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House Flags of U.S. Shipping Companies: S

Last modified: 2006-07-15 by rob raeside
Keywords: united states shipping lines |
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Sabine Transportation Co.

[Sabine Transportation Co.]  image by Joe McMillan

Sabine Transportation Co., Port Arthur, TX
The Sabine Transportation Company, from its flag and stack design nicknamed the "Diamond S," was founded in 1908 and has long been a substantial presence in the tug and barge business on the Mississippi-Missouri river system and the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. Since 1998 it has been a subsidiary of the Stickle Group of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. The company currently operates six ships, plus a number of tugs and barges. The flag is a red burgee with a white S inside a white diamond.
Sources: Stewart (1953), US Navy's 1961 H.O.
Joe McMillan
, 18 November 2001

I was a Vice President of Sabine Towing and Transportation Company from 1984 until 1998 when the "real" company ended. Sabine, which operated a fleet of tugs, inland barges, and U.S. flag tankers commenced operations in 1909. The founding families merged the company with Chromalloy American Corp. (of St. Louis) in 1967. Chromalloy was acquired in the mid-'80's by Sequa Corp. (of NY)...and then Sabine was sold to Kirby Corp. (of Houston, TX) in 1992. In 1998, the Sabine ships, tugs, and property in Port Arthur were sold to two buyers, Hvide Marine, Inc. and Stickle Enterprises of Iowa. The barges were retained and renamed by Kirby. For all practical purposes, this asset sale ended Sabine. The name of the company was given upon request to Stickle Enterprises which retains it. All of the original Sabine vessels have been retired though the company in Iowa continues to use the name and logo.
Bill Withers
, 20 November 2003

After the sale of the tankers to Hvide and Stickle Enterprises, Stickle continued to operate tankers under the Sabine Transportation Company name.  Three of these were part of the original STC fleet but were eventually scrapped.  STC under Stickle Enterprises grew to a fleet of 11 ships in 2003, all tankers.  Stickle Enterprises was mainly involved in the grain trade carrying USAID cargoes to Africa, India, and other depressed areas.  Most of these tankers were used in this trade until preferences no longer favored tankers being used.  Some continued to trade in the Jones Act domestic oil market.  As it became difficult to find cargoes for the ships, they were scrapped.  By 2004 there was only one ship left and Stickle Enterprises hired a management company to operate it.  Sabine Transportation Company became a manning agency at this time providing seafarers for the manning agency to work on the remaining ship.  In May of 2005 the remaining ship was sold.  Sabine Transportation Company was dissolved and Stickle Enterprises is no longer involved in the maritime industry as a ship owner, operator, or manning agent.
Capt. David P. Freer, 11 July 2006

Sampson & Tappan

[Sampson & Tappan]  image by Joe McMillan

Sampson & Tappan, Boston (mid-19th century)
Sampson and Tappan was originally a China trading firm that joined in the thriving business carrying gold rush traffic to California in the 1850s.  It was also apparently one of the most active lines in bringing Chinese immigrant laborers ("coolies") to both California and South America in the 1850s. Its most famous ships were the fast clippers Stag Hound (built 1850) and Westward Ho (1852). The flag was divided horizontally, white over blue, with a red disk on the center.
Source: paintings of clippers Stag Hound in Greyhounds of the Sea and Westward Ho in "The Clipper Ships")

Joe McMillan, 18 November 2001

See also: Donald McKay's Clippers

Scott and Morrell

[Scott and Morrell]       [Scott and Morrell]  images by Joe McMillan

Scott and Morrell, New York (mid 19th Century)
I have nothing on the company, except that from the names of the lines it obviously specialized in coastwise shipping from New York to the American South, probably dealing in cotton. The flags are very similar to those of the well known Grinnell and Minturn, and there may have been some kind of business ties between the two companies. The New Orleans Line used a white and blue swallowtail divided by a horizontal V paralleling the cut of the fly. The Savannah Line was the same in white and red.
Source:  chart of "Private Signals of the Merchants of New York"

Joe McMillan, 19 November 2001

Seabulk International

[Seabulk International]  image by Joe McMillan

Seabulk International, Port Everglades, FL
Seabulk International specializes in three core business areas: support to offshore oil facilities, tugs and towing on US Gulf coast (in which it is a leading company with 30 tugs in operation), and specialty chemical and refined product tankers (10 tankers in service). It was founded as Hvide Marine in 1958 and just recently changed its name. The flag is a dark blue burgee with a white disk in the hoist bearing a blue S superimposed on a gold anchor and encircled by a gold chain. Hvide Marine used the same flag, but with an H instead of an S.

