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FreightWaves Classics/Fallen Flags: AGWI Lines ships transported cargo and passengers

There are many people interested in former transportation companies, whether they were trucking companies, railroads, airlines or ocean lines. These companies are called “fallen flags,” and the term describes companies whose corporate names have been dissolved through merger, bankruptcy or liquidation.

Today’s FreightWaves Classics profiles another fallen flag in the ocean shipping industry – the AGWI Lines. “AGWI” was an acronym for the Atlantic, Gulf & West Indies Steamship Lines. 

Consolidated Steamship Company

The Consolidated Steamship Company was begun by Charles W. Morse on January 1, 1907.  Morse combined the Mallory Line, the Porto Rico Line, the Ward Line, the Metropolitan Steamship Company and Eastern Steamship Company to form Consolidated Steamship Lines.

Unfortunately, the financial Panic of 1907 sent Consolidated Steamship Company into bankruptcy in 1908. The bankrupt company was sold to the Atlantic, Gulf and West Indies Steamship Company, Inc., or as noted above AGWI. The Metropolitan Steamship Company and Eastern Steamship Company that had been part of Consolidated Steamship Company were not sold to AGWI Lines.

AGWI’s history

AGWI Lines was a holding company for the four companies purchased from the bankrupt Consolidated. Founded in 1908, the company was headquartered in New York City. AWGI Lines operated these four lines in the late 1910s, 1920s and 1930s: the Clyde Steamship Co.; the Mallory Steamship Co.; the New York & Cuba Mail Steamship Co. (which was also known as the Ward Line); and the New York & Porto Rico Steamship Co. (which was also known as the Porto Rico Line). 

The company had sales offices in Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago and Washington, D.C. Following World War I, there was a plentiful supply of surplus merchant ships, and ships were purchased and added to the company’s holdings. AGWI Lines’ ships called primarily at various ports along the Atlantic seaboard, islands in the Caribbean and ports along the Gulf Coast.

The four lines operated under separate managements. The ships of the four lines transported passengers, cargo and mail. Through its AGWI Steamship News magazine, AGWI Lines issued joint sailing lists covering all of its lines, in addition to the separate sailing lists issued by each line.

Mallory Line

The Mallory Line (which was also known as the New York & Texas Steamship Company) of New York City was founded in 1866. Mallory Line was an early family-owned passenger line, started by Charles Henry Mallory. 

The Mallory Line served New York, Galveston, Texas, New Orleans, Mobile and Havana. In 1907 Mallory Line was sold to Morse and became part of the ill-fated Consolidated Steamship Lines. After Consolidated Steamship’s 1908 bankruptcy, the Mallory Line was sold to the AGWI Steamship Company. AGWI continued sailing Mallory Line ships until 1932. 

The Mallory Line was merged with the Clyde Line in 1932 to become the Clyde-Mallory Line. The company’s main ports of call were: Boston; New York City; Wilmington, Delaware; Charleston, South Carolina; Jacksonville, Miami, Key West and Tampa, Florida; Mobile; New Orleans; and Galveston.

In 1949, the Clyde-Mallory Line was sold to the Bull Line, which ended the use of the Clyde-Mallory name. 

Clyde Line

Thomas Clyde founded the Clyde Steamship Company in New York City in 1872. Clyde Line ships originally sailed between port cities in the Northeast and Southeast, including Boston; New York City; Providence, Rhode Island; Havana; and New Orleans. Later, routes to the Dominican Republic and other West Indies islands were added. 

In 1908 the Clyde Line ships became part of the AGWI Steamship Company. As noted above, the Mallory Line and the Clyde Line were merged in 1932, and as also noted above, the Clyde-Mallory Line ran from 1932 until it was acquired in 1949. 

Porto Rico Line

The Porto Rico Line was founded in 1895 as the New York and Porto Rico Steamship Company. The partners who owned the company were Archibald H. Bull and Juan Ceballos. The ships of the Porto Rico Line sailed from Brooklyn’s Red Hook Atlantic Basin Pier 35 to Puerto Rico. The Porto Rico Line carried cargo and tourists. Puerto Ricans also migrated from the island to New York via the Porto Rico Line.

Ward Line

The Ward Line began as the New York and Cuba Mail Steamship Company, which was founded in 1877. The Ward Line’s first route offered service to and from New York, Nassau and Havana. The Ward Line acquired the Alexandre Line in 1888 and added service to Mexico’s Gulf Coast ports. 

World War II

AGWI Lines Inc. ran charter shipping for the Maritime Commission and War Shipping Administration during World War II. In addition to the company’s own ships, AGWI Lines operated Victory and Liberty ships on behalf of the government. The ships were run by officers and crew hired by AGWI, while the U.S. Navy supplied armed guards to man the ships’ deck guns and radios. 

Post-war

The investment firm Graham-Newman Corporation purchased a controlling interest in AGWI Lines Inc in 1949. The firm and its assets were liquidated in 1956 when Benjamin Newman retired.