The Moore and McCormack Shipping Lines Company was established in 1913 by Albert V. Moore and Emmet J. McCormack to charter ships for commerce. The company was instrumental in promoting maritime trade with South America and introducing North American production know-how and equipment to the region. The corporation began offering passenger services lines in 1917.
After World War I, Moore-McCormack played an important role in President Herbert Hoover's American Relief Administration Program, delivering shipments of food to Russia and the Baltic. During the Great Depression, the company not only added new ships to its fleet, but it also provided jobs at a time of record-high unemployment rates. (One source of work was refurbishing older vessels, transforming them into modern passenger ships.)
As the corporation grew, it acquired other shipping lines, including Panama Pacific, American Republics, Pacific Republics, American Scantic, and Mooremack Lines, offering passenger service to South America, the Pacific Northwest, Canada, and Eastern Europe.
When the United States entered World War II, Moore-McCormack passenger service was suspended, and several of the company's vessels became Navy ships for the duration of the war. The company was appointed an agent of the War Shipping Administration and transported over 750,000 troops and more than 35 million tons of war cargo. Eleven of the company's ships were lost during the war.
By 1948, the corporation had become one of the largest owner-operators of American-flag shipping and offered passenger service between the Atlantic coast and the east coast of South America (the American Republics Line), between California and the east coast of South America (the Pacific Republics Line), and between New York and Scandinavia (the American Scantic Line).
Moore-McCormack adopted many innovations to improve passenger comfort and to optimize commercial shipping. Passenger-liner improvements from the 1950s included fin stabilizers (which reduce roll), draft-free air conditioning, and climate control for individual cabins. Commercial improvements of the 1960s included new techniques for transporting heavy equipment, refrigerated cargo, liquid cargo, and dry products. The corporation adopted containerized shipping at this time as well.
In the 1970s, the company began to founder financially in the wake of competition with air travel, which was becoming more popular than cruise shipping for tourists. In 1969, the company sold its cruise ships to Holland-America. After efforts to diversify the company (involving attempts to enter the energy industry) failed in the 1980s, Malcolm McLean, owner of the United States Lines, purchased Moore-McCormack's fleet and routes in December 1982. The United States Lines filed for bankruptcy in 1986, and Moore-McCormack was formally liquidated in 1992.