Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Inman, William

INMAN, WILLIAM (1825–1881), founder of the Inman line of steamships, born at Leicester on 6 April 1825, was fourth son of Charles Inman, a partner in the firm of Pickford & Co., who died on 10 Nov. 1858, by Jane, daughter of Thomas Clay of Liverpool (she died 11 Nov. 1865). Thomas Inman [q. v.], the mythologist, was his elder brother. Educated at the Collegiate Institute at Liverpool and at the Liverpool Royal Institution, William served as a clerk successively to Nathan Cairns (brother of the first Earl Cairns), to Cater & Company, and to Richardson Brothers, all merchants at Liverpool. Of the latter firm he became a partner in January 1849, and managed their fleet of American sailing packets, then trading between Liverpool and Philadelphia. Here he first gained an intimate knowledge of the emigration business. Having watched with interest the first voyage to America, early in 1850, of Tod & Macgregor's screw iron ship the City of Glasgow of 1,600 tons and 350 horse-power, he was convinced of the advantages she possessed over both sailing ships and paddle steamers for purposes of navigation. In conjunction with his partners, he purchased the City of Glasgow, and on 17 Dec. in the same year despatched her with four hundred steerage passengers on a successful voyage across the Atlantic. In 1857 he formed the Liverpool, New York, and Philadelphia Steamship Company, better known as the Inman line. Between 1851 and 1856 the company purchased the City of Manchester, the City of Baltimore, the Kangaroo, and the City of Washington, all iron screw-ships. In 1857 the company enlarged the area of their operations by making New York one of their ports of arrival, and establishing a fortnightly line thither. In 1860 they introduced a weekly service of steamers; in 1863 they extended it to three times a fortnight, and in 1866 to twice a week during the summer. The failure of the Collins line was advantageous to Inman, for he adopted their dates of sailing, and henceforth carried the mails between England and America. Inman specially directed his attention to the removal of the discomforts of emigrant passengers. In 1875 the City of Berlin, the longest and largest steam-vessel afloat, the Great Eastern excepted, was launched. Inman was a member of the local marine board, of the Mersey Docks and Harbour Trust, and of the first Liverpool school board; was a captain of the Cheshire rifle volunteers, a magistrate for Cheshire, and chairman of the Liverpool Steam Shipowners' Association. He frequently gave evidence before committees of the House of Commons, more particularly in 1874 on the committee on Merchant Ships Measurement of Tonnage Bill (Parliamentary Papers, 1874, vol. x., Report 1874, pp. 182–8, 238–47).

He died at Upton Manor, near Birkenhead, on 3 July 1881, and was buried in Moreton parish church on 6 July. He married, on 20 Dec. 1849, Anne Brewis, daughter of William Stobart of Picktree, Durham, by whom he had twelve children, nine sons and three daughters.

[Lindsay's Merchant Shipping, 1876, iv. 251–260, 611–12; Times, 26 Jan. 1877, p. 10, 5 July 1881, p. 8; Burke's Landed Gentry.]

G. C. B.