House Flags of U.S. Shipping Companies

Major Modern Companies, A through C

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House Flags of Shipping Companies

House flags, also known as company flags or private signals, indicate the owner or operator of a merchant vessel. Before the days of radio, the sighting of the house flag at the foremast of a vessel arriving near a port would enable the owners to be notified so they could make immediate arrangements to unload the cargo and passengers and so on. The practice of using house flags seems to have originated in Liverpool around the end of the 18th century and quickly spread throughout the world. It is not possible to illustrate all the thousands of flags that have been used by U.S. shipping companies over the years, so the following is merely a selection of those of especially notable companies to illustrate the range of designs used. The flags of U.S. shipping companies most often consist of the company initial or initials on the center of a geometrical figure, such as a diamond or circle.  Red, white, and blue are the colors most frequently used. One interesting aspect of these flags is the way one can sometimes trace the history of a line and its organizational genealogy through the changes in its flags.

Major Modern Shipping Companies, A through C

Alaska Steamship Company (1895-1970)

Alcoa Steamship Company (1917-present) (old flag)

Alcoa Steamship Company (modern flag)

American Export Lines (1919-1964)

American Export Isbrandtsen Lines (1964-1977)

American-Hawaiian Steamship Company (1899-1956)

American Mail Line (1920-1954)

American President Lines (1938-present)

Amoco Oil Company 
Logo has undergone minor changes and now reads "Amoco."

Black Diamond Steamship Corporation (1918-1950s)

Bloomfield Steamship Company (1946-1968)

A. H. Bull Steamship Company (1902-1963)

Calmar Steamship Company (1927-1976)
Subsidiary of Bethlehem Steel Corporation

Central Gulf Lines (1947-present)

Cleveland-Cliffs Iron Company 

Cosmopolitan Shipping Company (1916-1980s)

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Copyright 2000, 2001 by Joseph McMillan