Stoomvaart Maatschappij Nederland
The world was going to change with the opening of the Suez canal. A few enterprising gentlemen realised it. They wanted a company that would use steamships and the new canal to establish a regular connection between the Netherlands and the Netherlands Indies. As trade between them was a de facto government monopoly, they needed state support and the state was dithering. One of them, Mr. G. J. Boelen was able to approach Prince Henry of the Netherlands, son of king William II. It was a lucky stroke. Henry had stayed in the Netherlands Indies, had invested money there and he was pursuing a naval career. Henry gave his support, provided that the company would have a national character. In 1870, just in time for the opening of the Suez canal, the company was founded. Henry was honorary president, but the real power rested with Jan Boissevain.
The company branched out to mail transport, which allowed it to take passengers on board. That, in turn, motivated the government to put financial incentives in place for faster trips. In its heydays, SMN organised a sailing to the Netherlands Indies every ten days. From 1920, the company built a number of iconic luxury passenger ships. These were used as allied troop transports during the second world war. SMN lost 23 of its ships with 913 crew members to war action.
Owing to the non-convertibility of the Dutch guilder in the years after the second world war, the company issued paper notes to passengers that were valid only on board. In line with the law, passengers were not allowed to export Dutch money. SMN soon realised that tokens would last longer, so it issued a short set of them in 1947, alongside notes of 10 and 25 guilders. In 1953, the US authorities decided that the 25 cent piece was too much like a US quarter and forced SMN to replace it with a new type. In the same year, a token of 5 guilders was added. The coins and notes were withdrawn in 1959, when passenger transport starte to drop precipitously.
Indonesian independence meant repatriating lage numbers of people from the Netherlands Indies, but also the end of SMN's main business. After 1960, the company tried to find new business, with trampers, lines to East Asia and the Americas and charter aviation. In 1970, it was forced to combine with three other ship owners, now known as Nedlloyd.
Netherlands Steamship Company, Amsterdam.