Die Deutsche Woermann-Linie (Colonial History)

The advertisement featured in the catalogue of the Deutsche Kolonial-Ausstellung (German Colonial Exhibition) from 1896 ( German Wikipedia Link) refers to one of the central players in African maritime travel. As the Hamburg trading companies stepped up their business activities along the western African coast in the 1860s, German influence also rose exponentially and ultimately culminated in the proclamation of German “protective rule” of Cameroon as a German colony. The subsequent increase in trade prompted Adolph Woermann (1847-1911) to first establish the Hamburg shipping company Dampfschiffs-Aktiengesellschaft (Woermann-Linie) under the roof of the C. Woermann trading company and, in a second step, the Deutsche Ost-Afrika Linie (German East Africa Line) in 1890 (featured Image shows a Woermann-Linie Promotional Poster – from Wikipedia). Complete Archive available at the Link mentioned at the bottom of this Blog Post.

Woermann-Linie Shipping Route Map (by Wikipedia)

Soon thereafter, freight service was complimented with the transport of passengers, by adding interim stops in European waters. initially, only a few passengers would use the service of the WoermannLinie with most of the Africa travellers being missionaries or merchants, and passengers under the age of 30 being the exception. Nevertheless, the transport of passengers would still remain more of a domain of the East Africa Line. Since a concerted effort was made to offer the travellers every conceivable amenity, however, high officials of the British colony service soon started joining the ranks of passengers. Around 1900, the German Empire signed a contract with the WoermannLinie to provide regular subsidized steamWorlds of Travel ship service with a maximum travel time of 30 days between Hamburg and the colony Deutsch-Südwestafrika (German South West Africa). In return, the shipping line was obliged to offer reduced rates for all government freight and passengers.

Calypso, Woermann-Linie (from Wikipedia)

A similar deal was also struck with the German East Africa Line. As a direct result of the agreement, the Woermann shipping line came to organize German troop reinforcements during the colonial wars against the Hereros and Nama between 1904 and 1908. When World War 1 broke out, more than 50 steamships carrying over 190,000 gross register tons flew the flags of these shipping lines, which serviced 140 African ports and maintained 13 outbound lines from Hamburg. Every 36 hours a German Africa steam liner of the Woermann shipping line would leave European waters. After the war, only one small coastal steamer with 800 gross register tons remained in service and it would take until 1921 for Woerman to resume the regular service to Africa with his own ships. Among the multitude of companies and institutions that have contributed to the corporate archive over the course of more than a century, shipping companies make up a small but interesting portion.

One of the Woermann-Linie Ships travelling to Namibia in 1936 (from Wikipedia)

Its press folders include articles from international newspapers and magazines on approximately 35,000 German and international firms. In addition, it maintains business reports as well as news reports on 14,000 private, state and supranational bodies, business associations, state institutions, scientific institutions and international organizations. Tue press folders are archived on the basis of geographic criteria, the decisive factor being the location of a company’s headquarters (for more Information click the included Link listed below on this Blog). The company’s first initials followed by a count allowed for further classification. Business reports and statutes make up about two-thirds of the material, the remainder being news articles, essays in professional journals, advertising, commemorative publications and other information.

     + Complete Archive Documents from 1885-1941

• Free Archive Library Platform (various Text, Newspaper Clippings and Images)

     + See some of our past Blog Post’s:

A Haunted, Abandoned German Village In The Namib Desert

Photo Collection of Namibia pre-21’st century

Photo Collection of Namibia pre-21’st century

A small photo collection of 30 black and white photos, taken by various unknown photographers in the days of colonialism and other dark days. We don’t want to provide inaccurate information, therefore, we exempt ourselves from explaining every photo itself. All we can say that the locations on these photos include Swakopmund Mole, Kristuskirche, Reiterdenkmal, Avis Damm in Windhoek, Pupkewitz General Dealer (one of the oldest retailers in Namibia), Hotel Kaiserkrone, Kaiserliches Zollamt, Swakopmund Leuchtturm, Tintenpalast, a vehicle used for an Ostrich hunt, diverse traditional and non-traditional Garments worn by proud Namibian’s and other selected and diverse images. Mainly, most of the images include a beautiful showcase of some of the Architecture still present throughout Independence Avenue in Windhoek and the general location of and around the Kristuskirche. One character trait which helps predict the age of some of these photos is the layout and shape of bricks shown inside a few photos and also the vehicles used at the time. Perhaps some of you reading this will also notice the “Jugendstil Architecture” and the old-school font’s used on all the signage(?). Unfortunately, much knowledge on when, where and by whom got lost over the time. Many other photos/replicas can be found at Windhoek’s UNIC Library, UNAM Library ( recommended), Peter’s Antiques in Swakopmund and other selected locations.

     + Other similar cool Info available:

• Download our 92-page .pdf brochure for further details on Windhoek Libraries (3,7Mb)

• Kolmanskuppe – German colonial coastal Ghost Town