transport

[American Union Transport]  image by Joe McMillan

American Union Transport, New York
No information except the flag, blue with red upper and lower edges and the initials AUT.
Sources: US Navy's 1961 H.O., Stewart & Styring (1963)

Joe McMillan, 26 August 2001

Anchor Line

[Anchor Line]  image by Joe McMillan

Anchor Line (1865-1916)
A Great Lakes company, not to be confused with the British-flag trans-Atlantic line of the same name. Owned by Erie and Western Transportation Company, a subsidiary of the Pennsylvania Railroad. Variants exist, two shown in the 1909 supplement to Flaggenbuch (1905), but all were white with a red anchor, most of them arranged diagonally.
Source: (no longer available)

Joe McMillan, 26 August 2001

ARCO Marine Inc. (Atlantic Richfield Oil Co.)

[ARCO Marine Inc. (Atlantic Richfield Oil Co.) houseflag] image by Jarig Bakker, 17 September 2005

ARCO Marine Inc. (Atlantic Richfield Oil Co.), Long Beach, CA white, with the firm's logo.
Source: Loughran (1995)
Jarig Bakker, 17 September 2005

Argonaut Line

[Argonaut Line]  image by Joe McMillan

Argonaut Line, New York (1922-40)
Established in 1922 by John Farrell, son of the president of US Steel and brother of James Farrell of the American South African Line (later to be known as Farrell Lines), to provide intercoastal service, i.e., between the US Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Merged in 1940 with American South African Line under joint direction of the two brothers. The flag is a blue field with a sailor standing in uniform, holding up his hat in his right hand.
Source: National Geographic (1934)

Joe McMillan, 26 August 2001

Associated Transport Co.

[Associated Transport Co.]  image by Joe McMillan

Associated Transport Co., San Francisco
Divided red over blue with a white band from upper hoist to lower fly bearing the company initials in black.
From the 1913 supplement to 1909 update to Flaggenbuch 1905

Atlantic Ocean Transport Co.

[Atlantic Ocean Transport Co.]  image by Joe McMillan

Atlantic Ocean Transport Co, New York

Nothing on this one except the flag, white with a red A and black upper and lower edges.

Source: US Navy's 1961 H.O.

Joe McMillan, 27 August 2001

Atlantic Refining Co.

Atlantic Refining Co, Philadelphia (1866-present)
Now known as Arco, this company has its roots in the Atlantic Petroleum Storage Co, founded in Philadelphia in 1866. Atlantic Petroleum Storage set up the Atlantic Refining Co in 1870. The company was sold to the Standard Oil Trust in 1874 but spun off again in 1911 when Standard Oil was broken up. In 1966, Atlantic merged with Richfield Oil Corporation of Los Angeles to form Atlantic Richfield Corp, which has since been shortened to Arco. I have found two similar flag designs for Atlantic Refining:

Arco flag from Stewart (1953)

[Atlantic Refining Co.]  image by Joe McMillan

A white swallowtailed pennant bordered in blue with a red trapezoid bearing the name "Atlantic" in white.

Arco flag from US Navy's 1961 H.O.

[Atlantic Refining Co.]  image by Joe McMillan

A blue trapezoidal pennant bordered in red with the name in white.

Joe McMillan, 26 August 2001

[American West African Line]   [American West African Line] located by Neale Rosanoski

There seems to be a bit of possibly conflicting information about this company with some sources quoting it as Atlantic Oils Refining Co., probably from the early flag which was white with a red oval ring enclosing the red legend 'THE ATLANTIC REFINING CO.' around the inner of the ring and in the centre the larger blue legend "OILS" [see image A413 above] and this was shown by Brown 1929 to 1943 and the last named linked it to Atlantic Oil Shipping Co. which was formed in 1927 and controlled by The Atlantic Refining Co. until eventually absorbed as noted by Talbot-Booth in 1949. Then in Brown 1951 a slightly different version is
shown the red and blue letters becoming black and red respectively. Talbot-Booth himself does not appear to go along with this early flag and shows nothing for the company with his 1949 Merchant Ships stating that there was no known flag. The Stewart version, shown here, is noted by Loughran (1979) as being adopted from the early flag in the 1950s but his version shows blue letters having the same height on the red panel which narrows slightly [see image A412 above] but not to the same extent as shown by Stewart and he makes no mention of either the Stewart or US Navy versions. Brown 1958 has a bet each way with the letters decreasing very slightly in size and [on my copy anyway] the letters being a mixture of blue and white with, I presume, the printing meant to be blue but not lining up properly. The last few Lloyds drop the "The" from the title which may have no significance.
Neale Rosanoski, 21 January 2004

Atlantic Transport Co. of West Virginia

Second Flag

[Atlantic Transport Co. of West Virginia]  image by Joe McMillan

Last Flag

[Atlantic Transport Co. of West Virginia]  image by Joe McMillan

Atlantic Transport Co. of West Virginia, New York (1882-1934)
I think I have now determined that Atlantic Transport Co was primarily British, but did operate US-flag ships under the ownership of this subsidiary. The first flag (1882-1898) according to the reference book North Atlantic Seaway was blue with five rows of five white stars each. I have not drawn this flag. The second flag, also as described in North Atlantic Seaway, was a blue-white-red horizontal tricolor with six stars on each stripe, white on blue and red and blue on white. National Geographic (1934) shows a flag with two rows of seven stars each on each of the three stripes, with the stars on the blue stripe red instead of white. I have also seen pictures of this flag with staggered rows of seven and six stars.
Joe McMillan
, 28 September 2001

[Atlantic Transport Co. of West Virginia]  [Atlantic Transport Co. of West Virginia] located by Neale Rosanoski

Whilst sources agree with the basic two formats there is plenty of variance in what they portray. Thus for the original flag, which Bonsor in the 'North Atlantic Seaway' describes as blue with 25 white stars, is shown by LJC 1885 and Griffin 1995 as showing 38 stars in staggered rows of 5 and 6 (vertically) [see image A108 above]. This being the same design as the American National Flag canton and Naval Jack, its replacement is not surprising. For the flag shown here as the "Second Flag", it is apparently misinterpreted as Bonsor describes it as being of red-white-blue horizontal stripes and with two rows of 6 stars on each of the stripes. Such a version is shown by Reid Corson with the rows being staggered with the upper close to hoist [see image A418 above]. This version is shown by Lloyds and Brown between 1904 and 1934 except that the stars on the bottom blue band are coloured red. This colouring of red on the blue stripe is followed by the other versions as shown by the 'Last Flag' from National Geographic with its rows of seven, a version which is supported by Reed 1912. Another variance comes from LJC 1909 which has rows of 7 on the white but rows of six on the other stripes. The use of 38 stars on either design could be explained as derived from the American flag operative at the time that the company was originally formed and the variations in number could result from the difficulties in an observer trying to count them from a flapping flag. However these are only possible theories.
Neale Rosanoski, 21 January 2004

"Flags and Funnels of the British and Commonwealth Merchant Fleets" shows this flag with 42 stars.
António Martins-Tuválkin, 8 June 2006

Aymar & Co.

[C. Aymar & Co.]  image by Joe McMillan

A line primarily engaged, as far as I can tell, in the 1850s clipper ship traffic between New York and the California gold fields.  Flag white with nine lozenges oriented horizontally. 

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

Joe McMillan, 30 August 2000