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House Flags of U.S. Shipping Companies: C

Last modified: 2016-03-26 by rob raeside
Keywords: united states shipping lines |
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California & Oregon Coast Steamship Co.

[California & Oregon Coast Steamship Co.] image by Joe McMillan

California Navigation & Improvement Co.

[California Navigation & Improvement Co.] image by Joe McMillan

California Navigation & Improvement Co.

A local line that operated on lower the Sacramento River between San Francisco and Stockton, California, ca. 1900.

Source: (no longer available)

Joe McMillan, 7 September 2001

Calmar SS Co.

[Calmar SS Co.] image by Joe McMillan

Calmar SS Co., New York (1927-1976)
See also: Ore SS Co., New York (pre-World War I through post-World War II)
These two companies were subsidiaries of the Bethlehem Steel Company, the second largest in the United States and, at the time, the second largest in the world. Like US Steel, Alcoa, and other companies, Bethlehem found general shipping companies unresponsive to its needs. Ore was a purely proprietary company that carried only Bethlehem cargoes--ore to the mills and steel to markets--while Calmar operated between the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, taking steel products westbound and lumber eastbound. By the late 1940s, Bethlehem operated not only these but three other steamship companies. After closing down Calmar in 1976, Bethlehem still operated one remaining carrier, the Interocean Shipping Company, until 1986. Both Calmar and Ore flew blue flags with white upper and lower edges and the company initial, "C" or "O" in white stencil-style block letter.

Sources: Stewart (1953), US Navy's 1961 H.O.

Joe McMillan, 7 September 2001

Caltex Oil Co.

[Caltex Oil Co.] image by Joe McMillan

Caltex Oil Co is a joint venture of Standard Oil of California (SoCal, now Chevron) and Texaco, originally for exploration, pumping, and refining in the Persian Gulf. The emblem is strongly reminiscent of Texaco's, but (at least according to Stewart, 1953) on SoCal's blue field rather than Texaco's green.

[Caltex Oil Co.] image by Joe McMillan

However, (no longer available) shows a picture that appears to have the Caltex emblem on a green field, although the difference may be a result of photography lighting or fading on the china pattern from which the photograph was taken.

Sources: Stewart (1953), (no longer available)

Joe McMillan, 7 September 2001

Carnival Cruise Lines

[Carnival Cruise Lines] image by Joe McMillan, 9 July 2005

Carnival Cruise Lines was founded by Ted Anson in 1972 and has since become the foundation for the largest cruise line operation in the world, Carnival Corporation. Carnival acquired Holland America in 1989, Seabourn in 1992, Costa in 1997, Cunard in 1998, and P&O Princess Cruises in 2003. Carnival Cruise Lines proper operates 21 ships, each carrying from 2,000 to 3,000 passengers and ranging in size up to more than 300 meters and 110,000 tons. It bills itself as the most popular cruise line in the world. Its destinations are mainly in the Caribbean, New England and the Canadian Maritimes, the west coast of Mexico, Alaska, and between the US west coast and Hawaii. The flag is red with a white letter O filled with blue. Source: Personal observation aboard M/S Carnival Miracle last week; it can also be seen at the corporate website, Although a US corporation, most of Carnival's ships are registered in Panama
Joe McMillan, 9 July 2005

[Carnival Cruise Lines] image by Jarig Bakker

Carnival Cruise Lines, inc., Miami FA - red flag, over all blue "O" outlined white. This source shows a larger "O".
Source: Loughran (1995)
Jarig Bakker, 5 November 2005

Castle & Cook Inc.

[Castle and Cook Inc.] image by Jarig Bakker, 6 January 2006

Castle & Cook Inc., San Francisco, CA - green flag, yellow disk over a small yellow wave.
Source: Loughran (1995)
Jarig Bakker
, 6 January 2006

Catskill Evening Line

[Catskill Evening Line] image by Joe McMillan

Catskill Evening Line
A Hudson River company that operated between New York and the Catskill Mountain region until 1928. The companies were identified according to the time of their daily upstream departures.
Source: (no longer available)

Joe McMillan, 8 September 2001

Central & South American Telegraph Co.

