A Trip, Third Class, In a Modern Atlantic Liner
Passing the Doctor - Each “Emigrant” Examined as He Boards the Vessel —The Meals and the Bill of Fare —The Bunks, the Bedding and the Washroom
To be a real bona fide Emigrant it is necessary to be very particular, for nowhere does etiquette abound as it does in the Steerage of a ship. To begin with, never refer to “Emigrants or Steerage passengers;” talk always of “Third Class passengers.” Then be careful to find some fault with every dish that is served. “The tea is too strong or too weak,” “I never pay less than 60 cents a pound for mine at home,” “I would not offer a beggar coffee like this,” “I cannot touch soup,” “I cannot eat beans, I have such a delicate digestion,” “My doctor has forbidden me to touch bread, and I never eat anything but toast”—these are favorite and popular remarks. It does not matter whether you have ever before had meat more than once a month, grumble you must. For what other purpose did you pay your $30?
Dress also is an important item. It is well to travel provided with a silk or lace blouse and a large white shawl. It is also customary to regret deeply that you have not traveled Second Class, as you at first intended doing. Of course, all your friends think you are traveling Second. Whatever would Amelia say if she knew the truth? Then it is a great pity that you have packed your fur coat away in the box in the hold, and it is inconsiderate of the steward not to let you get it out. And your beautiful blue silk dress with the pearl trimming! I learned all this while traveling from London to New York as an ordinary Emigrant, says a British writer.
The ship I crossed in carried between 600 and 700 Third Class passengers. As we boardEd her in single file, the ship’s doctor dexterously turned our eyelids inside out to see whether we were in good health. Then came a long wait, the children crying pitifully and the women too tired to hush them, until at last we again passed in single file before the ship’s officers. Then our tickets were taken, and we were at liberty to go to our cabins. Soon after the bell was rung for dinner, followed by the arrival of the Second and First Class passengers, and at 4 p. m. we sailed away.
The food on board was plentiful and excellent of its kind. For breakfast, which was served at 7 a. m., we had tea and coffee, porridge and milk, a meat stew or fish, bread, butter—generally fresh—and jam and marmalade. At 10:30 beef tea could be had for the asking. For dinner, at 12 mid-day there were soup, meat with two vegetables, a milk pudding with some stewed fruit, and every other day a couple of oranges or apples each. For tea, at 5 o’clock, we had some kind of meat stew or sausages, potatoes, milk pudding with stewed fruit, bread, butter, cheese and tea. At 7 o’clock gruel was served and biscuits and cheese placed on the table.
Clean white tablecloths were laid for every meal, which, what with the rolling of the ship and the babies—who mostly ate, unreproved, with their hands—were absolutely necessary. The stewards—some sixteen in number had clean linen jackets and aprons twice a day, and the cabins and passages were cleaned out and washed down twice a day. It was the sight of my berth which gave me my first shock. I had read in the regulations that a bed and bedding were supplied, and I had pictured linen sheets and feather pillows. I found a hay mattress and pillow in a clean linen overall, a gray woolen blanket—and that was all. The hay is taken out and burnt at the end of each voyage.
The washing accommodations were perhaps the worst inconvenience. There was one large room, with rows of basins all round it. As a matter of fact, very few of the passengers really minded. I was told that one line had once fitted up a bathroom in the steerage quarters of a vessel, but the bath had rusted away long before it was used. Steerage passengers also never want to undress. Not even the children are put to bed properly. There was one little chap of three in the cabin next to mine whose boots were not taken off from the day he left England to the day he landed in New York.
It was a particularly rough crossing for the time of year. Nearly everybody was ill, including the stewards, and the chaos that reigned for one day and a night was indescribable. Men, women aud children simply lay under the hatchway in bunches, and when the ship rolled to one side they rolled, too, and when she lurched forward they rolled forward. Perhaps it was because of the rough sea that the doctor became so popular. He was singularly kind and never minded being fetched at any hour of the day or night. He had something good for every ache and pain, and the children adored him. About the fourth day out we had to show our vaccination marks or be vaccinated again.
After seven days at sea we were told that the next morning we should be at New York. The girls put their hair in curlers, the women washed their babies, and the men had their boots cleaned. All that night nobody seemed to think of sleeping, and by 4 in the morning, most of the emigrants had their luggage strapped up and were ready to land. At 4:30 there was a cry of “All on deck!” and on deck, breakfastless and cold, we had to go. One man who went up to have a wash was not allowed down to his berth again, and there he stood in the chilly dawn, with the rain pouring down, without coat or shirt. For two hours we stood and shivered, watching the mail being taken off by a tug, while within a couple of hundred yards of us lay land. —Truckee Republican, 1907
Etiquette Enthusiast, Maura J Graber, is the Site Editor for the Etiquipedia© Etiquette Encyclopedia