Joe McMillan, 19 November 2001

Seabulk International. Brown 1995 shows a slightly different version being a normal rectangular flag with the white circle being edged with a yellow and black ropelike border and a blue "S" surmounted by a yellow anchor. It is shown under the name of Seabulk Tankers Ltd. which was a name subsidiary formed in 1974 but no longer appearing by 2000.

Neale Rosanoski, 1 August 2004

[Seabulk International] image by Jarig Bakker, 22 October 2005

Seabulk Tankers Ltd., Fort Lauderdale, FA. - blue flag, white disk surrounded by a BW rope, blue "S", surrounding yellow anchor.
Source: Loughran (1995)
Jarig Bakker, 22 October 2005

Sea-Land Services, Inc.

[Sea-Land Services, Inc.]  image by Joe McMillan

Sea-Land Services, Inc. (1956-1999) and CSX Lines (1999-present)
Founded in 1956 as a subsidiary of Waterman Steamship Company by Malcolm McLean, a trucking magnate who pioneered  the concept of containerized shipping. McLean, with financial support from the billionaire shipowner Daniel K. Ludwig, built Sea-Land into one of the largest merchant shipping companies under the United States flag, but never made it profitable. He sold it--virtually bankrupt--to the R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Company in 1969. Then, with RJR about to shut it down, CSX Corporation (the intermodal parent company of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad) stepped in to rescue Sea-Land in 1986. Sea-Land's international services were bought by A. P. Møller's Maersk Line in 1999 to form Maersk Sea-Land under the Maersk flag (making Maersk in part a US-flag company). Sea-Land's US domestic services were retained by CSX under the name CSX Lines, which kept the Sea-Land flag, a stylized S-L logo in black and red on a white field.
Source: Styring (1971)

Joe McMillan, 19 November 2001

[Sea-Land Services, Inc.]  image by Jarig Bakker, 15 October 2005

Sea-Land Service Inc., Edison, N.J. - white flag, two red blocks containing "SEA" and "LAND" respectively; in between a black/red square.
Source: Loughran (1995)
Jarig Bakker, 15 October 2005

Sea-Land Service Inc. Brown 1995 shows a different version having the panel smaller and flanked on either side by a small red oblong panel bearing respectively the white words "SEA" and "LAND". It seems that their sold container vessels now operate under the US flag through U.S. Ship Management Inc. based in Charlotte, NC. They still have "Sea-land" names but I have no idea of what connection there is with A.P. Möller or what houseflag they use.

Neale Rosanoski, 1 August 2004

Sealift Inc.

[Sealift Inc.] image provided by Alan Adler

Sealift Inc. in 1975. It presently owns and operates 11 US flag vessels. More information is available at our website I am attaching a picture of our house flag.
A. Adler, 30 January 2004

Seatrain Lines

[Seatrain Lines]       [Seatrain Lines]  images by Joe McMillan

Seatrain Lines, New York (1928-1981)
Seatrain was established to specialize in carrying loaded railroad cars in the U.S. Atlantic coastwise trade and between the US and Cuba. It was a considerable success and soon expanded into other geographic regions and other areas of shipping such as tankers. The loss of the Cuba trade after the Cuban Revolution hurt the company, as did competition from the railroads. As a result, Seatrain decided to focus on the tanker trade and was one of the most innovative companies in the business, fitting the supertanker Manhattan as an icebreaker and using it to open the Northwest Passage to ship Alaska oil directly to the US east coast. Although technically successful, the venture was not profitable, so Seatrain instead decided to focus on containerships. It pioneered the "landbridge" concept across the United States, cutting 10 days off travel time from Europe to the Far East, and was in position to become a dominant force in the industry despite a heavy debt burden. However, its owners decided to get into the shipbuilding business, which sucked off more resources, then to diversify into oil and coal  production, and eventually drove it into bankruptcy. The company was finally liquidated in 1982. I have found two flags for this company:
Source: US Navy's 1961 H.O.: White with a red rail-line running from upper hoist to lower fly.
Source: Styring (1971): White with two curved blue arrows forming a letter S.

