Compagnie Générale Transatlantique


21 picture postcards of the fleet of the Compagnie Générale Transatlantique. The collection contains images of the ships: France 2x, Colombie 2x, Liberté 2x, Flandre 2x, Ile de France, Antilles 3x, De Grasse, Ville d’Oran, Caribe, Ville de Bordeaux, Maryland, Fort Niagara, Fort Royal, Equateur and Wyoming.

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The Compagnie Générale Transatlantique (CGT, and commonly named “Transat”), typically known overseas as the French Line, was a French shipping company. Established in 1855 by the brothers Émile and Issac Péreire under the name Compagnie Générale Maritime, the company was entrusted by the French government to transport mails to North America. In 1861, the name of the company was changed to Compagnie Générale Transatlantique. The company’s first vessel, the SS Washington, had its maiden voyage on 15 June 1864. After a period of trials and errors in the late 19th century, the company, under the direction of its presidents Jules Charles-Roux and John Dal Piaz, gained fame in the 1910s and 1930s with its prestigious ocean liners such as SS Paris, SS Île de France, and especially SS Normandie. Fragilized by the Second World War, the company regained its fame in 1962 with the famous SS France, which suffered major competition from air transport and was retired from service in 1974. In 1977, the company merged with the Compagnie des Messageries Maritimes to form the Compagnie Générale Maritime. Then, in 1996, the company Compagnie Générale Maritime merged to form the CMA CGM. Contrary to what its name suggests, Transat was not content with operating just in the North Atlantic route. It also offered service to Central America and even, for a time, the Pacific coast. From the beginning of the 20th century, it offered crossings between Marseille and Algiers, creating a tourist circuit in North Africa in the 1920s. In the 1930s, the company briefly became involved in aviation through Air France Translatlantique. Other than operating ocean liners, the company also had a significant fleet of freighters. The cargo service was started in the 1900s. The ocean liners of Transat were often symbolic works of art of their time; they were intended to represent an image of France abroad. The quality of services on board, such as that of meals and wines, had attracted wealthy clientele, including Americans at the time of the Prohibition in the United States. Years after the company’s demise, its heritage continues to attract collectors and is showcased in exhibitions.



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