Captain William Matson began a shipping service between California and Hawaii in 1882 with the schooner EMMA CLAUDINA. Matson Navigation Company was incorporated in 1901 and its first passenger ship sailing was made by the steamer LURLINE in 1908. Larger passenger and freight vessels were built for the service over the next seven years with distinctive red-brown hulls and engines aft.
In World War I, WILHELMINA, MAUI and MATSONIA were taken over by the Navy and not returned until 1920. Meanwhile two “535” type transports were assigned to Maston but returned a year later to the USSB.In 1926, Matson took over three ships that had been sailing for Oceanic Steamship Co: SIERRA, SONOMA and VENTURA. They were placed in the Australian trade and and the company was reorganized as Matson-Oceanic Line. In 1927, a new liner, MALOLO, the most lavish yet seen on the West Coast, joined the fleet. Matson next took over its rival, the Los Angeles Steamship Company, which had carried more passengers to Hawaii in 1927 than Matson. Briefly called Matson-Lassco Line, the San Francisco company set about building three larger, faster more luxurious ships (MARIPOSA, MONTEREY and LURLINE — all delivered in the early 1930s). Two ships sailed in Australian trade and two in Hawaiian service, replacing the older vessels.
All four liners were used as war transports and served all over the world and amazingly, all four survived. After the war, only MATSONIA (ex MALOLO) re-entered the service to Hawaii but was sold in 1948 and replaced by the refitted LURLINE. The two remaining vessels were sold but MONTEREY was repurchased in the mid 1950s and renamed MATSONIA, to revive the weekly service to Hawaii. Two new fast cargo liners were rebuilt in 1956 as the passenger ships MONTEREY and MARIPOSA for the South Pacific service. In 196,3 the LURLINE was sold after engine problems and MATSONIA took her name and continued in the Hawaiian trade. By 1973, Matson had ended its passenger service and sold all remaining passenger ships, continuing to the present as a freight only line with a large fleet of container ships.
MARTIN COX - Founder and publisher of MaritimeMatters, inspired by maritime culture and technology growing up in the port of Southampton. He works as a photographer in Los Angeles, and his works has been exhibited in LA, San Francisco, New York, London and Iceland. Martin is the co-writer of the book “Hollywood to Honolulu; the story of the Los Angeles Steamship Company” published by the Steam Ship Historical Society of America. The Los Angeles Maritime Museum has commissioned artworks and collected his photographs.