Joe McMillan, 19 November 2001

Seaways Shipping Corp.

[Seaways Shipping Corp.]  image by Joe McMillan

Seaways Shipping Corp.
No information. Flag blue with a white triangle.
Source: Styring (1971)

Joe McMillan, 19 November 2001

Seaways Shipping Corp. I assume this is the Seaways Shipping Co. shown by Lloyds from the late 1950s until the beginning of the 1980s, originally based New York but then coming under the Skaaraup Shipping Corporation as agents.

Neale Rosanoski, 1 August 2004

Seven Seas Shipping Corp.

[Seven Seas Shipping Corp.]  image by Joe McMillan

Seven Seas Shipping Corp.
No information. Flag black with a large red 7.
Source: Styring (1971)

Joe McMillan, 19 November 2001

Arthur Sewall & Company

[Arthur Sewall & Company]  image by Joe McMillan

Arthur Sewall & Company, Bath, ME (1854-?)
The Sewalls were a prominent shipping family in Bath from at least the 1820s, when Arthur Sewall's father William established a building yard.  The firm of E. & A. Sewall was formed in 1854, took over the other family ventures in 1875, and changed its name to Arthur Sewall & Co in 1879. The company was one of the last to operate square-rigged steel-hulled sailing ships, well into the 20th century, specializing in traffic out of New York around Cape Horn. It continued to build as well as operate ships and apparently built the last square rigger produced on the U.S. east coast.  The flag was simply blue with a white S.
Source: Lloyds 1912

Joe McMillan, 19 November 2001

Shamrock Chartering Co.

image located by Jan Mertens, 8 November 2005

Source: company website at

This little firm normally operating out of Jefferson Beach Marina, Michigan, offers the use of a 1927 built boat, the Helene. She is now owned by the Deane family whose roots in Great Lakes shipping date to the turn of the century (i.e. around 1900) as owners of the Nicholson Universal Steamship Co. and Nicholson Transit Co.
Apparently the house flag is a white swallowtail bearing a green shamrock. I have found no pictures of it waving on the few photos I found.
Jan Mertens, 8 November 2005

Shenango Furnace Co.

[Shenango Furnace Co.]  image by Joe McMillan

Shenango Furnace Co. (1906-1969)
The Shenango Furnace Company was an iron and steel foundry in Pittsburgh which established a small fleet of ore carriers on the Great Lakes in 1906. It sold the last of its ships to Pickands Mather Steamship Co. in 1969. The flag was a white swallowtail bordered in blue with the diamond-shaped company logo in red and white on the center.
Source: (no longer available)

Joe McMillan, 19 November 2001

[Shenango Furnace Co.]

For a photo of this company’s flag, see this page (first row, fourth picture) and enlargement here. The flag on the photo differs from the one above in some respects:
   - bordered red (no border at hoist)
   - flag tapers
   - possibly because of that, lettered diamond not in exact centre.
The red-and-white flag may be a later variant.

Firm’s history including various ships at can be found at

Jan Mertens, 9 September 2005

Siffkin & Ironsides

[Siffkin & Ironsides]  image by Joe McMillan

Siffkin & Ironsides, New York (mid 19th century)
Nothing on the company. The flag was interesting, six horizontal stripes of red and blue, with a white canton bearing a black A. No idea what the A stood for.
Source:  chart of "Private Signals of the Merchants of New York"

Joe McMillan, 19 November 2001

Benjamin W. Silsbee

[Benjamin W. Silsbee]  image by Joe McMillan

Benjamin W. Silsbee, Salem, Mass. (1790s-1893)
This firm, later known as Silsbee, Stone and Pickman, was one of the longer lived sailing ship owners based in Salem, Massachusetts, the first home of the U.S. China trade. The house flag was white with a large blue triangle with its apex at the center of the hoist and its base at the fly.
Source: 1848 painting of Sooloo at

Joe McMillan, 20 November 2001

Sinclair Refining Co.

