High up on one of the most sumptuous and imposing palaces in the Piazza Unità, facing the sea in Trieste, there is the inscription “Lloyd Triestino” in large letters. This glamorous building still bears witness to the great power of the historic enterprise which, founded on the 2nd August, 1836, remains the oldest still-active shipping company even though its name was changed to Italia Marittima a few years ago and ownership has passed to the Taiwanese Evergreen group. In the XIX Century, Trieste, the chief city and port of the Giulian region which was then part of Austria, became the obvious gateway between European and Eastern markets, thanks to its strategic geographic position. The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 brought enormous benefits to the Lloyd of Trieste. Regular passenger and cargo routes were started to the Middle and Far East, reaching parts of the Red Sea, the Indian peninsula and China and Japan. Other regular intercontinental sea-lanes enriched the company’s offer after the Great War (1914-18), such as the Australian route, reinforcing the established lines which the Lloyd Triestino was already operating before the conflict, such as the service to the Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Egypt. After the Italian colonial adventure in Africa in the inter-war years, the regular routes to the new dominions were also entrusted to Lloyd Triestino. In the 1970s, competition from the airlines forced the Lloyd, like most other shipping companies, to close down its passenger services, withdrawing its glamorous liners and replacing them with container vessels. Although it is now a much lesser enterprise than it was in its glory days, the company still bears eloquent witness to the great seafaring tradition of the Adriatic city of Trieste.
After an uncertain and ill-omened period during the Napoleonic wars and occupation, Trieste staged a rapid resurgence with the support of the government in Vienna and thanks to the development of its harbour and the enterprise of its commercial and shipping interests. It was in this prosperous time of renaissance that the steamer Carolina I entered service in 1818, just weeks after the first steamer ever launched in the Mediterranean Sea (the Ferdinando I of Naples). It was only a matter of a few years before, in 1829, Josef Ressel successfully put to sea in the Gulf of Trieste the first propeller-driven steamer, the Civetta.
In the years between the launch of these two distinctive and important vessels, a group of insurers and tradesmen in Trieste founded the Lloyd Austriaco, copying the example of Lloyd’s of London and its later French imitator; the purpose of this new undertaking was to gather and record information on the shipping industry, its vessels and routes and on the insurance industry. Therefore, one of its earliest activities was the publication of a periodical paper, “Il Giornale del Lloyd”, to collate and promptly diffuse the shipping information it was continually gathering. When the Lloyd started operations, the market was suffering following a period of famine and economic depression and also because it was a turbulent time of political instability in the Middle East. However, the recovery in the markets from 1835 onwards convinced the Lloyd’s shareholders that they should set up the so-called seconda sezione: this “second section” was devoted to the operation of steamships, starting with the purchase of the properties of John Allen, the former English owner of the Carolina I. Growth was tremendously rapid and within a remarkably short space of time the Lloyd had become one of the largest shipping groups in the World. 1837 saw the entry into service of Lloyd’s paddle-wheel steamer Arciduca Lodovico, the first of ten newbuilds which had been ordered by the company. In 1842, two large and luxurious paddle-driven sisterships Imperatore and Imperatrice were launched in Trieste and, during that same year, a regular cargo and passenger line was opened to Dalmatia, the Greek islands, Egypt, Turkey and ports in the Black Sea.
1849 saw another milestone in the Lloyd’s history, when a third section was created: the sezione letteraria was mainly devoted to cultural activities. Its main target was the publication of periodicals and books on different educational and entertainment subjects intended for a wide public. To achieve this purpose, Lloyd’s set up one of the largest print facilities in the whole of Europe: printing technology and specialised manpower brought in from abroad gave life to an extremely interesting part of the history of the Lloyd company, lesser known than some of its other activities but making a substantial contribution to the development of culture among the Italian-speaking public.
