The forerunner of the
Holland-America Line was the Nederlandsch-Amerikaansche
Stoomvaart Maatschappij (NASM), founded in September 1869.
With four steamers to be built, each costing 450,000
guilders, the organization wanted to start a steam line from
Rotterdam to New York. It took almost two more years to complete
everything and on July 27, 1872, the first ship, the Ariadne,
sailed to New York.
Shortly afterwards, in September and October 1872, the fledgling
company was delivered two new ships: the Rotterdam and the Maas
(later the Maasdam). On her maiden voyage to New York, the
latter carried 70 passengers (10 cabin passengers and 60
steerage emigrants) and 800 tons of cargo, mainly mail and goods.
The predecessor of the Holland-America Line had existed since
1869, but the company officially opened its doors in 1873.
Turbulent, exciting decades followed. How would the NASM do?
Dramatic, especially in the initial phase, was that between 1882
and 1890 a relatively large number of NASM ships were lost. A
total of six pieces. The sinking of the six NASM ships killed
125 people, with the biggest disaster being a collision at sea
In July 1896, the NASM made a name change, mainly because
foreign passengers found the old, long name –
Nederlandsch-Amerikaansche Stoomvaart Maatschappij –
unpronounceable. The new name was more convenient:
Holland-America Line (HAL). The name change took place at a time
when the steamship company had to deal with more and more
emigrants. Emigrant transport gave the Holland-America Line new
Almost all of them were Eastern Europeans who sought their
happiness in America. This 'mass transport' was of great
economic importance to the HAL. With printed matter and offices
abroad, where ticket sales were sold, the HAL recruited its
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