[Sinclair Refining Co.]       [Sinclair Refining Co.]  images by Joe McMillan

Sinclair Refining Co., New York (1916-present)
Harry Sinclair got his start selling drilling support equipment in the oil fields of Oklahoma in the first years of the 20th century. He soon got into the business of managing small, single-lease companies in return for small ownership percentages. By 1916 he had raised enough capital to buy and combine eleven small companies into the Sinclair Oil and Refining Company, which grew rapidly into the seventh largest oil company in the United States and the largest to be created after the breakup of Standard Oil. Within its first year, Sinclair Oil expanded its production operations to the Texas Gulf Coast (and soon thereafter to Mexico) and had built a crude pipeline to a new refinery at East Chicago, Indiana, on Lake Michigan. These ventures necessitated the development of a shipping fleet to carry Sinclair products to market both at sea and on the Great Lakes.  By 1917, Sinclair had 17 tankers in operation in the Gulf of Mexico alone, and by 1923 was running ships to and from New Orleans, Houston, Philadelphia, New York, Mexico, Cuba, and Europe. Sinclair survives today as an independent oil company headquartered in Salt Lake City, with three refineries and a marketing presence primarily in the U.S. west and midwest; I don't know whether it still has its own tanker fleet. I have found two flags for this company:
Source: Stewart (1953), US Navy's 1961 H.O. - Green with a white S.
Source: Stewart & Styring (1963) - White with the corporate logo, a green outlined irregular pentagon surrounding the name of the company in red above a green brontosaurus. The brontosaurus, named "Dino," was adopted as a trademark in 1930 in allusion to the geological origins of the company's products. The version inside the pentagon was registered as a trademark in 1959. Many Sinclair gasoline stations have large green concrete dinosaurs on the premises, which, given their immediate appeal to younger auto passengers, has been an enormously successful device for attracting business on the highways. I know I used to like to climb on them.

Joe McMillan, 20 November 2001

Sinclair Refining Co. Tying in Phil Nelson's comments for Atlantic Richfield Co. this company took over the Sinclair shipping interests in 1969 though Lloyds Shipowners 1970-1 do not show this but by 1973-4 they do though Sinclair are still shown as operating through Dover Tanker Corporation. Again by 1978-9 this latter company was under the agency of Atlantic Richfield for "Sinclair Texas" which appears to be the last shipping link which ceased shortly afterwards. For the original flag some sources show a squared "S" in line with that shown for Standard Oil Co. of New York.

Neale Rosanoski, 1 August 2004

The house flag of the Sinclair Navigation Co. is shown on a tureen at It is green with a large white 'S' and ties in with Joe's and Neale's comments above. The shipping division of Sinclair's seems to have had its own name (or was, formerly, a separate company). For the enthusiast, this page - and following - recounts Sinclair's history. Tankers are mentioned in passing: The rather pensive dinosaur looms large on this page:
Jan Mertens, 3 July 2005

Skaarup Shipping Corp.

[Skaarup Shipping Corp.] image by Jarig Bakker, 6 January 2006

Skaarup Shipping Corp., Greenwich, CT - blue flag, intertwined white "SO".
Source: Loughran (1995)
Jarig Bakker
, 6 January 2006

Snow & Bacon

[Snow & Bacon]  image by Joe McMillan

Snow & Bacon, New York (mid 19th century)
I don't have anything on this firm. The flag was a very boring white burgee with the initials SB in black.
Source:  chart of "Private Signals of the Merchants of New York"

Joe McMillan, 20 November 2001

Snow & Bacon. Such a flag is ascribed as being for Snow & Burgess in "South Street" (Richard C. McKay) but unfortunately this is the only mention about the firm.

Neale Rosanoski, 1 August 2004

Soo Locks Boat Tours

[Soo Locks Boat Tours] image located by Jan Mertens, 23 October 2005

On a yellow flag the red words SOO LOCK BOAT TOURS are placed on a descending diagonal, accompanied by a horizontal green-yellow-red band at the top and a similar red-yellow-green one at the bottom. A laughing sailor is placed between the bands and at the right of three of the four words, pointing at them.