A close connection soon developed between the promotion and marketing office of the navigation section and the printing and publishing interests and in a matter of a very few years many illustrators, painters, artists, writers, etc. gravitated around the Lloyd’s large and modern print shop, originally headquartered in the still-existing “Tergesteo Palace”. In 1852, the company ordered three 850-ton sisters Fiume, Jonio and Smirne from British shipyards, the first iron-hulled and propeller-driven merchant vessels to fly the Austrian flag. However, the following year, the board of directors and the main shareholders voted for work to commence on the establishment of an in-house shipyard in the Sant’Andrea area of Trieste. It was intended for the dry-docking, maintenance and revamping of the whole fleet but in 1865 it moved into shipbuilding with the launch of its first new steamer, the Austria. In the coming years, many passenger liners – progressively bigger, more and more powerful and sumptuously decorated – slid down the slipways of what was known as the “Arsenale del Lloyd”. In 1886, the 50th year since the foundation of the navigation section was celebrated by the commissioning of two sister flagships, the Imperator and the Imperatrix, which were a crowning achievement for a fleet which now consisted of no less than 84 ships with a total tonnage of 120,000 tons. In 1907, after a few successful pleasure voyages, the Lloyd Austriaco decided to convert one of its steamers, the 1886-built Thalia, into a full-time “pleasure yacht” (the term cruise ship was not yet known), intended to provide vacations at sea – the Mediterranean in Winter and the North Sea and Norway In Summer. The Thalia proved to be a huge success and was amongst the very first examples in history of passenger ships devoted exclusively to cruising.
The company’s fleet suffered huge losses In the Great War (1914-18) and afterwards the victorious nations were intent on gaining possession of the surviving ships of the defeated countries, including Austria. After a few years flying the inter-allied flag (blue with a horizontal white stripe), the company’s remaining fleet was transferred to the new Lloyd Triestino. (The old name of Lloyd Austriaco was no longer suitable since the city of Trieste and the nearby countryside had become part of Italy in the post-War settlement.)
In 1925 the company took delivery of its first ships to be propelled by internal combustion engines: the Esquilino, Viminale and the later Remo and Romolo had the distinction of being the very first motorships to be built and engined in Italy. The success of these small combi-liners prompted Lloyd Triestino to order its first and major new passenger liner since Austrian days and to fit her with diesel engines. In June 1931, the celebrated Victoria entered service and immediately gained the distinction of being one of the most beautiful, well-proportioned ships ever launched.
In the second half of the ‘Twenties, control of Lloyd Triestino was gained by the Cosulich family of Triestino shipowners and shipbuilders but a few years later, owing to the financial difficulties of the time, the company became the property of another leading Italian shipping concern, the Lloyd Sabaudo of Turin. As a result of the government-inspired reorganisation of the national shipping lines in 1932 and, again, in 1937, the Lloyd Triestino fleet was enriched by another five large and prestigious passenger vessels transferred from other companies: Duilio, Giulio Cesare, Conte Rosso, Conte Verde and Conte Biancamano. These ships, together with the Victoria, gained for the company a high reputation not only for their splendid on-board service but also for their long cruises around the World. On the eve of the Second World War, the fleet of Lloyd Triestino consisted of 85 ships, totalling 700,000 gross tons; by the end of the hostilities only five survived, amounting to 45,000 tons. Despite this depressing situation, the re-birth of the company was extraordinary: after the emergency use of a few old vessels to re-open their business, they started a big programme of newbuildings, partly subsidised by funds supplied by America as part of the Marshall Plan. In 1951, the new sister vessels Australia, Oceania and Neptunia re-opened the express service to Sydney and in the following year two similar sisters, the Africa and Europa re-started the direct service to Cape Town. The newbuild programme of the immediate post-War epoch concluded in 1953 with two more similar ships: the Asia and a new Victoria were allocated to the fast track to India and Pakistan. 1963 was the climax for Lloyd Triestino – but also the start of a rapid decline: that year, the large and beautiful sisterships Galileo Galilei and Guglielmo Marconi started to ply the express Australian route. They were the biggest passenger ships ever built for Lloyd Triestino – and also the last. Although they cut the time to Sydney from 31 to 23 days, they arrived at a time when the decline of the passenger liner caused by the jet planes was irreversible.
