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Steerage Class - The Immigrant's Journey - GG Archives

Steerage Passengers on Deck

Steerage (or Tween Decks) and Third Class was the default choice of many immigrants from the 1850s through the 1930s. The conditions varied by steamship line and were likely to be fairly harsh compared to modern standards. Early steerage often housed hundreds of immigrants in one large room.

Voyages in Steerage – Enduring Hardships

 

Steerage and Immigrants: An Intractable Problem

Examples of Steerage Passenger Lists

1885-06-03 Voyage of the S.S. Ems 1885-06-03 Voyage of the S.S. Ems

 

  • Steamship Line: Norddeutscher Lloyd (North German Lloyd)
  • Steamship: S.S. Ems
  • Class of Passengers: Cabin and Steerage
  • Date of Departure: 3 June 1885
  • Route: Bremen to New York
  • Commander: Captain W. Willigerod
1894-08-28 Voyage of the S.S. Lahn 1894-08-28 Voyage of the S.S. Lahn
  • Steamship Line: Norddeutscher Lloyd (North German Lloyd)
  • Steamship: S.S. Lahn
  • Class of Passengers: Steerage
  • Date of Departure: 28 August 1894
  • Route: Bremen to New York
  • Commander: Captain H. Hellmers
1895-09-07 Voyage of the S.S. Ems 1895-09-07 Voyage of the S.S. Ems
  • Steamship Line: Norddeutscher Lloyd (North German Lloyd)
  • Steamship: S.S. Ems
  • Class of Passengers: Steerage
  • Date of Departure: 7 September 1895
  • Route: Bremen to New York
  • Commander: Captain W. Reimkasten

 

Examples of Steerage Passage Contracts / Tickets

Front of Prepaid Steerage Passage Contract from 1883

Prepaid Steerage Passage, German Immigrant Family, 1883, North German Lloyd

Received from Carl Nutchen the sum of Seventy-Two Dollars for the passage of Bealle Nutchen & party, as one in steerage of one of the Steamers of the North German Lloyd from Bremen to New York.
Passenger Contract, Cunard Line, Rotterdam to New York 1895

Passenger Contract - Interims Billet - Cunard Line - Rotterdam to New York - 1895

This is the original steamship contract for passage for a German Immigrant, Heinrich Hermes, a 21-year-old laborer who undertook the voyage in steerage.
White Star Line Steamship Contract - Swedish Immigrant - 1902 Steamship Passenger Contract, Swedish Immigrant, Gothenburg to New York, 1902
Original Steamship Contract from Gothenburg, Sweden to New York, 3rd Class Steerage Immigrant Ester Hilma Maria Magnuson of Stockholm on the White Star Line. Included the detachable receipt located on the right hand side (panel).
Steamship Ticket Record - Union-Castle Mail Steamship Company, Limited 1904 Steamship Ticket Record - Union-Castle Mail Steamship Company, Limited 1904
1904-10-08 Steamship Ticket Record - Union-Castle Mail Steamship Company, Limited - Counterpart of Steerage Passenger's Contract Ticket, R.M.S. Arundale Castle, Southampton to Cape Town.
Steerage Passenger's Contract Ticket, Union-Castle Steamship Co. 1906 Union-Castle Mail Steamship Co - Steerage Passenger's Contract Ticket 1906
This is the original Steerage Passenger's Contract Ticket for a 27-year-old man from Southampton, England for passage to Natal, South Africa in 1906. It provides rich details of the requirements of the steamship company in terms of food, water and other items supplied.
Steerage Prepaid Passage Contract, German Immigrant Family, 20 November 1907 Steerage Prepaid Passage Contract, German Immigrant Family, 20 November 1907
Steerage Prepaid Passage Contract issued by the Hamburg-American Line for passage from Hamburg, Germany to New York and a Train from New York to Ellsworth, Minnesota for a German Immigrant Family.
1912 Steerage Prepaid Passage Contract Recipt - Font Side Steerage Prepaid Passage Contract, Hamburg-American Line, 1912
Receipt for the purchase of passage from Hamburg to New York via the Hamburg-American Line with inland passage to McFreesport, Pennsylvania dated 13 January 1913.
Immigrant 3rd Class Steamship Ticket - 1912 - Red Star Line Immigrant Steamship Ticket, Third (Steerage) Class, Red Star Line 1912
24-Year-Old Immigrant left Belgium in 1912 for New York in Third Class (Steerage). This is the original steamship ticket for a voyage undertaken on 10 August 1912.
Contract for a Swedish immigrant from Gothenburg to Boston in 1914

Steerage Ticket for Passage, Swedish Immigrant, Sweden to America 1914

This is a passenger contract for a voyage from Gothenburg, Sweden to Boston, Massachusetts for Alfred Person, 19 years of age, traveling alone. He paid SEK 178.50 for Steerage / third class accommodations.

