Collection of Menu Cards from Canadian Pacific ship 'Empress of Britain'

Scope and Content

The collection of menu cards for dinner, lunch, and breakfast aboard the liner 'Empress of Britain'is composed of: a pair of dinner menu cards for Gala Night, 16 September 1961; dinner menu card for 18 September 1961 showing Kirkcudbright, Scotland, on cover; a pair of dinner menu cards for 25 August 1963 with locomotive 'Rocket' on cover; dinner menu card for 26 August 1963 with stern of man-of-war on cover; dinner menu card for 27 August 1963 with balloon 'La Minerve' on cover; dinner menu card for 28 August 1963 with 'Puffing Billy' on cover; and a luncheon and breakfast menu card. On its return to the UK after this 1963 trip, the 'Empress of Britain' would have embarked on its last trip from Liverpool as a Canadian Pacific liner.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Canadian Pacific Railway Company entered the ship-owning business in 1884 with three steamers which were built to operate Great Lakes services. In 1887 a service between Vancouver and the Orient was begun with chartered vessels, to be followed in 1891 by the company's own 'Empress' ships - the 'Empress of China', the 'Empress of India' and the 'Empress of Japan'. Then, in 1890, passenger routes were established between Toronto, Montreal and Chicago. Transatlantic passenger services commenced in 1903 when the fleet was augmented by the acquisition of the North Atlantic interests of Elder Dempster & Company. The Company's 'Empress of Britain' (the first of that name) and 'Empress of Ireland' came into service in 1906. The 'Empress of Asia' and the 'Empress of Russia' followed in 1913, the 'Empress of France' in 1919, and the 'Empress of Scotland' in 1921. In 1921 too the title of the operating company became Canadian Pacific Steamships Ltd. On the outbreak of war in 1939, Canadian Pacific placed all their ships at the disposal of the government and several were taken over as troopships.

For the company, Atlantic passenger carrying would last barely four decades. In the 1960s when air travel and cargo containerisation started to compete with North Atlantic shipping companies, the passenger ships were gradually sold and new container and bulk cargo vessels built. The firm moved with the times.

The more modern 'Empress of Britain' was the third Canadian Pacific ship of that name. The first had been renamed the 'Montroyal' in 1924 and was scrapped in 1930, and the second which came into service in 1931 had been requisitioned as a troopship in 1939. This one was bombed, torpedoed and sunk in the North Atlantic in 1940. The newer ship was built by Fairfield Shipbuilding and Engineering of Glasgow and was the sister ship of the 'Empress of England' which came into service a year after the 'Empress of Britain'. The 25,526 ton ship was launched by the Queen in 1955 and was said to be the first of the North Atlantic liners to be completely air-conditioned. The ship's maiden voyage began on 20 April 1956 from Liverpool to Quebec and Montreal, the company's summer route.

The 'Empress of Britain' served only seven years on the route and its final Liverpool trip began on 3 September 1963. It was then chartered for cruising and was sold in November 1964 to a Greek company. Renamed the 'Queen Anna Maria' it sailed from Piraeus to New York and later on from Haifa to New York. In 1975 the ship was sold to Carnival Cruise Lines and was renamed 'Carnivale'. Its name changed again in 1993 to the 'Fiesta Marina'. In April 2000 the ship was still in service, this time with the Greek firm Epirotiki Cruises and called the 'Olympic'.

Access Information

Generally open for consultation to bona fide researchers, but please contact repository for details in advance.

Acquisition Information

Material acquired October 1988, from Mr. C. R. P. May, sometime lecturer in Canadian Studies, Birmingham University, Accession no. E88.138.


The administrative history was compiled using the following material: (1) Full-text [online]. Empress of Britain [Accessed 13 September 2002]. (2) Full-text [online]. The Ships List [Accessed 13 September 2002].

Compiled by Graeme D Eddie, Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections Division.

Other Finding Aids

Important finding aids generally are: the alphabetical Index to Manuscripts held at Edinburgh University Library, Special Collections and Archives, consisting of typed slips in sheaf binders and to which additions were made until 1987; and the Index to Accessions Since 1987.


Check the local Indexes for details of any additions.

Related Material

Look at Archives Hub for descriptions of these collections all held at Liverpool University, Special Collections and Archives: Menu cards of Samaria, Menu card from the RMS Batavia, Menu card cover designs from the Majestic, Miscellaneous ephemera mainly concerning RMS Campania, Photocopies of a Passenger List and Dinner Menu from the Sythia, Photocopies of memorabilia from voyages on board Etruria and Princess Victoria, and Memorabilia relating to the Etruria and the Umbria.