Thomas Ismay founded the White Star Line in 1869 and began his challenge for the lucrative North Atlantic passenger trade with a group of six express steamers, one of which was the Adriatic. Each of these six ships was a pioneer in the quest for speed coupled with luxurious accommodation and all were built by Harland & Wolff at Belfast. Launched in 1872, Adriatic was a single-screw iron vessel like her sisters and they all measured 437 feet in length, with a displacement of 3,850 tons. All six were intended to steam at 14 knots but Adriatic's speed was consistently better than that of her consorts. Her second voyage to New York established a new record for the first westbound crossing of the Atlantic in under 8 days. These initial White Star ships were popular as well as profitable and there is no doubt that their success was a severe jolt to the complacency then afflicting the Cunard Line. After the completion of White Star's Germanic in 1875, Adriatic was chartered to the Occidental & Oriental Line for their new San Francisco to China route. Retired in 1896, Adriatic was sold out of the White Star fleet in 1898 and broken up the following year.