The North Atlantic Fare War of 1904


ARTICLE on the 1904 fare war's impact on migration:

scroll down for it: here


TEXT EXCERPT from Business of Transatlantic Migration, chapter 4


Piercing the historiographical fog


"The 1904 'war' in passenger fares on the North Atlantic was a key consequence of shipping lines' failed attempts at self-regulating competition through corporate combination and inter-firm agreement during 1900-03...The origins and outcomes of this fare war have nonetheless long been shrouded in historiographical obscurity. How the war started and ended, who won and lost by it, and even when it occurred have been subject to varying interpretation...The confusion partly arises out of a mystery as to why consolidation in North Atlantic shipping should have intensified competition there...


Albert Ballin masterminded the sharp reductions in passage prices in part of a concerted strategy to press the Cunard Line into returning to the system of agreements it had withdrawn from in the wake of IMM's formation...[but]... Cunard and the German lines underestimated each other's strength and tenacity. They, or at least the German companies, also overestimated the staying power of White Star and IMM under Bruce Ismay."




Effects in the USA:

 “Immigration Figures Lower. Officials Not Alarmed -Flood Below

   Last Spring’s Mark”   

        (New York Times, June 15, 1904)


Effects in Britain and Germany:

 “British Prime Minister Arthur Balfour introduced a restrictive immigration bill

   to the House of Commons.”

  "On November 10 and 12 [1904], Ballin, Wiegand, Cunard Chairman Lord

   Inverclyde, and executives of the other big lines settled their differences.”

        (Brinkmann, ‘Why Nathan Attacked Ballin,’ pp. 76-77)


Effects in Scandinanvia:

 “The rate war alone cost DFDS [Scandinanvia America Line] 1 million kroner

  [268 thousand U.S. dollars,  or the 2010 equivalent of about US$11 million]."

        (Per Kristian Sebak, “Russian-Jewish Transmigation,”

          in Tobias Brinkmann, ed., Points of Passage, p. 136)