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of London, then Liverpool
Macgregor Laird founded the African Steamship Co after obtaining a mail contract from the British Government.
1852 The company was incorporated by Royal Charter. 
The fleet consisted of five vessels with sail and steam propulsion, ranging from 250 tons to 1,000 tons deadweight. All had some accommodation for first-class passengers, and their names were indicative of Laird's belief in, and hopes for, the trade, namely, Forerunner, Northern Lights, Faith, Hope, and Charity.
The Liverpool agents for the company were Messrs. W. and H. Laird, the partners being William Laird and Hamilton Laird, brothers of Macgregor Laird. Among the staff were two young Scots — Alexander Elder and John Dempster.
1856 Moved from London to Liverpool
By 1860 the company was well established and profitable, operating 7 steamships carrying mail, cargo, and passengers on a regular basis from Liverpool to a number of ports in West Arica. It was widely regarded as the greatest trading company to have done business with West Africa during this period.
1861 Macgregor Laird died
Alexander Elder was appointed superintendent engineer of the African Steam Ship Company
1866 Alexander Elder resigned from the company.
1868 John Dempster went into partnership with Alexander Elder, an agency which later became Elder Dempster and Co
1891 Elder Dempster became managers of the African Steamship Co
1892 William James Pirrie became a director of the company
By the end of the century Elder Dempster and Co had gained control