The First 40 Years of Mooremack
Note: We wish we could place the entire 40th Anniversary issue of "The Mooremack News," on the site, but the issue
consists of one article on 22 pages. It is Very Interesting reading. Instead, we will place facts from this issue throughout the site where appropriate. Below is an excerpt that tells the story of how it all began.
A July day in 1913. The schoolmaster, Woodrow Wilson, had been in the White House four months. The Panama Canal would be opened in
another year. The sixteenth amendment to the Constitution had legalized a federal income tax. The Balkans were rumbling. Bulgaria was fighting the Serbs and Greeks on a 300-mile front. And the New York Giants under John J.
McGraw led the National League, with the Superbas (later renamed the Dodgers) in fourth place.
On a morning of that July, in the City of New York, the telephone rang in the office of a young lawyer named Henry P. Molloy, at 25
Broad Street, in the heart of the shipping district. When Mr. Molloy had lifted the receiver a voice said, "Henry, I have a fellow here who has some ideas. Fellow named Moore. We’re going to form a corporation." Young Molloy
recognized the voice as that of his friend, Emmer J. McCormack, a lad of his own age, an associate socially and—in a small way—politically, in Brooklyn’s Bay Ridge section. He had handled
the legal details of several businesses in which young McCormack had engaged. He did not know this "fellow named Moore," though he would soon know him and the two would be friends and business associates many years.
"What are you going to call this corporation?" asked Molloy.
"We’ll call it Moore & McCormack Company, Incorporated," said McCormack.
"You’ll need three directors," said Molloy, always watchful of the legal fine points.
"All right," replied McCormack. “You be a director, along with Moore and me. You be secretary, too. We’ll make Moore president
and I’ll be treasurer. All right with you?"
"Suits me fine," said Molloy.
"All right, get to work on it."
On July 9, 1913 Moore & McCormack Company, Incorporated, officially came into being, capitalized at $5,000 with three
officer-directors, with two desks in a ninth floor office of an eleven-story building at 29 Broadway (since replaced by a more modern structure) and with ambitions and plans — and hopes — its major assets. This company was
destined to survive as such for twenty-five years; in 1938
It was the major one of nine companies that were either consolidated or dissolved to clear the way for the creation of
Moore-McCormack Lines, Incorporated, (capital, $10,400,000) the present corporate form under which a fleet of 37 ships are operated between the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts of the United States, the East Coast of South America,
and Scandinavia and the Baltic, with the operating-trade names of the American Republics Line, the American Scantic Line and the Pacific Republics Line.
True, there had been a few preliminaries before Albert V. Moore and Emmet
J. McCormack formed their corporation. They had already dealt with each other on a business basis as representatives of other
firms and had opportunity to know each other’s talents.
In young McCormack were the energy and experience of a business-seeker who had crossed the river from Brooklyn to the Manhattan
shipping district as a lad of fourteen and had remained, spreading his native vigor among a variety of occupations, venturing into the operation of the first ferry service ever to link Brooklyn and Staten Island,
owning his own
towboat while still a lad of only 25 and finally his own coal company. The shipping industry knew Moore as a tall, retiring fellow whose character and talents complemented those of his new associate. Moore’s talents were
of an executive rather than a salesman. He had been something of a baseball catcher, too, had actually been scouted professionally.
The partners were 33 years old. They had been born nineteen days apart in homes less than twenty miles apart, Mr. McCormack in
Brooklyn, Mr. Moore in Hackensack, New Jersey. In the course of their apprenticeship in downtown New York prior to the formation of their own company they had absorbed an enthusiasm which boys always find in a trade or
profession which they are determined to make their life work.
Young Moore was bitten by the urge to enter shipping as a boy. His grandfather was a shipmaster and his uncle was both owner and
master of a ship. His father was a manufacturer who owned an interest in several ships. While still a youth he joined the staff of Bowring & Co., of New York City, a British shipowning firm; when he left that organization four
years later to join the Tweedie Trading Company, also of New York, he had mastered many branches of the industry. He was with the Tweedie firm six years, serving as secretary of the company and the first assistant to its head.
He was particularly interested in chartering, and became known in the industry as one of its ablest chartering agents.
In the course of his work with the Tweedie company, Mr. Moore became acquainted with the young McCormack, who was working himself
up through various stages of shipping to the ownership of his own firm, It is a frequently repeated story in Mooremack circles that Mr. Moore gave Mr. McCormack’s company the first coal contract it ever had, and it is Mr.
McCormack’s memory that this story is true.
The McCormack business career had started when the future shipping magnate was a lad of fourteen. And the scene of his first
business activity was, of all places, the tent of a Wild West show. The famous silver-thatched Buffalo Bill had come to Brooklyn in 1894 at a time when the young McCormack felt he had absorbed all the formal schooling he
needed. In Brooklyn’s old Ambrose Park the show was staged, with young McCormack first as water tender for the riders and the Indians, then as salesman of programs. His experience convinced him that school was not for him; he
turned his eyes toward Manhattan, across the bay.
