Founded by the brothers Alfred and Philip Henry Holt in 1865, the Ocean Steam Ship Company of Liverpool (better known as the Blue Funnel Line) has been widely celebrated by maritime historians and historians of marine engineering as the line which introduced the compound engine into long distance steam navigation to the Far East and which thereby killed the famous China tea clippers. In this paper we argue that the local culture within which the Holts constructed their steamship line was characterized by a "moral economy" shared with fellow-members (especially merchants and shipowners) of Renshaw Street Unitarian Chapel in Liverpool. Embedding a moral economy of minimum waste in the engineering and business arrangements that constituted their Company, the Holts sought to design and operate vessels whose "scientific" characteristics of economy and reliability would aspire to, and reflect, the natural and moral perfections of God's Creation. Reading earlier lessons of steamship practice in the light of their Unitarianism, they above all worked to steer a course that would avoid equally extravagance and parsimony.


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pp. 443-469
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