 

Examples of Steerage Passenger Documents

Inspection Card - White Star Line Germanic - 1902 Hans Johansen Rosholt Immigrant Inspection Card - White Star Line R.M.S. Germanic - 1902
Inspection Card issued to an immigrant traveling in Steerage by the White Star Line R.M.S. Germanic in April 1902 that provided information about the immigrant including Name, Last Residence, evidence of Immunization, Port of Departure and Steamship name.
Immigrant Inspection Card - RMS Carpathia 1904 Liverpool to New York Immigrant Inspection Card - Cunard R.M.S. Carpathia - 1904
Inspection Card issued to an immigrant traveling in Steerage on board the R.M.S. Carpathia of the Cunard Line dated 18 October 1904 that provided information including Port and Date of Departure, Name of Ship, Name of Immigrant, Last Residence and evidence of Immunization.
Immigrant Inspection Card - Liverpool to New York - 1910 Immigrant Inspection Card - Cunard R.M.S. Lusitania - 1910
Immigrant Inspection Card issued by the Cunard Line R.M.S. Lusitania dated 9 July 1910 for Swedish Immigrant K. E. Paulson from Gothenburg, Sweden. When landing at New York this card was pinned to the coat or dress of the passenger in a prominent position.
sfdfs Inspection Card - Austrian Immigrant - 1912
Fine example of an Immigrants and Steerage Passengers' Inspection Card issued on 24 April 1912 by the Hamburg-American Line for an Austrian Immigrant on board the S.S. President Grant that departed from Hamburg, Germany arriving in New York on 7 May 1912. Passed American Ellis Island Inspectors on 8 May 1912.
Inspection Card - Steerage Passenger, Allan Line S.S. Corsican, Canadian Immigrant Canadian Immigrant Inspection Card - Steerage Passenger - 1912
Canadian Immigrant Inspection Card issued in 1912 to a steerage passenger on board the Allan Line S.S. Corsican. Card provided essential information including name of immigrant, Steamship, port and date of departure. The card was intended to be kept by the immigrant for three years. It would be shown to government officials whenever required.
Inspection Card for Immigrants and Steerage Passengers - 1913 Immigrant Inspection Card - Cunard R.M.S. Laconia - 1913
Immigrant Inspection Card issued in 1913 by the Cunard Line on board the R.M.S. Laconia to a Norwegian Immigrant traveling in Steerage. The card provided important information including port and date of departure, name of ship, immigrant name, last residence, medical inspection stamps and evidence of immunization.
Inspection Card for Immigrant to Canada - 1915 Canadian Immigrant Inspection Card - S.S. Missanabie - 1915
Canadian Immigrant Inspection Card issued to a Steerage Passenger on board the Canadian Pacific steamship S.S. Missanabie departing from Liverpool 13 March 1915. This represents a very rare immigrant document from a ship in service less than four years.

 

Steerage Passage for Five Dollars

“There was keen competition at this time.” Said Mr. Williams, “and I have known steerage passage to America to be given for a single sovereign—live dollars.”

The food was excellent in those days on the Atlantic liners, but very poor in the Mediterranean service, according to Mr. Williams. He ascribed this to the fact that the American steamers were victualed by the company, while those plying through the Straits of Gibraltar were victualed by the captain, who received an appropriate allowance—and. apparently, did not expend it as judiciously as he might have done.

Mr. Mclver, one of the directors in the early days of the Cunard Line, happened to be at Malta on one occasion, when there was a great deal of complaining going on. He instituted an inquiry and things were soon put right.

It was while Mr. Williams was serving in the Algeria, in the “seventies,” that she burst a boiler tube one day out from Queenstown, westbound. He was then boilermakers mate, and it fell to his lot to plug up the burst tube. To do this he had to crawl through the furnace into the smoke-box, and, the fire having only just been drawn, no great imagination is required to picture his condition when he had finished the job. He had to be carried on deck, dosed with grog and put to bed for twenty-four hours. On the ship’s arrival in New York, the “chief” sent for Mr. Williams, and gave him a sovereign and a day off in which to spend it.

 “This,” concluded the veteran “shows that the Cunard Line knew how to treat its men, even in those long-departed days!”

Reported by the Shipping Magazine: Marine Transportation, Construction, Equipment and Supplies, New York: Shipping Publishing Co, Volume 15, No. 5, March 10, 1922 p.14

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