He crossed on the 39th Street ferry from Brooklyn to Manhattan and headed for the shipping district. His father had worked on
tugboats, having risen to the post of engineer on the old Valiant and traveled with her as far as Russia. At No. 26 South Street he found a job — four jobs, actually. For a salary of one dollar per week per employer he went to
work for a ship’s chandler, a firm supplying dunnage for the stowage of case-oil, a stevedoring company and an operator of towboats. Eventually his affection for towing and dunnage outweighed the others. He became a solicitor
for dunnage contracts, mostly for British ships in sail. As steamships grew in importance he became a bunker-coal salesman. An official of an oil company, who liked him personally but disliked his employer, offered him business
on the condition that he become his own employer. He scouted around for funds. His mother sold some building lots and two dunnage firms added their support, so that he was able to buy a vessel that could tow and salvage and
carry as much as 150 tons on deck. He named her the America.
Meanwhile the problem of bunkering coal for British tramp ships had grown in importance and young McCormack turned his attention to
that. He formed the Commercial Coal Company in 1905, his task being to get coal from railroad cars on the terminal sidings into the ships at their berths. In the midst of his problems he made the acquaintance of young Moore and
they worked out coal contracts as previously related. The Tweedie company discontinued at a time when the Commercial Coal Company was expanding, and young Moore joined McCormack, bringing to the operation an abundance of talent
as an executive, a talent which the growing firm could well use. They found they did well together. They moved coal, not only in New York, but in the coastwise trade, too. But they were not satisfied. They talked ships,
speculated, planned, talked some more—then telephoned Henry Molloy.
The new company lost no time, once it had come into being. It moved in with the Commercial Coal Company, which had office space at
29 Broadway and which now obtained a contract to carry coal for the Clinchfield Coal Company, one of the largest firms of its kind in New York. The market was watched for the possibility of a chartering contract which would give
Moore & McCormack Co., Inc. a chance to prove its talents. Long before, the United States and Brasil Mail Steamship Company had operated several years. It was felt that a direct steamer service between New York and Rio would
encourage new trade. The U. S. Post Office Department paid an annual subsidy of $150,000 to the line, but despite this the service was discontinued in 1872 because, according to critics, the ships were too slow and the service
infrequent. In 1913 the new Moore & McCormack Company found itself in a position to operate a ship on charter to Brasil. She was the Montara.
The Montara was an iron ship that had several owners during her career. The firm of A. H. Bull & Company, of New York,
which served as her agent several years, recalls having sold her at least twice, and chartered her several times. She was built in 1881 in Chester, Pennsylvania, by J. Roach & Son, and was 315.6 feet long, 39.2 feet beam and
21.8 feet deep. She was of 1,695 net tons and 2,562 gross, and had two decks and five bulkheads and 217 nominal horsepower. She had been around in her career, even before Moore & McCormack chartered her.
When the Montara headed South on that charter contract in 1913, flying the Stars and Stripes at her mast, no such event had
taken place in 26 years. Many years later Mr. McCormack recalled that when the Montara arrived at the port of Rio de Janeiro, the entire staff of the United States Ministry (we had not yet raised our representative there
to the rank of Ambassador) hurried down to the pier to look upon this wondrously strange sight. They took their cameras with them, to record it for all time.
The Montara holds a revered place in the history of Mooremack, and rightly, for despite the fact the company operated her on
only two voyages she remains the symbol of the energy and imagination of the new company. But the operation had its threatening moments, as Mr. McCormack recalled, in an interview with John Bunker of the Christian Science
Monitor, some thirty-seven years later, as follows:
"In 1913, along with Albert Moore. his long-time partner in the Moore-McCormack Lines, he chartered the S.S. Montara and
entered the steamship business with a contract to haul dynamite from Wilmington, Del., to Brasil.
"'It was a 50-50 proposition,' he explains. ‘Either we would be launched in the shipping business on a very profitable charter or
we would be minus a ship.’
"There was a hitch in the operation, however, and the cargo wasn’t ready when the Montara arrived at Wilmington. If she
waited long, the young partners would be ruined financially, paying her expenses while she idled at anchor, so they jumped at the chance to carry an interim cargo of coal from Norfolk, Va., to Aroostook, Maine.
"'But we didn’t count on the Yankees,' says Mr. McCormack. 'They rigged up such a complicated charter agreement for that cargo of
coal that we were happy to break even on the trip'6."
The last couple of paragraphs in the 40th Anniversary Issue:
... In its [story's] entirety it embraces the contributions of thousands of men and women, sea captains and stenographers,
engineers and longshoremen, clerks and cargo solicitors, stewards and billing clerks, men and women in many parts of the world.
But, basically, the story is that of two young men, richly talented, with courage and imagination and a burning ambition to own and
operate ships, who went ahead with what they wanted most to do. Through the forty years they have inscribed Moore-McCormack indelibly in the records of maritime fame. To have worked with them in bringing their dream to fruition
has been a tremendous experience to the thousands of men and women so fortunate as to have been accepted into the organization, and it can have only one effect, that of inspiring every one of that organization to a determination
to make of Moore-McCormack today something greater than it was yesterday, and tomorrow even greater than it is today.