The British-owned Guion Line owed its existence to the disruption caused to the North American emigrant trade by the American Civil War. Stephen Barker Guion, who had previously handled the westbound emigrant traffic of the Old Black Star Line of sailing packets, decided to form his own steamship company in 1866 and began operating with four ships. The line prospered from the outset and in 1890 ordered another new steamer to augment its growing fleet. Named Alaska, she was built by John Elder at Glasgow and launched on 15th July 1881. Registered at 6,932 tons and measuring 500 feet in length with a 50 foot beam, she was a smart four-master with twin funnels and capable of 16 knots. Significantly faster than any of her sisters and only marginally smaller than her two biggest rivals on the North Atlantic, her owners had high hopes of her as she prepared for sea. Entering service in October 1881, her April 1882 voyage from Queenstown to New York broke the record for the westbound crossing whilst her eastbound crossing that September not only set a new record but, more importantly, was also the first ever North Atlantic passage in under seven days. This was a notable milestone and one which brought the coveted "Blue Riband" to the Guion Line as well as the soubriquet "Greyhound of the Atlantic" to Alaska herself. 1883 saw more records and the completion of Alaska's sister Oregon but after only one highly successful year together, financial difficulties forced the sale of Oregon to Cunard and the Guion Line's star began to fade. By the early 1890's, most of the line's fleet was outmoded and past its prime; coal consumption was so high that sailings became uneconomical unless the ships were booked to capacity and, in 1894, the decision was taken to put the company into liquidation. Laid up in Gareloch, Alaska was briefly chartered to a Spanish line in 1897 before being sold for scrapping in 1899. Unexpectedly reprieved as an accommodation ship at Barrow, this proved short-lived and she was broken up in 1902.