The MacIver family were pioneers in steamships and operated coastal steamship services from Glasgow as early as 1831. Brothers David and Charles MacIver were closely associated with Samuel Cunard in the formation of the Cunard Line.
David MacIver, a nephew of the original founder, was admitted into the Cunard partnership in 1863, but left the company in 1874 to found his own steamship line. His earliest ships were registered under the name of Birkenhead Shipping Co. Ltd., and these were followed by a number of one ship companies, all managed by David MacIver & Co.
In 1894 a new company was registered in the name of David MacIver Sons & Co. and all subsequent ships were registered in this ownership.
In its early days, the MacIver Line had no regular routes, but in 1885 a regular trade was established between Liverpool, Montevideo, Buenos Aires and Rosario.
David MacIver Sons & Co. were taken over by the Royal Mail Steam Packet Co. in 1919 and the name of the company was changed to David MacIver & Co. Ltd. Although owned by Royal Mail, the ships continued to sail under their old colours and Liverpool management.
In 1932 all the MacIver ships were transferred to the Royal Mail line and their grey hulls and red funnels were changed to the black hull and bluff funnel of Royal Mail. At this time, the MacIver Line lost its identity and went into liquidation.