This firm offers tours in and around the Soo Locks, simply called Soo Locks Boat Tours:

"The St. Mary's River is the only water connection between Lake Superior and the Great Lakes. However, there is a section of the river known as the St. Mary's Rapids where the water falls about 21 feet from the level of Lake Superior to the level of the lower lakes. The natural barrier made it necessary for the construction of the Sault Locks, a project known as the St. Mary's Falls Canal. The first lock was built in 1797, on the Canadian side, but was destroyed in the War of 1812. The United States built its first lock in 1855. Today there are 4 locks in use, continuously being visited by ships and tourists alike."

This company operates five boats in all and is situated in Sault Ste Marie, Michigan. It uses a flag which is rather garish compared to the very classic design of Lock Tours Canada. See this blog.

The image here can be seen waving as a jack on some photos of the company website.

Photo of flag in usage:

Jan Mertens, 23 October 2005

South Atlantic Steamship Line

[South Atlantic Steamship Line]       [South Atlantic Steamship Line]  images by Joe McMillan

South Atlantic Steamship Line, Savannah, Georgia
This company seems to have operated scheduled trans-Atlantic and coastwise services out of the southern part of the United States from the late 1920s until at least the early 1950s, and was well enough established to belong to the organizations representing the leading lines. The two flags used were both rather attractive and of somewhat unusual design for a U.S. company:
Source: Wedge (1951) - A yellow swallowtail with a dark blue horizontal stripe bordered in white.
Source: Stewart (1953) - A white pennant bordered with blue and yellow, the blue on the outside edge of the pennant.

Joe McMillan, 20 November 2001

[South Atlantic Steamship Line] image by Neale Rosanoski

South Atlantic Steamship Line. According to Loughran 1979 it began life as the American Palmetto Line with a blue flag bearing the white letters "APL". It has also been shown as South Atlantic Mail line.

Neale Rosanoski, 1 August 2004

Southern States Line

[Southern States Line]  image by Rob Raeside

One of the Lykes companies operated services in the name of Southern States Line.

Neale Rosanoski, 23 November 2003

Southern Steamship Co

[Southern Steamship Co]  image by Joe McMillan

Southern Steamship Co.
Not much on this company. The flag was white with a black lozenge bearing a white S. The one shown for "Southern States Line" in National Geographic (1934) has a similar design with shallow swallowtail and no "S" and I assume the companies were the same or related.
Source: Wedge (1951)

Joe McMillan, 22 November 2001

Southern Steamship Lines. The flag showing in National Geographic belongs to Southern States Line shown above. Talbot-Booth in his 1942 and 1944 books mentions both companies having Southern Steamship Lines based Philadelphia and the other New Orleans. In his Merchant Ships editions he does not show a fleet list for the company which suggests to me that it was involved in the domestic trade. He also does not show a flag but he does give a funnel showing a blue diamond bearing the white "S" on a white band. This compares with Brown 1951 showing a black diamond on the white band so this raises the possibility that the flag diamond could also be blue and also that it might not be throughout the field as his funnel diamond only touches top and bottom of the band. However funnel diamonds do not always agree with the flag as dependent of the funnel width there could be too much distortion.

Neale Rosanoski, 1 August 2004

Spofford & Tileston

[Spofford & Tileston] image by Joe McMillan

Spofford & Tileston, New York (by 1845-at least 1874)
Spofford & Tileston were in business by at least 1845 running a steam packet service from New York to Charleston. In 1852 they began operating a packet service to Liverpool as well, and obviously, judging from the label on this flag in Manning, also served the West Indies.  The flag was yellow with a blue cross, the letters S and T in white on the horizontal arm.  The image here shows the letters spread out as in PSMNY; Manning shows them together at the center.
Sources: chart of "Private Signals of the Merchants of New York"; Manning (1874) as Spofford's West India Line).
Joe McMillan
, 22 November 2001

