Born in Sweden, Captain William Matson (1849–1917) arrived in San Francisco in 1867, at the age of 16. There, he began sailing in San Francisco Bay and northern California rivers. Captain Matson became acquainted with the Spreckels family and was asked to serve as skipper on the Spreckels’ yacht, Lurline.
In 1887, Matson bought the Lurline from Spreckels - this was the first of several famous Matson vessels to bear the Lurline name. Matson met and married Lillie Low; the couple named their only child Lurline Berenice Matson. Matson built a steamship named Lurline in 1908; with growing passenger traffic to Hawai‘i, Matson built a world-class luxury liner, the SS Malolo in 1927. Its success led to the construction of the luxury liners Mariposa, Monterey and Lurline between 1930 and 1932.