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Ocean Liner History and Stories from the Sea, Past and Present. With an In Depth focus on Holland America Line

d’Hamecourt, Jules Louis Arnault.

Captain Jules Louis Arnault d’Hamecourt was from french origine, in the days before his father, and  hence the unusual name for a Dutch captain.


He was born on 03 October 1849 in The Hague where is father ( Eugene, Francois, Nicolas d’Hamecourt) was 2nd lieutenant  with the 2nd Lancers Regiment.  He later became Captain (Ritmeester) of the 3rd Dragonder Regiment and retired in this function. The name of his mother was Maria, Johanna Anna Huberta Janssen, daughter of a wine merchant in Eindhoven (City located in the south of the Netherlands).

In total there were 10 childeren, (Maria, Elise, Eugene, Jules, Eduard, Arnoldina, Gerardus, Angelique, xx (still birth), Emile ) with the family regularly on the move when father was sent to another military posting, they were not all born in the same town or city.  Jules was number 4 in this group of 10.  In 1865 father retired and settled own in Nuenen East of Eindhoven and passed away in 1872. (a)

Jules d’Hamecourt shows up as 3rd officer with Holland America in 1874. It is unknown when he went to sea but a normal age to look for a cadetship and training was around 16 or 17 years old. Maybe he liked the idea of steamships, or he was enticed by the promise of a fast promotion, as most of his fellow brethren at sea, where not really excited by these new steamships. But Holland America (or better said the Nederlandsch Amerikaansche Stoomvaart Maatschappij or NASM) has just been founded a year before and with two new steamships  needed officers to sail them.

His inspiration might have come from his uncle  Charles Louis Jules d’Hamecourt who was  Captain-Leutenant with the Dutch Royal Navy and sailed with those ships to all ends of the Dutch Empire.

If he went for promotion, then he had made a good choice. Joining the company at the age of 25 and making captain 7 years later is a very good career progress.

Artist impression from a poster for the arrival of the new ship W.A Scholten

Joining the NASM in April 1874, meant that he travelled with Captain Jacob Hus to Glasgow where the ss W.A Scholten was built, and handed over on April 21. It then it sailed on May 1st. to Rotterdam and prepared there for the first voyage. On 16 May the ship sailed from Rotterdam via Hellevoetsluis to Vlissingen (Flushing) in the province of Zeeland to commence the crossing. On 19th of May the  ss W.A Scholten stops at Plymouth to bunker coal. While entering the port, a sailing ship, “The Goldseeker” crosses its bow and causes a collision. The Crew of the Scholten manages to save everybody from the ship before it sinks.

D’Hamecourt remains with the W.A Scholten for 18 voyages and then transfers to the ss Schiedam. He had been promoted to 2nd officer on the W.A. Scholten and was now promoted to Chief Officer.

The ss Schiedam was similarly built as the W.A Scholten but with a more enclosed superstrucutre.

The ss Schiedam had been built in 1875 as the ss San Marcos capable of carrying 722 emigrants. d’Hamecourt had to sail to New York to collect the ship and under the command of Captain Chevalier (the other French name in the company) sailed it back to the Netherlands.

Here it was officially purchased on 02 October and commenced her maiden voyage on 06 October.  Sailing from Rotterdam to New York with a slow speed of 8 knots, mainly carrying emigrants.

By the end of February 1880 he transfers to the ss Amsterdam (I) another brand new ship and now he travels with Captain Jan Taat to Dumbarton in Scotland, collect the ship. It is handed over on 02 March 1880 and arrives 4 days later in Rotterdam and commenced her maiden voyage on the 3rd of April. He remains with the ship for 8 voyages. Looking at the ships schedules, it looks most likely that he came over as a passenger with the P. Caland, walked across the dock to take over the Rotterdam (I) and its captain (L.M Lucas) walked the other way and went back with that ship.

The ss Rotterdam (I), fist ship of the company on a painting by C. de Vries

The NASM had now established a Sr. rotation system which it would keep until about 1968. Capt. Lucas had to get back to Rotterdam to take over the Amsterdam (I) and the Captain Taat of the Amsterdam (I) had to go to the shipyard to take delivery of the new Edam (I). The ss Rotterdam (I) as by now the oldest ship in the fleet and thus that was were the newest company captain was sent. The Rotterdam (I) was the first ship of the company dating from 15 October 1872 when it made it maiden voyage for C.V. Plate & Reuchlin. This company was absorbed into the NASM on 18 April 1873.