Spofford & Tiletson. The letters being close together is also shown in "South Street" (Richard C. McKay) who gives the partnership as being formed by Paul N. Spofford and Thomas Tileston in 1819 as commission agents, later becoming agents for a line of sloops operating New York-Boston and then charterers and finally owners, being involved in the first two coastwise steamships "Southerner" and "Northerner" which commenced trading in 1846 and 1847 respectively, and starting a Liverpool Line in 1852. Up until 1860 they had a mail contract to Charleston, Savannah, Key West and Havana which seems to cover the West Indies reference.
Neale Rosanoski, 1 August 2004

The flag of the 19th Century US shipping company of Spofford & Tileston can be seen on a page describing a print (ca. 1846) of the 'Southerner', flying the house flag. The image is clickable, leading to this page. Here, too, the company initials are spread out. Relevant extract added here and free to look at, whereas the print will cost you 3,500 USD.
Jan Mertens, 24 May 2006

Sprague, Robinson & Co

[Sprague, Robinson & Co] image by Joe McMillan

Sprague, Robinson & Co, New York (mid 19th century)
No information. The flag was blue with a white crescent moon in the hoist.
Source:  chart of "Private Signals of the Merchants of New York"

Joe McMillan, 22 November 2001

Sprague Steamship Co (C. H. Sprague and Son)

[South Atlantic Steamship Line]  image by Joe McMillan

Sprague Steamship Co (C. H. Sprague and Son), Boston
All I have on this company is that it was the managing agent for government-owned ships under the title of the American Republics Line, running from the U.S. to South America in  the 1930s. It was a sufficiently well-established firm to be a member of the American Ship Owners Association, the grouping of large liner companies on the Atlantic coast, during the same period. The flag was a red burgee with a large blue triangle, its base on the hoist and its apex at the fork, a white S on the center of the triangle.
Sources: Stewart (1953), US Navy's 1961 H.O.

Joe McMillan, 22 November 2001

Sprague Steamship Co. C.H. Sprague & Son may have been agents for American Republics Line but according to Talbot-Booth and Roger Jordan in their publications dealing with the merchant fleets in WW2 the actual operations were handled by Moore-McCormack Lines and this is borne out by Lloyds showing the older vessels as part of the Moore-McCormack fleet after the war, the new ships built in 1941 having been converted into escort carriers. Spragues themselves only seem to have become involved in ship operations after the war when Sprague Steamship Co. makes it appearance until around 1960. Brown 1951 and 1952 show a slightly different flag with the letter being squarish.

Neale Rosanoski, 1 August 2004

I have a number of flags that date back into the 1950's and before. They seemed to have varied a bit. There were three companies and how exactly they were related I cannot say definitively: C. H. Sprague and Son, Sprague Steam Ship Company and Sprague Steam Ship Agency. There is an anniversary book I believe called Sprague Energy (Axel Johnson group) that discusses the evolution of the companies. Family history is assertive that The Sprague Steam Ship Agency was very involved in manning and supporting the Liberty Ship Operations in the N Atlantic in WWII.

C H Sprague and Son was a coal mining and distribution company with its origin in coastwise shipping. It owned and chartered vessels primarily to move coal into New England from the Docks at Newport News. The Sprague Steamship Agency fit into that function for the parent company and branched out where possible. The separated entities (or divisions?), Sprague Steam Ship Company, also owned(?), chartered and ran vessels from the US to South America and after the war used the coal distribution network to move refined oil into New England. The Sprague Steam Ship Company was operating other vessels and in a tussle which it did not get the best of and was finally disbanded by C H Sprague and Son in favor of chartering trans-Atlantic and coastwise. See

My father worked for the Steamship Company in the 1950's. I am led to believe that the service to South America continued after the war. The names of the vessels were Celestial and Wideawake in general cargo service. I have a full model from my grandfather's office. It is my recollection that the Sprague Steam Ship Agency was also disbanded in the 1970's before C H Sprague and Son was sold first to Shell and then by Shell to Axel Johnson. The Sprague Flag in a stylized form is still used by Sprague Energy. I am told that the last vessel sunk by German U-boats off New England in WWII was a Sprague Steamship Co.

Phineas Sprague Jr., 22 September 2005

US shipping lines house flags - 'S' continued