The Adelaide Steamship Company was Australia’s largest shipping company and one of South Australia’s most successful business ventures. The South Australian Maritime Museum’s Adsteam collection includes several hundred objects including ship fittings, furnishings and badged crockery and cutlery, tickets, brochures, ships plans and passes, models and paintings of ships from the line, documents, wage books, ledgers, uniforms and furnishing from the company’s offices. Material relating to the company’s operation was donated by Svitzer. The collection helps document the founding of the company in 1875 and trace its history through the themes of colonial enterprise, wartime and defence, work and culture, cruising and pleasure.
This collection is the most comprehensive and extensive collection of objects relating to the Adelaide Steamship Company in Australia. ASC was Australia’s largest shipping company and one of South Australia’s most successful business ventures. Wool, wheat and minerals were making South Australia rich in the 19th century. Cargoes were booming but South Australian shipping was frustrated by small companies and inter-colonial rivals. In 1875 a group of savvy pastoralists and businessmen took action. They aimed to control the transport of their goods and profit via an efficient passenger vessel service.
For more than 100 years the company’s fleet dominated Australian passenger and cargo shipping from Darwin to Townsville. The collection documents the day to day operation of this substantial enterprise and its significance to the South Australian economy and beyond. The Company employed nearly 800 people at sea and about 90 onshore. Office managers were expected to work as required to keep ships moving and profitable. While there was great loyalty from some workers, there were also major waterside disputes during the 1890s and 1920s. In wartime the company’s vessels were requisitioned for global campaigns and in peace they offered Australians the journey of a lifetime.
For over 50 years from 1910 to the 1960s the Gulf Trip on Adelaide Steamship vessels was a unique way to see South Australia. Popular with honeymooners and notorious party ships for young men, the seven-day trip cost £6 in 1939. Ships like the Minnipa, Manunda, Moonta and Morialta provided an opportunity for romance and gave many Australians the time of their lives. Luxury was also offered to passengers on the interstate trade. In 1933 Manoora showcased the latest in streamline design.