In March 1841, the Royal Mail Steam Packet Company entered a contract with the Government for the conveyance of the mails between England and the West Indies; and they commenced business upon a larger scale than any other company had done up to that time. They began with 14 steamships.
The first steamer carrying the mails was the THAMES, which left Falmouth on January 3, 1842, for Berbice. Built by William Pitcher, at Northfleet, on the Thames, she was a wooden-hulled, paddle-wheeler, with engines by Maudslay, Sons and Field, of London. Her gross registered tonnage (old measurement) was 1,889. After fitting out in the East India Dock she moved down river to anchor off Gravesend. Here she took aboard the R.M.S.P.'s first passengers and left for Falmouth, to pick up her first mails. In 1850 she was fitted out with feathering floats on the paddle-wheels. These improved her speed by two knots from an average 8.4 to 10.4 knots. She was in service until 1865.