In the 1840s John S. Williams and Stephen B. Guion established the Black Star Line of Liverpool packets. Due to the increase of business and ships, Stepehn B. Guion moved to Liverpool where he remained to superintend the business of the line in England. His brother, William H. Guion entered the firm, and remained in New York with Mr. Williams. The Black Star Line was a fleet of emigrant sailing vessels, and in 1851 earned a particularly bad name for ill-treatment of the passengers. After the end of the Civil War in America the steamships started to draw most of the growing passenger trade. Because of this Williams and Guion inagurated a new line of steamers in 1866 by the official name of "Liverpool & Great Western Steamship Company". The Black Star Line was subsequently merged in the Liverpool and Great Western Steamship Company, forming a weekly line between Liverpool and New York, first known as the Williams Guion Line, and later just as the Guion Line. The ships called at Queenstown in both directions. They soon established a network of agents
in the various contries where a growing number of emigrants were seeking conveyance across the Atlantic. The first authorized general agency
in Norway was Blickfeldt, Knoph & Co. They were authorized in 1867 to convey emigrants by the Guion Line from Liverpool to New York. In 1870 the authorization specifies that the route from Norway was via Hull
to Liverpool and from there to New York.
In an Advertisement by the general agents Blickfeldt, Knoph & Co in Kristiania for the season of 1872, it is informed that the steamship company at the time owned 10 "1st classed" full-powered transatlantic steamships, and that they were continuously building new ships to meet the demands of the growing number of emigrants. In 1872 they would provide a twice a week service between Liverpool and the United States, conveying mail and passengers, under the name Guion Line (GUION LINIEN). Their ships and captains in 1872 were namely:
Manhattan, Capt. J. B. Price - 3000 Tons
Minnesota, Capt. Morgan - 3000 Tons
Nebraska, Capt. Guard - 3500 Tons
Colorado, Capt T. F. Freeman - 3020 Tons
Nevada, Capt. Forsyth - 3100 Tons
Idaho, Capt. Jas. Price - 3300 Tons
Wisconsin, Capt. T. W. Freeman - 2720 Tons
Wyoming, Capt. Whineray - 3729 Tons
Montana, Capt. Jones - 4000 Tons
Dakota, Capt Harris - 4000 Tons
None of the mentioned ships were said to be more than 3 years old, and all were said to be well known and famous for their size, solidness, comfort and quick voyages. The voyage from Christiania to England was announced to take from 2 - 3 days, and from Liverpool to New York 9 - 11 days. From New York to Chicago by train 36 - 40 hours, and to other places according to distance.
The company later launched new and faster ships. In 1879 the record breaker S/S Arizona was launched. She made the transatlantic crossing from Queenstown to New York in approximately seven days and ten hours. This was a new world record and gave her the prestigious Blue Ribbon, which she held till 1882. By 1883 the fast Guion ships were making the voyage in only 6 - 7 days. The Oregon held the record, reducing the time to 6 days, 10 hours, 10 minutes that same year. The emigrants traveling from ports in Norway and Sweden were usually forwarded to Hull on ships belonging to the Wilson Line. In Hull the emigrants were met by the agents of the Atlantic passenger lines, who helped them with the forwarding of the baggage, and then conducted them to houses, where they obtained breakfast or dinner before they were lead to the railway, providing each person with a ticket to his or her destination. In 1882 those who were booked on the Guion Line were transferred directly from the steamers to the railway without being entertained at the lodging-houses in Hull, so that they were the greater portion of the day without a meal. The Guion Line was the only company who treated their passengers in that manner, and the company was criticised for this in a report Concerning the comfort and protection of emigrants passing through Hull in 1882.
In 1892 there was a serious outbreak of Cholera in New York harbor after several ships had arrived from European ports with infected passengers. Action was taken by the Federal Government towards keeping cholera out of the country. All vessels arriving at United States ports with immigrants on board were to be detained at quarantine for at least twenty days, and longer if further detention was thought best for the public good. In September 1892, the Guion Line along with several other lines then announced that they would entirely stop the booking and conveyance of emigrants. In December the company announced that it was intending to go out of business, and had leased its pier to the White Star Line. The reason to go out of business was claimed to be due to the new restrictions imposed upon vessels carrying steerage passengers. The Guion Line had been much affected by the new restrictions, as it derived its principal revenue from its steerage business. Adding to this, the fleet of the company was already aging and was in strong need of renewal if they were to stand up to the competition of the other lines. The line totally ceased operations in 1894.
The Arizona colliding with an iceberg in 1879
See more images in the Guion Line picture gallery