Steerage Class - The Immigrant's Journey
On steamships, 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, often converted from cargo holds to hold what might have been described as human cattle.
Voyages in Steerage – Enduring Hardships
- 1879 - Steerage Accommodations on the Cunard Steamship Line - A British reporter takes a voyage in steerage and reports on the horrible conditions endured by immigrants.
- 1888 - The Immigrant Journey: A Sham Immigrant's Voyage to New York
- 1890 - Life in Steerage, A Transatlantic Voyage
- 1898 - Steerage Conditions in 1898 - A First-Hand Account - Lavishly illustrated article provides an historical account of what a transatlantic voyage in steerage was like.
- 1905 - The Immigrant Journey : The Fellowship of the Steerage - Illustrated with photographs and illustrations. 8 Chapters.
- 1906 - Urgency of Improved Steerage Conditions - A First Hand Account
Steerage and Immigrants: An Intractable Problem
- 1871 Steamship Lines from Northern Europe to the United States Various steamship lines are enumerated; with details concerning their management as far as steerage passengers, that is, emigrants, are concerned. Includes Ports of Call and Rates Charged for Steerage.
- 1881 Observation of Steerage on the Cunard Line If our naval architects who seek distinction in rendering vessels shot-proof, would give attention to rendering them discomfort, proof for the emigrants who crowd the steerage, it would be a great blessing.
- 1890 America's Open Gate: Castle Garden May Cease To Be The Immigrant's Landing
- 1904 Immigrants and the Steamship Steerage Rate Wars - Steerage fares reduced from $25 to $10 from several European ports
- 1906 An Interview with The Commissioner of Immigration - Includes tables of facts of Admitted, Rejected and Debarred immigrants.
- 1907 Improvements in Conditions in Steerage Class and Increased Head Tax - With the improvement in the steerage, which has taken place within the last few years, many companies have dropped the name steerage and now designate it as the "third class."
- 1909 Women in Steerage - Conditions called Appalling - Newspaper account provides insight of traveling in Steerage a the turn of the century.
- 1910 Abuses Among Emigrant Passengers - Brief but informative report
- 1911 Steerage Conditions - A Report of the Immigration Commission - Excellent summary of the conditions and history of steerage.
- 1911 Steerage Conditions and Related Regulations - The Full Report. Covers and Describes both Old-Style and New-Style Steerage Conditions.
- 1913 Steerage Conditions on Steamships - The Cotterill Report offers an in depth look at conditions at the time of the Titanic
- The Steerage Passenger - Conditions circa 1913 Contrasted with Old Steerage Conditions.
- 1916 Immigrants to the Melting Pot - The Hopes of the Hyphenated - Richly illustrated report offers and extensive look at immigrants and steerage.
Examples of Steerage Passenger Lists
|1885-06-03 Voyage of the S.S. Ems|
|1894-08-28 Voyage of the S.S. Lahn|
|1895-09-07 Voyage of the S.S. Ems|
Examples of Steerage Passage Contracts / Tickets
|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.|
|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.|
|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|
|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.|
|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 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.|
|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 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.|
|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
|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 - 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 - 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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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.|
|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