[Central & South American Telegraph Co.] image by Joe McMillan

Central & South American Telegraph Co., New York
Flown by cable laying ships. The same flag was used by the associated Mexican Telegraph Co, also of New York. The flag was blue with a white lightning flash issuing from the upper hoist, running diagonally between two white stars, each with two points up, in upper fly and lower hoist.
Source: Lloyd's House Flags, 1912

Joe McMillan, 4 October 2001

Central Gulf Lines

[Central Gulf Lines] image by Joe McMillan

Central Gulf Lines, New Orleans/Dover, Del. (1947-present)
A company notable primarily for having succeeded in making money with the LASH (lighter-aboard-ship) technology, an alternative to containers in which barges are hoisted aboard the ship and carried to the destination. Services run from inland coal transportation on the Mississippi and its tributaries to automobile carrying between Japan and the United States. Flag is a red swallowtail with an eight-pointed white compass star.
US Navy's 1961 H.O.

Joe McMillan, 8 September 2001

[Central Gulf Lines] image by Jarig Bakker

A second flag has been sighted, by myself in 1989 amongst others, with uncertainty as to whether it is swallow-tailed. On the star of this is black lettering comprising a large "C" enclosing a smaller "G" in turn in closing the start of the smaller word "LINES". My sighting was ashore, I do not know about the others, but there is a suggestion that it is a shore-only flag.
Neale Rosanoski, 1 February 2004

[Central Gulf Lines Inc.] image by Jarig Bakker, 5 February 2006

Central Gulf Lines Inc., New Orleans - red flag, white 8-pointed star.
Source: Loughran (1995)
Jarig Bakker, 5 February 2006

W. R. Chamberlain & Co.

[W. R. Chamberlain & Co.] image by Joe McMillan

W. R. Chamberlain & Co., Portland, Ore. [u9s61a]
A blue "C" on a white lozenge on red. Still in business in 1972, but no further information.
Source: US Navy's 1961 H.O.

Joe McMillan, 8 September 2001

Chamberlain & Phelps

[Chamberlain & Phelps] image by Joe McMillan

Chamberlain & Phelps, New York
Operated a line of sail packets between New York and Liverpool--i.e., bringing Irish immigrants to New York--in the 1840s and 50s. A distinctive flag of five vertical stripes alternating red and white.
Source:  chart of "Private Signals of the Merchants of New York"

Joe McMillan, 8 September 2001

Chambers & Heiser

[Chambers & Heiser] image by Joe McMillan

Chambers & Heiser, New York
A mid-nineteenth century company with an interesting house flag: a blue hoist and a white fly with three tails, the middle one red.
Source:  chart of "Private Signals of the Merchants of New York"

Joe McMillan, 11 September 2001

Chevron Shipping

Chevron Shipping, Los Angeles (1895-present)(and predecessors)
Chevron Shipping is the tanker subsidiary of Chevron Corporation, the successor of the Standard Oil (California) unit of the Rockefeller Standard Oil Trust of the early 20th century. The company's roots were in the Pacific Coast Oil Co, founded in 1879, which went into the shipping business in 1895 and merged with Standard Oil in 1900. In 1906, Standard Oil (California) was set up within the trust, and in 1911 it was spun off as one of the new companies when the courts broke up Standard Oil on antitrust grounds. Over time, Socal, as it was called, set up a variety of shipping subsidiaries including the California Transport Corp, the California Tanker Co, and the Socal Marine Department. All these were consolidated in 1957 into the California Shipping Co, which was renamed Chevron Shipping when SoCal became the Chevron Corporation in 1984. The flags are those of:

Standard Oil of California

[Standard Oil of California] image by Joe McMillan

Standard Oil of California - White initials of the company on a blue field.
Source: Wedge (1926)

Joe McMillan, 11 September 2001

California Oil Co.

[California Oil Co.] image by Joe McMillan

California Oil Co. - The acronym for California Standard Oil (Calso) in white letters on a red field.
Source: Wedge (1926)

Joe McMillan, 11 September 2001

California Transport Corp.

[California Transport Corp.] image by Joe McMillan

California Transport Corp. - The same acronym in red letters on a white disk on a blue field.
Source: Stewart (1953)

Joe McMillan, 11 September 2001

[California Transport Corp.] image by Jarig Bakker

Brown 1958 shows a different version of a blue field bearing the chevron outlined white and above it the white letters "CALSO" with the "L" being taller. It also shows a similar flag with a red field for California Tanker Co.
Neale Rosanoski, 1 February 2004

