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Results of the Italian Law Providing For Official Inspection of Steerage (1911)

In view of the recommendation that immigrant inspectors and matrons travel on each ship carrying immigrants, the following extracts from a report on an Italian vessel are pertinent: The investigation was made by a woman.

(a) The food was good, wholesome, and abundant. The water was fresh. Notice was always given before each meal, and the same always served on time.

(b) Mothers, infants, and children were supplied twice daily with sterilized condensed milk, and also twice daily with beef tea and noodles.

(c) The royal commissioner, the ship commissioner, and oftentimes the captain, took their places at the head of the line and watched the distribution of the food, to see that the same was served properly.

(d) The royal commissioner would always test the food prepared for steerage passengers. If it was found good and palatable, his orders were given to serve same; if not found satisfactory, he saw that it was made fit for serving.

(e) The royal commissioner secured special food for steerage passengers who could not eat the food given by the company.

(f) Four cooks prepared the meals, two of whom did the service from the kitchen window. Two sailors helped to keep order outside of the kitchen window where the line of men was formed. These assistants were kind, strict, and attended well to their duties.

(g) The two entrances leading to the women’s compartment were always locked and guarded during the day, prohibiting any who made effort to enter without permission. Passengers were allowed on deck from 6 a. m. to 5 p. m., weather permitting. During this time, the sailors in charge of the women’s compartment performed their regular duties. The compartment was thoroughly washed and disinfected. Two sailors also kept guard at night.

(h) Officers. such as the royal commissioner and the doctor, visited the women’s compartment only when absolutely needed. On one occasion the captain was called upon to remove a man who wanted to remain with his wife, who was not well. They were given a place by themselves. When the royal commissioner made his rounds he was always accompanied and his interest seemed always for the benefit of the passengers. Without such an officer steerage passengers doubtless would have suffered.

For passengers who were not well and unable to digest the foods served by the company, the royal commissioner spoke with the doctor’s approval and enabled them to get something special, such as a piece of beefsteak or beef tea with noodles. Passengers had access to the first-class kitchen and at stated times and with the written permission from the royal commissioner received whatever they could get by paying a regular price for it.

Remarks: It was evident that the royal commissioner worked for the interest of the steerage passengers. He was seen very often among them and helped those who needed special attention. He cared for the sick and took the utmost interest to see that they were made comfortable. He administered medicine, arising at night; even, to visit extreme cases.

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