In 1902 Waterman moved to Mobile as
manager of the Elder Dempster Steamship Company, a large British steamship firm. In 1919,
Waterman, with T.M. Stevens, W.D. Bellingrath and C.W. Hempstead, organized the Waterman
Steamship Corporation. Waterman was elected president and director. Starting with one
ship, leased from the U.S. Shipping Board, the company continued to increase in size and
importance. During World War II, the company operated a fleet of 125 ships, and its
affiliate, the Gulf Shipbuilding Corporation, built scores of navy and cargo ships for the
Waterman Steamship Corporation History
Following World War I, The United States Shipping Board, in an effort to upgrade and strengthen the American Merchant Marine, initiated a program of allocating war-built vessels to American Managing agents assigned to various routes. The Board allocated ships to 135 firms throughout the United States. One vessel, the Eastern Sun, went to Waterman for British trade, running from the Gulf to Liverpool and Manchester. A short time later, three additional ships were allocated to the company.
Ryan Stevedoring Company was organized in 1924 as a wholly-owned subsidiary, for the business of loading and discharging vessels. Also, in 1924, in a government consolidation, the company was selected as the only government operator at the port of Mobile.
In 1926, Waterman organized and became president of the Mobile, Miami and Gulf Steamship Company, which became the Waterman Line. This enabled the company to expand its operations from Mobile and other gulf ports to Tampa, Key West, Miami, Puerto Rico and the West Indies.
Continuing its expansion, Waterman, in 1930, purchased from the government the Mobile Oceanic Line, including fourteen ships that were soon refitted and improved for freight and passenger service. The Pan-Atlantic Steamship Corporation, with four vessels, was acquired in 1933. From 1935 to 1937 the management of fifteen vessels of the Anchor Line of Glasgow was taken over, involving a contract to handle all the International Paper Company newsprint exported from Canada.
From its humble, one-ship beginning, the Waterman Corporation continued to increase in size and importance, eventually owning and operating its own shipbuilding and repair yards, employing thousands of workers, controlling dock and terminal facilities, possessing its own terminal, carrying on airline freight operations and, by World War II, operating a fleet of 125 ships over the seven seas.
On January 21, 1955, McLean Industries, Inc. purchased from Waterman Steamship Corporation all of the capital stock of Pan Atlantic Steamship Corporation and Gulf Florida Terminal Company, Inc. Later, in May 1955, McLean Industries, Inc. purchased the stock of Waterman Steamship Corporation from the stockholders.
Scope and Content of the Collection
The Waterman files, 13 cubic feet, contain some correspondence dated as early as 1910, however, the bulk of the collection covers the period from the founding of the company in 1919 through 1937. The files are arranged alphabetically by subject. Box inventories are available on site and on this web site.
Central to the collection is correspondence relating to the United States government's ocean mail contracts and correspondence between the company and the United States Shipping Board. The early subsidation of the American Merchant Marine was a very important factor in the founding and growth of the Waterman Corporation.
Other important materials in this collection include: 1) Correspondence, by-laws, board minutes, and various financial records relating to the founding of Ryan Stevedoring Company, Waterman's subsidiary for loading and discharging vessels; 2) Materials pertinent to the acquisition of the Mobile, Miami and Gulf Steamship Company in 1926, the purchase of the Mobile Oceanic Line (1930), and the addition of the Pan-Atlantic Steamship Company (1933), along with the operation and future development of these new additions; 3) Waterman financial records - audits, balance sheets, cost reports, and profit and loss statements; 4) Information pertaining to the operation of various Waterman vessels: the purchase of, time trials, refitting, construction and construction loans, investigations, insurance, collisions and damage reports, and various maintenance and cost reports; and 5) Correspondence between Waterman and its operations at Tampa, Miami, Puerto Rico, and other Gulf and Eastern Atlantic ports. Also, correspondence concerning the company's operations in Hamburg, Cuba, England and Scotland, Rotterdam and Antwerp.