Standard Oil Company of California

[Standard Oil Company of California] image by Joe McMillan

Standard Oil Company of California - The red, white, and blue chevron logo on a white disk. The chevron was first used as a trademark of Standard Oil of California in 1931. Chevron then became a trade name under which the company marketed fuels in parts of the country where other successors to the Rockefeller Trust had the rights to use the name "Standard." As noted above, the company changed its official name to "Chevron" in 1984. I believe its tankers now fly a white flag with the current version of the trademark, a modification of that shown here with the name "Chevron" above the chevrons in black, but I don't know that for a fact.
Sources: Stewart & Styring (1963), Styring (1971)

Joe McMillan, 11 September 2001

[Chevron] image by Jarig Bakker, 15 October 2005

The flag did become the white field with the chevron and above it "Chevron" in black. Presumably there is a new flag following the October 9th 2001 merger with Texaco Inc. forming Chevrontexaco Corporation.
Neale Rosanoski, 1 February 2004

Chicago, Duluth & Georgian Bay Line

[Chicago, Duluth & Georgian Bay Line] image by Joe McMillan

Chicago, Duluth & Georgian Bay Line
A Great Lakes company. The flag is simply the name "Georgian Bay Line" in white on blue.
Source: National Geographic (1934)

Joe McMillan, 14 September 2001

China Mail Steamship Co.

[China Mail Steamship Co.] image by Ivan Sache, 7 July 2005

The China Mail Steamship Co. was a short-lived company, probably based in San Francisco. See a picture of the house flag here: It is red with a large white disk bearing red interlocked initials ‘C’ and ‘M’ (assuming, as always, that the true colours are shown – this is my only source).

The announcement on the web of a lecture by Bob Barde (2 Dec. 2004): provides some information. Chinese and Chinese Americans wanted to have their own firm dedicated to immigrant transportation in the Pacific, an activity until then monopolized by Western and Japanese companies. Founded in 1915, Chinese Mail stopped its operations seven years later.

From Shehong Chen, "Being Chinese. Becoming Chinese American" at
Highlights of this chapter: China Mail established October, 1915, as an expression of Chinese American (anti-Japanese) nationalism and the will to economic autonomy; it was a US firm rejecting a venture with the Chinese government. In fact, the Chinese community enthusiastically bought shares.

"A grand ceremony was held to raise the company flag on the ship. Invited to the ceremony were 1,000 American Chinese and 1,000 non-Chinese Americans. A prayer was offered by a Chinese Presbyterian minister. The China set out on its maiden voyage for Asia under the new flag on October 30, 1915”.
Chinese, American or not, patronized the company and the future looked bright but by 1917 the cost of buying and repairing a second ship caused financial problems. A new company, heir to the first one but now with some Westerners on the board, was seen as selling out to non-Chinese interests. After WWI , the growing competition led to the firm’s looking for fresh capital in China and Hong Kong but to no avail. Growing debts caused China Mail to go bankrupt in 1923. The author concludes that the company was one of the factors leading to a heightened Chinese awareness, specifically within the US but at the same time concerned with the many problems the motherland was facing.

Jan Mertens, 6 July 2005

C. H. Church & Son Star Line

[C. H. Church & Son Star Line] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 1 March 2012

C. H. Church & Son Star Line, San Francisco
Source: (no longer available)
Joe McMillan, 14 September 2001

The website at presents a card ‘C.H. Church & Co.’ also known as ‘Star Line’ apparently established in New York and naming as ports of call San Francisco, Valparaiso, Baltimore and Le Havre:

[C. H. Church & Son Star Line] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 1 March 2012

The house flag is a blue swallowtail with a white cross throughout and a red diamond bearing a white five-pointed star in the cross’s centre, similar to that above, but with the blue and white colours are reversed. The company seat was San Francisco.

The on-line Directory of Private Signals shows a flag (“burgee”) much like the one on the sailing card:, under no. 14.1.10 i.e. ‘Church, Cliff and Co., New York’ and having as its source ref. 51 which is "Shipping House Flags" by H. Percy Ashley.

However, in this version the diamond is bigger and two of its points – the upper and the lower one – are much sharper.