He completes seven roundtrips on the Rotterdam (I) and is then granted a months vacation while waiting for the arrival of the ss Schiedam on 13 July 1882 in Rotterdam. The ship has been all that time under the command of Capt. Chevalier who now hands over to his previous Chief Officer. Chevalier has been assigned to take out the new  company ship the ss Zaandam (I).

Some excitement was reported as he responds to a sighting of a derelict vessel on 07 January 1883. This turns out to be the English sailing Frigate “Endymion” (Capt. Waycott) on the way from Musquah (New Brunswick Canada) to Liverpool in England. Around the New Year of 1883 the ship ends up in a severe storm, followed by a second one  which caused it to loose its masts and takes on water.  This ship lays in position 48o20’N – 28o28 W. and is in dire straits.  with rolling ship and lashing rain, a boat is lowered and in two trips all the 20 occupants of the stricken vessel are safely transferred. the main challenge turned out to be to lift the lift the exhausted crew on board the rolling Schiedam but this is accomplished by tying a rope under their arms and pull them onto the deck. With a rolling ship this was a hairy and painful affair as the castaways bumped against the hull a few times. But it had to be done fast, as darkness was setting in and the rescue boat was not in a happy position itself with the high running swell. But everybody was safely landed in New York and handed over to the British Consul for repatriation.

Another photo of the ss Schiedam,. This one was taken after a rebuilt.

Captain and crew involved are honoured by the Dutch Life saving Institution, with the Capt, and chief officer being awarded their gold medal and the Bo’sun and 3 sailors the silver medal and 10,– in Dutch Florins. (Equivalent to 550 euro’s in 2021) From the British Government the captain receives a gold watch with chain and the chief officer a pair of binoculars both with inscription. All presented by the Burgomaster of the city of Rotterdam on May 30th.

This was just after having received the silver medal of the Royal Dutch Meteorological Society  for well maintaining eh ships weather logs. (He would get another one in 1885).

Captain d’Hamecourt remains with the ship for 19 voyages, mainly sailing from Amsterdam to New York after the company had opened a 2nd line from the capital to keep the local competition at bay. He left the ship on the first of June in Amsterdam, and then waited for the ss Zaandam (I) to arrive on 23 June, again taking over from Captain Chevalier.

the ss Zaandam (I) seen here on a painting by A. Jacobson emphasizing the bad north Atlantic weather.

He only makes two voyages with the ship to New York from Amsterdam. The ship arrives on 01 of August in Amsterdam and was scheduled to sail on 08 August again.  He travels to his sister Elise and her husband who live in Rotterdam. On the 3rd. he suffers a stroke and reports being ill to the company. On August 7 he passes away at the age of 35.   We will never know what caused the stroke but the captains in those days were during the crossings under a lot of stress as they often sailed by “skill & luck”, because it was hard to predict the weather and the current. So if there was no visibility, then there was the constant worry of what could happen.

(a) Articles & research by Mrs. Arda Vossebeld-Dijkhuizen.

(b) “Stamboeken” & “Mouvementboeken” Holland Amerika Lijn archive as held by the Municiple Archives of the City of Rotterdam.

(c) Information via Newspaper search engine “Delpher”.

Unless indicated otherwise, all illustrations are from the Author’s Archive.

Last Updated: 20 Sep. 2023

Date:                    Function:                            Ship:                                    Wages and/or remarks. (b)

Apr.        1874     3rd Officer                         W.A  Scholten                40,–

Jul.         1875      2nd Officer                          W.A Scholten               60,–

Jun.        1877     Chief Officer                      Schiedam                        100,–

Feb.       1880      Chief Officer                      Amsterdam                    100,–

May       1881      Act captain                         Rotterdam                                        took command in New York

23 Jun. 1881      Captain                               Rotterdam                         fl 150,– + 2%

02 Jul.    1882      Temp ashore waiting for the Schiedam

15 Jul.    1882      Captain                               Schiedam                            fl 250,–

09 Jun. 1885      Temp ashore waiting for Zaandam

23 Jun. 1885      Captain                               Zaandam                            fl 250,–

03 Aug.  1885     Sick ashore

07 Aug. 1885       Passed away.


1 Comment

  1. Excellent article and information! Well done.
    My GreatGrandfather immigrated from Germany to America March 7, 1882. The passenger list from the Netherlands-American Steam Navigation Company on the SS Rotterdam shows the Master of the Steamship was d’Hamecourt.
    Reading the history of Captain Jules Louis Arnault d’Hamecourt is most fascinating. Thank you for your work.
    Luana Smith

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