Wednesday, October 17, 2018

The SS Nevada of the Guion Line, Liverpool to New York, 1886 and 1887

The SS Nevada of the Guion Line or the Liverpool and Great Western Steamship Co.
Oil painting presumed to be by James Douglas, in the Mariners' Museum, Newport News, Virginia

Sometimes, playing around on Google pays off. I found this image of an oil painting from the Mariners' Museum in Newport News, VA. It is the ship that brought my Great Grandfather George Robert Vaughan and his family to America in 1887. His father, Thomas, arrived a year earlier on the same ship.

The color and detail are so helpful. Note the two rows of portholes along the line of the hull just above the water line. One of those might have been opened during calm seas to get some fresh air to my infant Great Grandfather. The black smokestacks with the red stripe were distinctive of the Guion Line.

The ship had only one propeller which necessitated the sails in case the engine failed. Steamships were soon outfitted with two engines and screws for additional speed and if one system failed, there was another for backup rather than having to rely on the sails. This artistic representation is a bit fanciful as the sails were rarely used especially if the ship was at full steam as appears here.

The Nevada was built at Palmer's Shipbuilding & Iron Co., Jarrow-on-Tyne outside of Newcastle, England in 1868. That was the same year that Mormon emigrants began using steamships rather than the slower, less-expensive and soon outdated sailing ships. Steamships were coming into their own just as the transcontinental railroad was close to completion across the United States. Steamships and railroads greatly facilitated and expedited the journey from England to Utah. The Guion line became the preferred company for organized Mormon emigrant passage because of the favorable treatment and reduced fairs arranged between the Guion agents in Liverpool and the Church leaders of the British Mission. The Mormons were organized and orderly passengers generally respected by the captains.

There are other great details in this painting. In spite of its base in Liverpool, the Guion line was an American Company. That might account for the names of US states on the bows of its ships. The ship flies the US flag high and a British maritime flag is at the stern out of respect for operating in British waters. On the highest mast flies a unique flag. It's the steamship company's design of a black, six-pointed star in a white diamond on a blue field. It was a flag my ancestors had the blessing to see fluttering above the North Atlantic on the passage to America.

The distinctive flag of the Liverpool and Great Western Steamship Co. or the Guion Line.
Sonne, Conway B., Saints on the Seas; A Maritime History of Mormon Migration (University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, 1983)
The Mariners' Museum and Park, Newport News, Virginia, webpage:


  1. The Red Ensign on the stern indicates that the Ship is UK Flag and Port of Registry. The US Flag is being flown out of courtesy and indicates the ship is probably in American waters. Very nice painting.

  2. My Great Grandfather Axel Saf also came across on the Nevada from Sweden via Glasgow in 1882 at the age of 19. It really interesting to see the actual ship. Photos exist on the Internet.


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