I have been unable to figure out what the precise connection is between these two firms, if there really were two firms. This leaves us, for the moment, with a variant house flag.
Jan Mertens, 24 August 2005


  • As the company is situated in the Tontine Building, it's 1843 at the earliest, when the name "Tontine Coffee House" changed to "Tontine Building". Not much, of a limit, but still.
  • There are two entries for Therese (ship) with a master called Wallace in the Mystic Seaport Ship Register Search, from 1858 and 1859. Neither mention Church, unfortunately. Were the lines of these shipping companies sailed by ships actually owned by others?
  • At a source from 1853 is given as "C.H. Church & Co's Star Line for San Francisco. The magnificent A1 clipper ship Silver Star ... is loading at Pier 9 East River ...". The type of source is not mentioned, but the text suggests this is a sailing card as well.
  • In 1858, a Silver Star still sails the route: shows a sailing card auctioned at PBA Galleries Auctions & Appraisers: "SILVER STAR. Clipper ship sailing card, on porcelain coated stock, printed in silver, black, blue & red ... New York: July 1858 Rare sailing card for the vessel in C.H. Church & Co's Star Line, Thomas F. Wade the commander". Again, Mystic Seaport's Ship Registry lists the ship the master and the building year, the latter being 1956 would suggest the line replaced the ship, but no mention of Church.
  • At another card lists the Star of the Union, for C.H. Church and Co., for 1853.
  • The New York Times gives some hits as well, but none before 1853. (They did print shipping messages for San Francisco already throughout 1852, so it's not for lack of reporting.) Apparently, 1853 saw the start of the Star Line. I also can't find any mention after the Therese in 1859.

Church, Cliff & Co.

[Church, Cliff & Co.] image by Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 1 March 2012

Mystic Seaport lists and pictures a house flag for Church, Cliff & Co., New York, no year given, at, which is part of "A Directory of Private Signals Flown by American Merchant Sail: One Thousand House Flags of Ship Owners, Shipping Merchants and Shipping Agents; 2001-2002", from the William L. Crothers Collection. This particular flag, 14.1.10, is covered in William L. Crothers Collection (Coll. 282), (box 2, folder 21) Reference 51: "Shipping House Flags" by H. Percy Ashley. The flag shown is similar to the flag of C.H. Church & Co., but has a diamond that is higher than it's wide.
BTW, there's also: ... (folder 22) Reference 52: "Shipping House Flags" by Capt. H. Percy Ashley. It may well be it's the same material but merely too much to fit in one folder. In fact, most of the William L. Crothers Collection is about house flags, hence the index of One Thousand of them, I guess.

Considering that H. Percy Ashley was born in 1868, according to the Library of Congress, this last source is likely to be more recent, which suggests Church, Cliff & Co. may be a successor company. It might be C.H. Church & Co. first, then C.H. Church & Son when Church Jr. joins the firm, and finally Church, Cliff & Co. after the father has left the firm and a new partner has been found. However, to confirm that, we'd have to find information on the other two. Other scenarios, of course, are possible as well.
Peter Hans van den Muijzenberg, 1 March 2012

Circle Shipping Co.

[Circle Shipping Co.] image by Joe McMillan

Circle Shipping Co., New York
I believe this must be the company that runs the Circle Line ferries around New York City, so named because of the route around the island of Manhattan. Perhaps a New Yorker can confirm.
Source: US Navy's 1961 H.O.
Joe McMillan
, 14 September 2001

More likely I would imagine this to be Circle Shipping Co. Inc. of New York shown Lloyds Shipowners 1958-9 as operating the tanker "Hunters Point" of Globe Tankers Inc.
Neale Rosanoski, 1 February 2004

See also: Statue of Liberty Ferry

Cities Service Oil Co.

[Cities Service Oil Co.] image by Joe McMillan

Cities Service Oil Co., New York
Predecessor of the company now known as Citgo. An earlier version of this flag apparently had a much more complex version of this logo in black on white.
Sources: Stewart (1953), US Navy's 1961 H.O.

Joe McMillan, 14 September 2001

Founded in the early 1900s, Cities Service was noted for the first long-distance natural gas pipeline in the US (1,000 miles from Amarillo, Texas to Chicago, Illinois, completed in 1931). The company is based in Tulsa, but owned by Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. since the 1990s. The company changed its name to CITGO in 1965.
Phil Nelson, 20 October 2003

[Cities Service Oil Co.] image by Jarig Bakker

The original flag pre-late 1950s design was a smaller version of this emblem (in black and white as stated) being within a similar frame forming a sort of wide annulet which bore at top "CITIES SERVICE OIL(S)" [arced in the shape of the annulet] and at base within a black outlined oblong the company motto "ONCE, ALWAYS" [in a straight line] (there are slight differences in the lettering as shown by Loughran 1979 and Brown 1951. A new flag was adopted in 1974, green with a 3 shades of red triangle edged white and below this the white letters 'CITGO".

US shipping lines house flags - 'C' continued