POSTCARDS & LITOGRAPHS
Since the early days, and particularly following the opening of the “third section” in 1849, the Lloyd had illustrated their newsletters and timetables with simple line drawings depicting their steamers. With the company becoming more and more active in publicising its operations and with the output of the print-shop increasing, the second half of the XIX century saw the introduction of colour printing . Many artists were recruited to illustrate the company’s advertisements, menus, daily programmes, passenger lists, etc. One of the easiest, cheapest and most effective ways of advertising the ships was the postcard and several young and emerging painters and illustrators took up the profession of “ship portrayers”. Amongst the most famous of them from Trieste was Paolo Klodic who, from the ‘Twenties to the ‘Fifties produced one of the largest collections of passenger ship portraits ever, mainly coloured pencil on board. Thousands of official lithographs and postcards were printed using his artworks and were freely distributed to agents and passengers.
Another early form of advertisement used by shipping companies was posters, hanging in public places (railroad stations, trams and buses, travel agents’ shops, etc.) and on walls. Their big size, compared to postcards, required more detail and graphic skills to add inscriptions, company logos, etc. They were usually realised on two separate sheets: the upper one was in colour with a captivating portrait of the steamship, while the lower one contained the dates of sailing and would therefore be replaced more frequently. Trieste had the privilege of being a cultural melting pot and a prolific place for the artistic avant-garde, above all during the inter-War period, and the publicity market was extremely advanced. The Lloyd capitalised on those local artists who had already gained a reputation outside Trieste, such as Marcello Dudovich and Giuseppe Sigon and his son Pollione; for many years the latter worked for the world famous print facility of the Modiano company, still renowned for producing decks of playing cards. The creativity of new and young artists was also stimulated by public competitions to design, for instance, a new poster, a logo or a depiction of a new vessel or a new route; amongst the many drafts, prepared with different techniques, the winning entries were then chosen to be reproduced in thousands of copies.
BROCHURES & FOLDERS
The promotional material issued by shipping companies is still nowadays collected worldwide and is treasured for its graphic content and art. Among these often small and refined artefacts, brochures and folders are possibly the most ambitious. Folders are made of single large sheets of paper, folded one or more times. Brochures are similar to booklets and consist of more pages, held together by metal clips or by other methods of binding. Folders are, for instance, the ideal way of providing passengers with a plan of the layout of a ship’s decks (the “deck plans”), thus enabling them to tour the ship and find their way about.
Items such as menus, daily programmes and passenger lists are sometimes partly printed on board, while brochures and folders requiring high quality printing are usually produced in print facilities on shore. Some of the items produced for the better shipping companies, including Lloyd Triestino, could be described as masterpieces: not only were they distinguished by the quality of their cover design and their illustrations but they featured different types of paper, dry stamp (i.e. raised) printing, highlights in gold or silver leaf, metal bas reliefs used as inserts, silk ribbons, etc. In its pre-Italian days, the Lloyd Austriaco, although based in Trieste, was obviously strongly connected with the Austrian capital where many of the financial institutions supporting it were based: well-known artists from Vienna were working regularly for the Lloyd: Oscar Herman Lamb, Harry Heusser and Remigius Geyling.
From the ‘Twenties onward, the Lloyd Triestino benefited from the services of a key character: Bruno Astori, the founder and editor of the company’s magazine “Sul Mare” (“At Sea”) and subsequently at the helm of the Finmare Group’s publicity department. With the issue of Summer 1933, “Sul Mare” became the official magazine of the whole Italian Lines organisation and, as a result, many clever Trieste-based artists became appreciated (and employed) by other companies and achieved fame: Gianni Brumatti, Glauco Cambon, August Cernigoj, Marcello Claris, Marcello Dudovich, Ugo Flumiani, Giovanni Giordani, Lauro Laghi, Pietro Lucano, Guido Marussig, Argio Orell, Antonio Quaiatti, Giorgio Settala.